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Colorado Education Law Blog

Colorado Education Law Blog

Special education and civil rights in Colorado

Can an Attorney or Parent Advocate Add Value in a Special Education Dispute?

Special Education DisputeOften, parents come talk to us about their special education matter and end up deciding that it costs too much to hire an attorney. Often, we talk to parents in situations where a child's education has been wrecked for years, often beyond repair. We wish we could have helped them sooner. This raises questions. When do you need an attorney or parent advocate? When would an attorney add value to your child's life that outweighs the cost?

Early Warning Signs for Four Types of Disability in Small Children

ToddlerEvery parent dreams of what his or her child will grow up to be. Will my child become an NFL player, a concert pianist, or perhaps win the Nobel Prize? No parent ever wishes that his or her child would be born with a disability, even though the parent knows that dreams may not become reality.

What to Do After Your Child has been Diagnosed With a Disability

Special KidYou leave the doctor’s office more confused than when you walked in! You have more questions to ask, but your head is swimming. There is no way the doctor could be right—or could she? Being told that your child has a disability or developmental delay is hard news for any parent to take and involves a grieving process as well as tough decisions to make. Each child and his or her condition is unique; different disabilities take a different path. So what do you do now? How can you best help your child, whom you now know has special needs

Five Questions on IEPs that PEAK Parent Center Can Help You Answer: An Interview of Ms. Shirley Swope

Peak ParentAn Individualized Education Program (IEP) is required by federal statute for students with special needs in order to understand what accommodation, modifications, special education support and educational goals a specific child needs. The IEP process can be tedious, yet if you are equipped with the proper tools, is a maze that can be navigated. PEAK Parent Center is the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for the State of Colorado. It reports that the number one most-sought-after help is on the IEP for a child with disabilities.

Defining a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

EducationOur understanding of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) comes partly from statute and partly from case law. It brings parents both hope for what schools can provide for a child, and disappointment at the relatively low bar for education.

Four Questions to Consider When Your Child with Disabilities is Bullied

Bullied KidBullying is inevitable. Whether it occurs in toddlerhood when children are learning to use “safe hands,” or when older adolescents engage in cyber-bullying, most children will hit an adversarial situation at some point in their young lives. Parents struggle to ensure that children are equipped with the proper tools to navigate a hostile world. But what if you are the mother or father of a special needs child? The atmosphere quickly changes and is even more frightening. 

Can Parents Get in Trouble for Children's Behavior at School?

behavior at schoolChildren with behavioral, emotional, and mental disabilities sometimes behave badly and can even be violent. If this happens at school, are the parents responsible? Recently, a teacher injured by a child filed a lawsuit  against parents, alleging that Parents were responsible.

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?

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.

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.

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.

School Boards Need Constitutional Speech Policies for Students

Sometimes when school boards worry about endorsing religion, they go too far the other way. This seems to have happened when fourth-grade J.G. was not allowed to hand out his Easter Egg Hunt invitations. A Florida federal court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of his student speech in Gilio v. School Board of Hillsborough County on October 5, 2012. It reasoned that J.G. was likely to win his arguments that the school had violated his constitutional rights.

Good News in the Schoolhouse

 On August 29, 2012, the Eighth Circuit decided in favor of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Minneapolis Special Sch. Dist. No. 1.  It reversed the denial of CEF’s preliminary injunction where it had tried to stop a school district in Minnesota from limiting school facility access for a Good News Club.

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.

Released-Time Offers Fresh Choices in Religious Education

Moss v. Spartanburg County School District Seven, a June 2012 Fourth Circuit case, expands possibilities for religious education for public school students. The main educational paradigms in the United States are public school, private school, and home school. Conventional wisdom holds that religious education takes place more effectively in the second two. But released-time is a viable option for religious education within the public school paradigm.

In released-time, a public school student is released from campus for a class period to take religious instruction off-campus. While such programs must meet certain requirements, when they do so, they are consistently held constitutional. Typically, the students do not get credit for classes, and at least one case, Lanner v. Wimmer, was critical of the credit option.

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