It is hard to generalize why parents often distrust school systems when addressing the needs of their child with a disability. There are many reasons. To name a few, the school system does not properly implement the IEP; the school system fails to provide the required related services personnel such as an OT or speech and language therapist and sessions are missed without explanation; the school system fails to address the unique educational needs of the child; the school system refuses and fails to implement a specific methodology such as Orton-Gillingham for a child with dyslexia or Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for a child with autism; the school system’s evaluation is inadequate or is not conducted in a timely manner; the school system does not provide parent rights and fails to explain such rights adequately; the school staff does not communicate well with the parent; and the list goes on and on. . . . Does any of these thing happen in your school system? Does these things resonate with you and then you become angry? Sure it does because school systems make mistakes and sometimes intentionally fail to comply with the law.
What can you do about it? well, my first words of advice is not to wait when you realize there is a problem with your child’s special education program. I know it is difficult at times to figure out when there is a problem. Sometimes it may take weeks or even months before a parent discovers that the school system has failed to comply with the child’s IEP or other rights. When you realize there is a problem then the first thing is to address it directly with a teacher, Principal, special education coordinator or director. It may be challenging at times figuring out who is responsible for fixing the problem. Do not give up. Under the law the school system is accountable to the parent when there is a legally recognizable problem. How do you know if it is a minor problem or a legal problem involving your child? Of course you do not want to call a lawyer every time you have a problem with your child’s special education program. In most cases the problem can be addressed at the school level with a special education coordinator or director. But what happens if the problem persists or there is an emergency? Sometimes a child is suspended from school and there is a manifestation determination and disciplinary panel scheduled within a matter of days. You should not wait to contact a lawyer in these type of situations. There may be other circumstances when contacting a special education lawyer for advice and direction is helpful. A lawyer does not have to file a request for due process every time you have a problem with the school system to ensure that your rights are protected.
Should you file due process without a lawyer. Probably not. Parents that try to request due process almost always lose their case in Georgia unless it is settled before the hearing. It is best to seek the counsel of a lawyer before you request a due process hearing. In any case, do not wait for problems to resolve themselves because often they do not. By waiting and hoping that the school system will do the right thing then the situation usually becomes worse. Please seek the legal services of a special education lawyer sooner than later as it will usually save you more time and expense than waiting until the case gets out of hand. As to other matters, you should use your best judgment when to contact a lawyer. But please do not wait too long as special education problems tend to become more difficult to resolve without a hearing and educational harm to the child.