Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Special Education Legal Representation: Is it a "Good Ole Boys" Club?


How can I be sure my attorney is on my side? He jokes with the school’s attorneys during meeting breaks. They seem to be very chummy. Is this just another “good ole boys’ club”?


This question comes up all the time, not just in special education cases. I often hear people say that the legal system is unfair. They watch the attorneys battle in the courtroom, then walk outside, laugh, and make plans to play golf. People assume it is a “good old boys” club and it is impossible for parents to get a fair hearing. They believe that all the attorneys are friends and that somehow makes it a conspiracy.

An attorney friend once explained it this way to me. He said that attorneys must separate what goes on in the courtroom from their personal life. They cannot let their courtroom opponents become hated enemies. Eventually, each attorney will face many, if not all, of the attorneys in their area as an opponent in court. If they begin to hate the opponents they face, it will not be long until they have to hate ALL of the attorneys because at some time or another, they will face them in court at some time or another.

Attorneys have an ethical obligation to vigorously defend their clients. The legal system is adversarial, by design. That does not mean that all adversaries are enemies.

Many attorneys are frustrated actors/actresses. That is part of what makes them good at what they do. Think about it. To be a good advocate, your attorney must maintain his/her emotions. If she becomes out-of-control, the school’s attorney is in control.
Yet, your attorney must be indignant and outraged at the way the school is treating you and your child. This takes a special skill and calling.
Do not assume that because those in the legal profession are civil – or even friendly – to each other that there is a conspiracy. Your attorney is on your side, or he would not have taken your case.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homeschooling and Special Education in Indiana

A homeschooled student who is elgible for special education services has the right to a free and appropriate public education from his or her school corporation of legal settlement. However, when a parent chooses to homeshool, rather than enroll the student in public school, the services the child may receive is is determined by the local school corporation of legal settlement on an individual case basis.

Homeschooling and the Indiana Compulsory Attendance Law

The Indiana compulsory school attendance law requires all children who attend a public school from either the start of the school year during which a child will turn 7), or at age 7 (if the child is to attend a nonaccredited, nonpublic school. A nonaccredited,nonpublic school includes a child who is attending a "homeschool." The child must continue to attend school until he or she turns 18, earns a high school diploma, or formally "drops out" of school at age 16 or 17. IC 20-33-2-28.5.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy Seminar

I look forward to meeting all of our old Wrightslaw friends and making some new ones at the upcoming Wrightslaw From Emotions to Advocacy seminar. Please join us in Boulder, Colorado on October 2, 2010. The seminar will be held at A Spice of Life Event Center, Flatirons Golf Course, 5706 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO 80303.

To register online, please go to: http://www.wrightslaw.com/speak/10.10.co.htm

Monday, August 16, 2010

Florida Association of Special Education Parent Attorneys

Did you know that there is an association of special education attorneys in Florida. That's right. For several years now Florida attorneys have organized together to better serve Florida youngsters. They meet on a periodic basis and communicate through an elist. Mark Kamleiter, St. Petersburg, FL is a member of this group. He can probably refer you to an attorney near you in Florida. You can find Mark's contact inforamtion here: http://www.copaa.org, and click the link "find an attorney/advocate." If your are outside Floriday, use the same website to locate a parent attorney near where you live.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rules of Combat

Rules of Combat

I recently came upon a t-shirt printed with these rules of combat. Parents of children enrolled in special education programs may find these rules useful in their journey from emotions to advocacy.

1. If the enemy is within range so are you.

Everything you do can have a lasting effect. Do not allow your actions to backfire on your child.

2. The cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue.

In a pinch you may not be able to find or afford a good parent attorney. Use persuasion instead of due process threats.

3. Bring the biggest gun you can handle, lots of ammo, andplenty of reinforcements.

Come to IEP meetings prepared. Give other members of the Team all relevant information before the meeting. Bring extra copies with you. Do your homework. Learn everything you can about research-based instruction. Take a friend to the meeting. Bring refreshments.

4. Incoming fire always has the right of way.

The school is responsible for chairing the IEP Team Meeting. Thus, school staff has the right of way. Your greatest weapon is paper and pen. Document everything, even if it seems unimportant. Who fires the first shot is less important than who has the most strategic position after the shots are all fired.

5. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.

Be careful about using the law is your weapon. IDEA is a critical tool but your information may be outdated. Quoting the law only polarizes the positions of both sides making the possibility for peace more difficult.

6. Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.

It is difficult to fire at someone who is kind and considerate. Concentrate on influencing people. Be polite. Treat others as you would like to be treated. When others are rude be a better person than them and walk a straighter path.

7. If at first you don’t succeed, bomb disposal is not for you.

Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Not everyone can defuse difficult situations. If you have not yet learned this skill work with an experienced parent advocate who specializes in dispute resolution.

8. Any ship can be a minesweeper . . . once.

It is easy to burn bridges. A good negotiator causes change without burning bridges. Take care of your child’s school relationships. Remember, s/he may be in that environment for a long time.

9. If you see a bomb technician running, make sure to keep up with him.

Is the head special education bomb technician -- special education director or school attorney – to be at your IEP Team meeting? Pay close attention. Either you should be worried or you have other members of the IEP Team worried. Either way, you need to be prepared.

10. If at first you don’t succeed, call in an airstrike.

When all else fails, contact a good parent attorney for advice. Do not threaten due process.