What To Do If Your Child Was Denied Special Education Services
If your school district has made a decision about your child’s education, with which you disagree, there are several things you could do.
There are several areas where these disagreements may occur:
- Classification. The school district refuses to classify your child, thereby denying an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In this case, the district must provide you the reason in writing. This is by means of an evaluation report. The school must also provide you with information regarding how to challenge the school’s decision. This is contained in the Parental Rights in Special Education (PRISE) manual which they have provided you. Make certain that you understand everything contained therein. If you do not, ask the school for a detailed explanation. At this point, you must determine whether you want to pursue a mediation hearing, due process hearing, or a complaint with the State of New Jersey Department of Education, matter by yourself or retain an attorney or educational advocate. Challenging the district on behalf of students who have special needs can be a complicated process. An attorney or advocate can help you negotiate an acceptable remedy with the school district. Absent such an agreement, you may wish to file for mediation or a due process hearing;
- Declassification. If your child is already classified and the school wants to declassify him or her.
- Change your child’s IEP. The school wants to make changes to his/her IEP, with which you do not agree. The school does not need your consent to change the IEP. However, they must send you a written notice within 15 days of its decision and 15 days of the proposed change and the reasons for the change. Again, refer to the PRISE manual for you the manner you may take to challenge the school’s decision.
- Denies your request for change. You have suggested a change in your child’s IEP to which the school has refused.
- If your child has been exhibiting certain behaviors that appear to adversely affect his or her education according to his teacher or doctor, you should request a behavior specialist’s evaluation by the school district.
- Your child is being denied services because he or she is getting good grades and does not need the services any longer. This does not mean that your son or daughter no longer has a disability. He or she may continue to need the services so that he or she will continue to do well. In any event, if you file for mediation or due process, you will be entitled to stay put rights. These rights prevent the district from making it’s proposed changes until the matter is resolved.
Another option available to you is to consider asking the school district to consider your child’s eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is important if your son or daughter has identified or documented issues from a physician or other professional. If eligible, the school could help your child in coping with his learning differences by providing accommodations for him or her. Further, even if he or she does not qualify for either an IEP or 504 plan, the school district may have programs for struggling students. Ask the school if they have such assistance programs.
If your child has been denied special education services because he or she did not qualify, your first reactions should be to ensure that you have a physician’s or medical professional’s report indicating any special needs for your child? If so, present such documentation to the school district. Does your child:
- An auditory problem (Is he or she deaf or
have a hearing impairment? Does he or she
wear a hearing aid?);
- Have autism? (Is it mild, moderate or severe?);
- cognitively impaired (This is a disability that is characterized by a very low average general cognitive functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior. It is manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.);
- display being emotionally disturbed? (Is he or she unable to learn inexplicably by health, sensory, or intellectual factors? Is he or she find it difficult to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers? Does he or she demonstrate inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances? Is he or she in a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression? Does he or she tend to develop physical symptoms of fears associated with personal or school problems);
- Suffer from being multiply disabled?
- Suffer from being deaf/blind? (Simultaneous hearing and visual impairment which cause such severe communication, developmental, and/or educational problems that programs strictly for the deaf or for the blind can not accommodate the student’s needs);
- Suffer from being orthopedically impaired? (Medical documentation is required for this classification.);
- Have other health impairment? (This assessment would require a medical assessment to be so classified.);
- In preschool with a disability? (For children between the ages of 3 and 5, who experience developmental delay of at least 33% delay in one area or 25% delay in two or more areas in one or more of the following area: physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, or adaptive.);
- Socially maladjusted? (Such students exhibit a consistent inability to conform to school behavioral standards. This behavior is disruptive to the education of the student and/or other students, and is not due to the conditions described under emotionally disturbed.);
- Have specific learning disabilities (SLD)? (This may be determined by finding a severe discrepancy between current achievement and intellectual ability in: basic reading skills, reading comprehension, oral expression, listening comprehension, mathematical calculation, mathematical problem solving, written expression, and reading fluency. SLDs May also be identified by using a response to scientifically based interventions. They are not the results of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, general cognitive deficits, emotional disturbance or environment, or cultural or economic disadvantage.);
- Traumatic brain injury? (This is an acquired injury to the brain caused by external force, resulting in full or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment.);
- Visually impaired? (This is a full or partial impairment that adversely impacts a student’s educational performance. It requires an assessment by a specialist to be evaluations were done? (Medical, Educational, Behavioral, Psychological, Neuropsychological, Speech, etc.)
- What were the results, scores, recommendations of those evaluations?
- Do you agree with the results of the evaluations? If not, request an independent educational evaluation (IEE). This is conducted by someone who is not an employee of the school district, and is usually at your own expense. In this request, specify the areas of your concerns that your son or daughter are having in school. The school may not deny this request if they pursue such denial in a due process hearing.
- If your child continues to be denied special education services, request an explanation in writing detailing why your child was denied
If all of the above fails to satisfy the disagreement between you and the school regarding your child’s education, you are entitled to request a mediation or due process hearing. The reasons you would set forth in your petition for such a hearing could include:
- The school district refused to evaluate your child.
- The school district determined that your son or daughter is not eligible for special education services.
- You disagree with the district’s decision.
Your petition must include:
- Your child’s name, address, and date of birth, and the name of your child’s school and school district;
- The description of the problem and the facts pertaining it, and your proposed solution,
- A copy of your request for the hearing to the school district.
If all of the above do not resolve the issue, begin to add to a paper trail for your child’s next evaluation. This paper trail should include:
- All correspondence with the school including your child’s teachers, para professionals, and administrators,
- Copies of all tests and their results,
- All progress reports
- Anything else which details your child’s difficulties.
With these, you will have evidence for the need of any proposed changes to the existing IEP or the next annual one.
Although you can file such petitions on your own, as described in the PRISE booklet, which the school will provide you, it is advisable to use an attorney or advocate.