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Access to Justice for My Child with Disabilities

kids hiding under bedInteractions between parents of children with disabilities and school districts can go wrong in so many ways:  refusal to evaluate a child; inadequate IEP; not carrying out the IEP; harassing or bullying the child; refusing access to extracurricular activities; and many more. This frustrates parents and students. When this happens, what can you do?

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Don’t Overlook Your Student’s Extracurricular Plan

extracurricular activitiesEven when schools put in place an IEP or Section 504 plan for your student, they may not address extracurricular access. This can make it hard for your student to participate in extracurricular events. After a government report found that students with disabilities do not have equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, the Office for Civil Rights issued Section 504 guidance.

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Has the School Properly Tested Your Child?

Getting a good evaluation for a child with disabilities can be a challenge. Mark C. Weber’s article, “All Areas of Suspected Disability,” published in 2013, provides valuable insight into the current state of the law on evaluating children with disabilities. If you have a child where an inadequate evaluation is an issue, this is worth reading. Courts have stepped into the area of tension between the requirements of IDEA and the low-level “reasonable benefit” standard we got from the Supreme Court, and usually held in favor of parents when children have not been evaluated properly.

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Forbidding or Allowing Student Religious Speech

One challenge in figuring out what religious speech is permitted for students is that it depends on whether the school is trying to prevent the speech or allow it. A January 2013 Second Circuit case, A.M. v. Taconic Hills Central School District, gives some insight, though it is a summary order that is not precedential.

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Do I Want a 504 Plan or an IEP?

Parents (and even educators) are often confused about the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP, and when each is appropriate. To choose between them, first the school and parents must find out whether the student has a disability as defined by statute. Then, they must decide what the school’s educational obligations are under each statute. The school must meet its obligations to provide a student with a disability the appropriate educational support. Finally, parents should know that their rights are different under each statute.

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