The MLO Minute: “The Important Collaboration Between Special Education Attorneys and Special Education Advocates” —
Our special education practice is largely centered in the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware, and both states are fortunate to possess an impressive cadre of well qualified special education advocates, and we regularly collaborate with these valued professionals. It is important for families with special education students to be knowledgeable regarding their child’s special education needs and whether their child is being provided an appropriate educational program by their school district or charter school. This is not an easy task at all and often requires the assistance of special education advocates and special education attorneys. Sometimes families do not necessarily understand the respective roles of special education attorneys and special education advocates, yet it is quite important for families to understand how special education attorneys and special education advocates can help obtain proper programs and educational justice for students in special education.
Both special education attorneys and special education advocates are often wonderful resources for families. Special education attorneys and advocates often attend Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings with you to help communicate with your school district or charter school about the special education services and supports your child is receiving or should be receiving. Special education attorneys and advocates can also help families better understand the language in their child’s IEP.
Special education advocates are often well-versed in understanding the legal obligations of school districts and charter schools and while they cannot provide legal advice under Pennsylvania or Delaware law, they can help families understand the requirements of school districts and charter schools to provide their children with appropriate special education services. Special education attorneys and special education advocates can each help assess whether all a child’s educational needs have been sufficiently evaluated. Both special education attorneys and special education advocates can review IEPs to help families understand the services and support their child may not be receiving. Special education attorneys are able to provide explicit legal advice whether your child is receiving an appropriate educational program pursuant to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and relevant Pennsylvania/Delaware law. If a child has not been sufficiently evaluated or is not receiving an appropriate educational program to address their complete educational needs, special education attorneys are able to fully pursue the child’s right to a free appropriate public education at a due process hearing and federal court. Special education advocates are able to pursue these rights for students in a limited manner at a due process hearing in some states; however, in Pennsylvania, a special education attorney is needed to fully pursue claims at a due process hearing and beyond.
Special education attorneys have years of formal law school training in legal processes, as well as strict continuing education mandates under state law, and experience in litigating issues related to your school district’s or charter school’s specific obligations pursuant to Federal and state law to provide your child with an appropriate education to meet all of their special education needs. There are circumstances where a special education advocate can solve specific issues in collaboration with a public school or charter school, and in other circumstances (often where communications have become particularly strained or the potential for due process is heightened) it is important to have a child’s matter assessed by a special education attorney. Indeed, many of the most qualified and experienced special education advocates routinely refer families to our special education practice when those circumstances arise. Of particular note, there is a presumptive statute of limitations on claims under the IDEA and these claims could be significantly limited or waived if claims are not pursued within two years of when families knew or should have known there was a problem with their child’s educational program. Families will almost certainly be deemed to have known there was a problem with their child’s education once they openly engage the services of either a special education attorney or special education advocate.
Should you have concerns about your child’s educational program or placement, it is important to act quickly to address that situation with either a highly qualified special education advocate or attorney. Our office can assess whether your child’s educational needs are being met at no cost to you. We also frequently pursue matters at no cost to families. Please not hesitate to reach out to us by CLICKING HERE or by calling any of our numbers on our website.