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Thomas Blessing, Indianapolis Education AttorneyRaising a child may be the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” but parents of children with special needs often find it especially challenging—even frustrating—when dealing with their schools. The law provides substantial protections to public schools, which operate under different laws and rules than the rest of us, including Tort Claims Act notice requirements, immunities and limitations on recovery. Many of these laws are complex, confusing and seem unfair to parents and their children. We are passionate advocates for children with disabilities and will fight to ensure they receive the services and supports which they need in order to be successful in school.

Unfortunately, when they are at school, students do not enjoy the same rights as we do. Truth is, parents and their children are at a real disadvantage when it comes to dealing with teachers and administrators: the deck is stacked against them. Parents come to us for help asserting their rights against the school system.

We have the knowledge and experience to help parents even the playing field and navigate the uncharted waters of education law. We represent families with claims against public school districts involving:

  • Due Process Hearings
  • Eligibility disputes
  • Evaluation requests
  • Suspensions and expulsions
  • Manifestation Determinations
  • Restraint and seclusion
  • Disability discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Personal injury
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect/abuse
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations
  • Section 504 plans
  • Civil rights

Special Education

Many school systems do not provide students with services required by federal law, denying their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Some common examples of violations by schools include:

  • Poorly drafted IEPs
  • Failure to identify, locate and evaluate (Child Find)
  • Not implementing IEPs as written
  • Wrongful suspensions, expulsions or other removals from school
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • Shortened school schedule
  • Wrongful restraint or seclusion
  • Inappropriate placement
  • Inadequate related services

In those cases, we may bring a Due Process hearing request against the school under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). These are administrative proceedings filed with the Indiana Department of Education, which appoints an Independent Hearing Officer to render a decision. Cases involving other claims may be filed in state or federal court. We work closely with your child’s psychologists, therapists, mental health providers and other professionals to develop a plan designed to maximize her potential. Although many parents may believe that they cannot afford a lawyer, there is a provision in the law which may enable us to get the school to reimburse your attorney fees.

We are happy to review your child’s IEP for no charge and give you a free phone consultation to let you know your options and what remedies are available under the law.

Generally speaking, you cannot recover monetary damages under IDEA, but if there is evidence that a school district has denied your disabled child FAPE, we may be able to get you one or more of the following remedies available under the law:

  • An Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) by a private psychologist
  • An IEP which addresses all of your child’s special needs
  • Goals and services (therapies or counseling) to meet special needs
  • Extra help, including tutoring or 1:1 support
  • Compensatory services
  • Extended School Year (ESY)
  • Reimbursement for private school, services or mileage
  • Private placement
  • Attorney fees

Student Discipline

If your child is being suspended or expelled from school, we can advise you of your rights and try to keep him in school. Students in special education have certain protections under the law which may enable us to prevent an expulsion. In certain cases, these legal protections may apply to students not yet eligible for special education if the school should have known that she was qualified. Parents turn to us for legal advice regarding:

  • Expulsions
  • Suspensions
  • Manifestation Determinations
  • Interim Alternative Educational Settings

Injuries at School

The law requires schools to use reasonable care and supervision over students. If your child is injured at school as a result of negligence or abuse, you may be entitled to recover monetary damages from the school district. We handle cases involving:

  • Premises liability
  • Assaults
  • School shootings
  • Sexual harassment or abuse

Bullying

Bullying has become an epidemic in our schools. Children are humiliated on social media, harassed, called names, teased, ridiculed, intimidated, tormented and physically assaulted. Some victims are so terrified of being bullied that they develop a school-based anxiety disorder and want to stay home. In many cases, their parents have spent months—even years—trying to get the school to take them seriously and hear their cries for help, only to be brushed off or ignored.

If there is evidence that the school knew or should have known that your child was being bullied and she has suffered harm as a result, the school may be legally responsible and you could be entitled to recover monetary damages in state or federal court.

If you believe your child is being denied special education services at school or have questions about your legal rights, contact us today for a free consultation.