If you live in California and have a child with special needs, you will want to become familiar with the resources available to you and your children. Special education laws guarantee free and appropriate public education, or FAPE, meaning that you are entitled to special education services at no cost. If a school or school district tries to tell you otherwise, know that our legal team and the law are on your side.
Before advocating for your child’s services under FAPE, it may be useful to understand exactly what it means.
F - Free
Although the acronym says “free,” and you will not be paying for any services out of pocket, you are in a sense paying for the help your child receives. The California state government allots approximately $4 billion of taxpayer dollars to special education. The federal government puts aside another $1 billion. Therefore, you are already paying for extra help for your child and are entitled to FAPE services.
A - Appropriate
Receiving an “appropriate” special education means that any child who qualifies should be entitled to an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. While private testing for special needs students can be quite pricey, parents have the right to request a free Independent Educational Evaluation. This evaluation helps determine a child’s unique and specific needs. Evaluations must be conducted according to prescribed procedures.
P - Public
The “public” aspect of this term simply means that the education your child receives is supervised by a public school. In rare cases, the government may pay for a child with unique disabilities to attend a private school. This scenario is also possible in the event a child’s school district is unable or unwilling to meet the needs of the student in question. The U.S. Department of Education states that “If a student is placed in a private school because a school district cannot provide an appropriate program, the financial obligations for this placement are the responsibility of the school district.”
E - Education
“Education” not only refers to special education, but also to services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, tutoring, counseling, or a 1:1 trained aide to name a few. If your school does not offer one or more of these services requested, it may refer to or place a student with disabilities in a program that does. However, if you are not in agreement with the assessments, services offered to your student or your student’s placement, you have a right to challenge the district’s offer in a process simply referred to as “Due Process” or via a California Compliance Complaint. The education services offered by your child’s school district must be designed to ensure that a student makes ambitious progress in the school setting. Teachers of students with disabilities must be trained in the instruction of individuals with disabilities.
It is not uncommon for school districts to grossly deny students FAPE. For example, our firm represented a young boy with an impaired memory who found himself relentlessly bullied everyday. This child was permitted to wander the halls for hours at a time, as he could not remember where his class was. When he stumbled upon the main office for help, he was ignored. With our assistance, he was transferred to a new school and obtained transportation, a 1:1 aide, counseling services and compensatory tutoring for the instruction time he missed.
If you feel that your child may be entitled to more special education services or if you are unsure if your child is receiving a “Free An Appropriate Education,” contact the Attorneys at Holloway & Kimberlin LLP for a free consultation.