If your child has a disability, federal law guarantees you the right to participate in the creation of your child's IEP, and, if necessary, appeal the school's IEP or placement decisions.
Children with cognitive or physical disabilities are guaranteed the right, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to receive a "free appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive environment." This same law gives parents the right to appeal decisions made by the school in a"due process hearing." I advocate for parents and children in Article 7 due process hearings and, when necessary, in federal court.
Before 1975, children with disabilities were routinely prevented from attending public school.
Schools used a variety of justifications to exclude disabled children--they had "behavior problems," they were "unteachable," or they required a "special class" that the school was unable (or unwilling) to provide. The result was that thousands of children with real or perceived disabilities never received any education, due to unilateral decisions made by school administrators.
Take, for example, the infamous case of Peter Mills, who at 12 years old had been excluded from public school since the age of 8 because he was deemed a "behavior problem" by the school's principal.
Parents, for their part, were powerless to change anything. Because schools had no obligation to consider medical evaluations, share information with parents, or involve them in the process of making placement decisions, parents were often left in the dark, without any way to help their child.
The 1975 passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) changed everything. The IDEA created a legal framework for disabled children and their parents. For the first time, schools were required to evaluate children for disabilities, educate children with disabilities, include parents in the entire process, and allow parents to appeal improper decisions made by the school.
The cornerstone of the IDEA is its requirement that schools provide a
- free appropriate public education ("FAPE")
- in the least restrictive environment ("LRE")
to any child with one of 14 qualifying disabilities.
The "least restrictive environment" requirement simply means that disabled children should be educated with their general education peers (or mainstreamed) as often as possible.
The requirements of FAPE and LRE are put into effect through an Individualized Education Program ("IEP"). An IEP is a written document that identifies a child's disability, describes how it affects his or her learning, sets baseline scores for academic or behavioral progress, and includes targeted instructional methods the success of which is measured by benchmarks and data. IEPs must be revised at least once every 3 years.
The IDEA also gives parents the right to have their child evaluated by the school for a learning disability or other handicap that could affect his or her academic success.
Crucially, the IDEA gives parents the right to appeal decisions made by the school with respect to their child's IEP and/or placement. If a parent disagrees with an action taken by the school, the parent can request a meeting with the school to resolve the dispute, known in Indiana as a "Case Conference Committee."
Most disputes are resolved informally at IEP meetings. But if a resolution cannot be reached, parents have the option of proceeding to a "Due Process Hearing."
A Due Process Hearing is a mini-trial where both parties present evidence, cross examine witnesses, and make arguments to an impartial hearing officer. Needless to say, representation by an attorney is a necessity at Due Process Hearings, especially given the fact that all testimony is recorded and issues that aren't raised at the Due Process Hearing cannot be appealed in court later.
The IDEA is a federal law, and all 50 states are required to abide by its terms. But most states, including Indiana, have state-specific procedures used to implement the Act's requirements. In Indiana, these procedures are spelled out in Article 7 of Indiana's administrative code.
The laws, regulations, and procedures that govern special education in Indiana are complex, and require the help of a skilled attorney to navigate. If you're frustrated with your child's IEP or educational placement, or if you feel he or she needs to be evaluated for a disability, call or click today to schedule a consultation.
how can i help you?
- Indiana IEP challenges
- Indiana Article 7 assistance
- Indiana Due Process Hearings
- Assistance with securing evaluations
- Reimbursement for private schooling
- Challenges to special ed placement