Several of the attorneys at FLAG are former educators with years of experience working with disadvantaged and special education students. We combine the knowledge of an educator with the advocacy skills of an attorney.
Education is the key to any child’s future. While prosperity often yields opportunity and poverty signifies struggle, education is the bridge that unites all socioeconomic groups provided that proactive, assertive, knowledgeable parents and guardians actively hold their child’s school system, and in particular their individual school, accountable.
This is particularly important when your child has special needs.
In such instances, it is of utmost importance that there is a voice for the child advocating for a free, appropriate public education as mandated by the Individual Disability Education Act.
While there should be consistency regarding educational services for special education students, the reality is that:
- class size
- competency of the educator
- lack of safeguards within the special education system
all impact the identification of special education students and the services provided to them.
If you understand the complexities of an Individual Education Plan and your child’s rights to a due process hearing within a specific time frame and the services that may be available to your child, then you are well-equipped to advocate for your child.
However, most Maryland parents:
- are not special education teachers
- do not have extensive educational training
- have not studied special education law
In such instances, you are at the mercy of a school system that may allow your child, who is most in need of services, fall through the cracks and have no opportunity to make progress toward his or her full potential.
Education cases do not have to be adversarial. Often, identifying and communicating problems to your child’s special education team will yield positive actions from your child’s school.
However, it is not enough for a parent to simply state that his or her child is not succeeding in school.
Rather, insisting that testing be completed so that a special education determination can occur is the proactive approach that FLAG attorneys will implement in a non-confrontational, cooperative and collaborative way.
If testing has already been completed, FLAG attorneys will assist parents or guardians in ensuring that the school:
- is in compliance with the federal law on special education
- is not acting in an unreasonable, confrontational, superiority-based manner that requires a due process hearing
Often, children receive the most benefit from advocates that ensure compliance with the law rather than spending months preparing for trial after the school system has violated the law.
The safeguards are in place, you must hold all parties accountable.
There are instances where schools are either violating the law and refusing to implement corrective action or continuing to act in a manner that necessitates a due process hearing.
In such instances, FLAG attorneys are prepared and experienced in presenting your cases before an administrative law, circuit or federal court judge.
FLAG also offers advocacy for other educational issues including:
- school discipline
While there are not as many safeguards in place for students who are not classified as special needs, the reality is that all children are entitled to a public education that is free of harassment, unreasonable discipline and intimidation.
Your child has a right to be educated and make progress towards his or her educational potential.
Quick Facts About Maryland Education Law
- A child with a disability is entitled to receive a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment that can meet the child’s needs.
- From birth until age 21, children with disabilities may be eligible for special education services.
- IEP evaluation must be completed within 60 days of parental consent and 90 days after a written referral.
- If a parent disagrees with the school’s evaluation they can request an independent evaluation, which the school must pay for, or a due process hearing.
- If the benefits your child gained throughout the school year would be substantially jeopardized without receiving services during the summer, then the school must provide extended school year services.
- A complaint and request for a due process hearing may be filed if you disagree with the IEP team’s decision, provided that the violation occurred within one year prior to the date of the complaint.
- A complaint alleging a procedural violations as opposed to services offered, lack of resources or a system-wide problem is more likely to result in a successful outcome. MSDE will scrutinize whether the decision-making process was lawful.
- Pending a decision resulting from a due process hearing, a student shall “stay put” in their current placement and receive the same services provided for in the student’s IEP.
- A child with a disability may be suspended for up to 10 consecutive school days in the same manner as a regular education student, regardless of whether the improper conduct was related to the disability.
- A child with a qualifying disability may be removed from school for more than 10 consecutive days if the improper behavior is not related to the disability or the behavior involved drugs, weapons or serious bodily injury
- Removal of a child with a disability from school for more than 10 days requires the IEP team to meet within 10 school days of the removal to determine if the child’s behavior is a manifestation of their disability.
- A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) examines the student’s disruptive behavior, causes and solutions and may result in implementation of a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP).
- If your child is facing disciplinary removal, the IEP team must meet within 10 days of the removal to develop a FBA plan, then implement or alter the BIP to address the behaviors that resulted in the removal.
- Physical restraint or seclusion can only be used in an emergency situation to protect the student and others from imminent physical harm, the child’s IEP or BIP allows for the use or a parent has provided written consent while a BIP is being developed
- Mechanical restraints are not permitted in Maryland Public Schools
- All Maryland school systems must have a policy regarding bullying, harassment or intimidation
Knowledge is a necessity and accountability is the cornerstone to your child’s educational future.
For assistance with an education matter, please contact our office at 410-884-0400 to schedule an Initial Consultation with one of our firm’s highly experienced education attorneys.