“Accurate information is a key part of motivation,” according to Mary Ann Allison. Special education is not a straightforward, step-by-step process and parents generally need help navigating it and securing all the services their child is entitled to. There may be times when you, as a parent, need a special education attorney or advocate to support you and your child. You need to know who to turn to so you feel more motivated and confident. Most often, parents approach advocates or attorneys. Here’s some information that sheds some light on what a special education attorney can do for you.
What does a special education attorney do?
An attorney is a legal professional. There is a lot of legislation related to special education, such as: the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These acts and regulations mandate that states provide a free education and appropriate services to secure equal opportunities for all students. Parents of children with special needs are often unfamiliar with all the legislation, or at least, they don’t understand the legislation fully and how it relates to their situation. Advocating for your child’s individual needs and appropriate services is a lot easier if you know your rights. That is something a special education attorney can help with.
An attorney can act as an advocate, using their mediation and negotiation skills, and can also advise parents on the benefits and risks of taking legal action against the school authorities. If the parents decide to pursue further legal action, the attorney can manage the process.
In short, given their background and expertise, special education attorneys are able to tell parents what they need to know, particularly relating to their rights and the legal side of things.
What can a special education attorney do for ME?
Practically speaking, you can use legal services to get guidance on what you can do and how, or you can use them to have a formal representative in your relationship with the school.
Here are examples of practical tasks that a special education attorney can perform for you:
- Obtaining your child’s school records
- Requesting your child be evaluated
- Requesting an IEP meeting
- Preparing for an IEP meeting
- Attending an IEP meeting with you
- Examining your situation from a legal point of view
- Assessing the strength of your case
- Negotiating with the school to reach an agreement and solution outside the court
- Preparing for hearings
- Attending hearings with you and handing the related administration
- Preparing a formal complaint to be filed with an educational body
- Representing you in court
How is hiring an attorney different from hiring an advocate?
You might have noticed that a lot of the above tasks can also be performed by an advocate. There is some overlapping, yes, so you should carefully consider whether you need a special education attorney or an advocate. The most important difference is that an attorney is a legal professional. Whereas an advocate can inform you about your rights, only an attorney is qualified to give you legal advice.
There are also some other considerations regarding what an attorney, not an advocate can do for you.
An attorney could be better suited to give you guidance in a complex dispute.
An attorney can perform a legal review of your case, present you the risks and benefits of taking legal action, so that you can decide whether you want to pursue that course of action.
An attorney could help you stand on an equal footing to the school if the school has a legal representative.
Hiring an attorney would make your relationship with the school more formal.
Pacific Coast Advocates could answer your questions
Are you experiencing difficulties communicating with the school? Do you feel discouraged, insecure and disoriented? Pacific Coast Advocates welcome you to book a free, no-obligation, 30-minute phone consult to discuss your situation. PCA is an expert team of special education advocates based in San Diego. We give you a unique service offering and a collaborative, child-centered approach. Reach out to us – we’d love to help any way we can!