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Should you hire an education lawyer?
Nobody relishes the thought of having to hire a lawyer to go up against the education department at the local level. But unfortunately, there are times when it might be a necessity. If you’re thinking that you might need an education lawyer, obviously things have escalated to the point where you’ve reached your wits’ end when it comes to a serious issue relating to your child. In these cases, where you’re feeling protective, the school is defensive, and your child might possibly be hurt or being treated unfairly; you need someone unbiased to come in and protect your child’s rights. Continue reading below for more insight!
Be Proactive with Your Child’s Education
No one knows your child like you do. And, no one will fight for them like you will. That can feel a bit overwhelming, but it is also empowering! I have two children that each have an IEP for a different reason, and for a specific area of learning. Whenever I go into a school meeting, I walk in telling myself that I have two goals. The first is that I will not leave this meeting without conveying how my child is feeling. The second goal is that I will not leave this meeting without an adjustment to their IEP that I know will help. Sometimes this means that another accommodation needs to be added. And sometimes this means that an accommodation needs to be lessened or removed in order to give my child the sense of accomplishment and confidence for moving forward.
Prepare for School Meetings
My number one tip before any school meeting is to have a long heart to heart with your child. I explain to them that I am not in the classroom. Even though I know what should be happening, I am not in there to see it in action day in and day out. So I need to hear from them what is helping, what is not working, and how it makes them feel. Ask very detailed questions about everything your child mentions. And then, together, come up with an ideal plan for going forward.
Because my daughter is dyslexic, she has special reading accommodations to help her focus for testing. And she receives small group support when working through multi-step assignments. Over the years we have changed her testing accommodations to include a teacher reading her the questions, taking the test in a separate room with no interruptions, to now taking her tests in the back of the room next to the teacher. She has improved so much! And we want to recognize that and support her becoming more independent! So now she can stay in the classroom with her main teacher, but they are still nearby if she has a question. They even check in on her throughout the testing to be sure she is understanding everything, and completing the assignment correctly.
Listen to the Teachers
While I prepare for each meeting by talking to my daughter, I still walk into each meeting with the ability to listen. My goal is to help my daughter succeed. And while she might know what she wants, the teachers also might have some additional insight to consider. I was surprised to see my daughter jump from a below average reader, into the above average range, in less than a year! I had no idea she was improving that quickly (thanks to her accommodations and wonderful support)! At home she was telling me what help she still wanted. But while in the meeting, the teachers recommended giving her a little more independence.
But my first goal of conveying how my daughter is feeling, and having just had the long conversation the night prior, I was able to explain what my shy child is feeling inside – which I believe matters more than any grade! So while she was improving, we all agreed that we needed to keep that strong support system for her in order to continue with her progress. In the end we made a few minor adjustments to give her a small push. But we kept majority of her IEP the same. And after checking in with her daily over the next few weeks, we all agreed that we had made just the right amount of adjustments for her success.
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When Do You Need an Education Lawyer?
Unfortunately you will not always be able to work it out in a simple meeting. Sometimes you need to ask for an entire team meeting. This might include your child’s teacher, their special area teachers, their resource teacher, the principal, the school guidance counselor, the school psychologist, and whoever else might come into contact with your child. I have been there. It is intimidating. But sometimes gathering everyone together in the same room, and at the same time, needs to happen so that everyone can be on the same page.
But what do you do if the issues still are not resolved? You might need to consider calling an Advocate or hiring an Education Lawyer to help mediate the situation.
Concerning Scenarios to Watch For
Some of the scenarios in which you might find yourself needing an education lawyer are in the cases of a special needs child whose IEP isn’t being met. Or, perhaps you have a child who is facing discrimination, or abuse at the hands of someone at school. If you feel that your child isn’t receiving the proper support or curriculum that is their right according to their IEP, you then have the right to call for a meeting, or even call for additional help.
If your child has been mistreated or harassed by a member of school staff, or is being bullied and the school administration hasn’t addressed the problem, you need to make sure it is properly addressed. Perhaps you feel that your child has been unfairly disciplined. Or your child was injured at school due to negligence or some other school-related problem, than you need to have that investigated.
And if you feel that your child is not progressing at the rate they should be, and/or is failing as a direct result of school negligence, don’t ignore that. If you’ve seen policies and/or curriculum that give you cause for concern, speak up. These are just a few examples. However, there are any more reasons that warrant concern, and why you might need to contact an education lawyer for guidance.
Know Your Rights
The important thing is that you know your rights. Know that you have the right to ask for help. Expecting a safe supportive environment for your child is not too much to ask for – that is your child’s right as a student. Maybe you can get the changes needed on your own in a school meeting. Or maybe you need an expert to help facilitate the adjustments. Either way, be that proactive voice for your child. Because if you don’t start the process, it’s likely that no one else will. Good luck! Remember that there are experts out there who are available and willing to help you through this process! And once you start seeing your child improve and succeed, it will make all of this totally worth it!
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