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Georgia Special Education Law Blog

Failure to Make Progress

on Fri, 11/24/2017 - 17:00

Occasionally, I see a client whose progress towards particular goals is not sufficient to meet those goals before the year term of the IEP. Frustrated parents want to know if this failure is enough to go to litigation, and are always disappointed when I explain it probably is not. Here’s why: 

When evaluating the legality of an IEP, courts look at a snapshot at the moment the IEP is created. The judge essentially asks “What decision did the IEP team make incorrectly?” An IEP need only be “reasonably calculated” to provide educational benefit, and maximizing potential is never required. To be blunt, a student’s lack of success is not a decision of the IEP team, and thus cannot be a wrong decision.  

That said, lack of progress cannot be ignored by the school district. Just like repeating IEP goals, failing to adjust to lack of progress strongly suggests that the school district is going through the motions rather than actively trying to meet a student's needs. This is one of many reasons to try to change progress reports from "Not Addressed/Progressing/Mastery" to numerical measures of how close a student is to meeting the goal. 

Particularly aggravating is when a mid-year IEP meeting leads to downward revision of the goals just because the student is not on pace to meet them. I'm always leery of reducing goals because district officials never seem to have any explanation of what went wrong. Without that explanation, the school district is simply taking advantage of an opportunity to make its life easier instead of trying to create an appropriately challenging educational program for the student. 

If I can prove it, not trying to meet a goal that the IEP team determined was needed for a student to have an appropriately challenging education is a legal violation. If a school district is not working to serve your student, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.

Repeating IEP Goals

on Fri, 10/13/2017 - 19:46

From time to time, I see an IEP with goals repeated from a previous IEP. This always makes me very suspicious. Presumably, goals are repeated because they were not achieved in the previous school year. I've explained that the school district is not required to achieve the maximum amount of progress, but that doesn't mean the school district can sit on its hands. Repeating goals is the practical equivalent of repeating a class because the student did not learn the material the first time. This is a significant event, and should be treated that way.  

Simply by putting a goal in the IEP, the team is saying that meeting the goal is part of providing an appropriate education. Why was that prior team wrong about what level is appropriate? Until that question is answered, it is hard for a family to comfortably rely on the school district’s educational expertise. School officials should be able to explain why there was insufficient progress to meet the goal initially proposed by the IEP team.  

If at first you don't succeed, try again. But don't just do what you did the last time, because that wasn't enough. When a particular IEP goal has not been achieved, then the school district needs to increase the intensity of interventions in order to succeed in the new school year. Without that, it really is not clear that the school district is genuinely trying to achieve the goal.  

That makes me mad, because a school district that isn't trying is not doing right by the student and is violating the law. If your student has goals repeated from prior year IEPs, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.  


I and several other lawyers will be answering your education law questions at the Gwinnett STOPP event part of the National Week of Action on School Pushout.  

WHEN: October 21, 2017 @ 9:30 am – 3:00 pm WHERE: Salem Missionary Baptist Church Youth House: 4700 Church St NW, Lilburn, GA 30048



For a variety of reasons, the lawsuit the US Department of Justice filed regarding problems with GNETS has stalled. In response, a lawsuit on behalf of students has been filed to try to improve the quality of students currently placed in GNETS placements.

Self-Defense and Georgia School Discipline

on Sun, 09/17/2017 - 23:57

Many school districts in Georgia took the position that student behavior must be beyond question, no matter how trying the circumstances. For example, when one student punches another student, most school discipline codes expect the injured student to retreat or find a teacher to address the problem, not strike back. Typically, discipline rules do not allow a student to defend themselves, no matter how much danger they face. Defending oneself violates rules against fighting in school. There is zero tolerance.  

In S.G. v Henry County School District, the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected this position and held that students who are defending themselves do not violate school rules and thus may not be disciplined. Further, students are not required to wait to be hit to defend themselves if they reasonably believe that the force was necessary to protect themselves.  

Before this decision, it was essentially impossible to raise relevant defenses to school discipline at the tribunal hearing because even proving them would not prevent a ruling against the student. Now, the unduly harsh zero-tolerance policies of many school districts are sharply limited. This is a step forward for justice, because school discipline, like everything else in the education system, should shape student behavior towards what we expect from the adults that students will become.  

In other news, the winner of the Dyslexia Education Scholarship has been selected. The winner is Dr. Dara Delancy! Thank you to all the entrants. Due to the recent hurricanes, the early bird registration deadline has been extended to September 20, 2017.

Dyslexia Education Scholarship 2017

on Wed, 08/23/2017 - 16:10

Teachers, parents, and other providers often struggle to help students with reading difficulties - sometime because they don't have the intervention skill or knowledge to help those students.  

To help close this deficit, I am pleased to announce the Dyslexia Education Scholarship 2017, allowing one person to attend the International Dyslexia Association's national conference at no cost to register. Spanning from November 8 to November 11, 2017, the conference is filled with opportunities to learn multiple strategies and interventions to help remediate and educate students who are having difficulty learning to read.

Bullying In Public Schools

on Fri, 07/28/2017 - 14:33

If a student is bullied in school, parents can feel powerless to help. Georgia law has a broad definition of bullying, but nothing in Georgia law requires school districts take particular steps at the request of a parent or guardian. This can be very frustrating if school officials are not doing enough to protect a student.  

Federal law does require school districts to act in certain circumstances when the bullying is interferes with a student's ability to learn. However, these protects only apply if the bullying based on a protected classification, such as race, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. Although that sounds like a high standard, in practice I can often demonstrate it.  

For example, if the student-victim of bullying and the perpetrator are from different backgrounds, that is frequently the reason that student was selected as the target, which would show the bullying was based on a category such as race. Likewise, if a male student is targeted as nerdy or being LGBTQ+, that likely is based on a stereotype of how males show behave, which is a form of sex discrimination. Regardless if the bullying is based on a protected classification, a disabled student's issues with bullying should be addressed by the IEP or 504 team.  

It is very important to remember that a school district is only liable for failing to address bullying. In other words, if a district can plausibly state that it did not know about the bullying, then legal proceedings against the district would be very difficult. In practice, that means parents and students have to make sure that the principal or equivalent at the school knows about the bullying, including every instance when it occurs. A notebook with the time, date, and description of every incident, including when senior school staff were informed, is a powerful piece of evidence.  

If your student is being bullied in the public schools, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.