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Five Lessons from a Special Education Dispute Victory

considering special educationLast year, Telios Law represented Parents in a due process dispute that went all the way to a hearing (which is unusual). The parties disputed whether and when the Parents requested a special education evaluation, and whether and when the school offered a special education evaluation. They disputed whether the school should have identified and supported the Student’s disabilities better. In the end, the judge decided that the school was on notice and the Student should have been evaluated for special education services. He ordered two years of compensatory education for the Student. 

The decision was good news for the Parents. Here are five helpful insights for parents on how to handle special education disputes with a school district. 

1. Good documentation keeps a dispute simpler. Keep all old records carefully. The book From Emotions to Advocacy gives many helpful suggestions on what documents to collect and how to organize them. Particularly when a case goes back a number of years, this can be critical. 

2. Work to avoid a dispute over whether an evaluation was requested. Make your initial request for a special education evaluation in writing (and any follow-up request). Save your request with some proof of delivery. For instance, if you mail the request, get a signed receipt. A copy of your signed letter, with a signed receipt from the school is good evidence. If you email the school, make sure that you get a reply showing they read your email. Also, print the email for your files. Computer crashes and closed accounts can keep you from accessing old emails.

3. Get everything in writing. You may have extensive verbal discussions with the school about your child. For the purposes of a due process hearing, none of that exists if it is not in writing. School employees’ recollections of these discussions will be drastically different from yours. If you have a conversation, you can create a written record by sending a follow-up email, documenting what was said.

4. Judges are more likely to believe school district employees than you in a credibility dispute over conflicting testimony. Judges in general appear to believe that government employees are less biased than Parents. I don’t know why. But that is why you must develop your documentary support.

5. Strongly consider having an outside evaluation done, even at your own expense, when you ask for a special education evaluation. If you rely solely on the school’s evaluation, and it happens to be done poorly, it will be hard to challenge. Bring to the table a solid evaluation and the expert who did the evaluation to improve your chances of proving that you need particular services

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