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Georgia Special Education Law Blog

Upcoming Events - 9/27/12

on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 13:21

The Gwinnett County Masters Special Olympics is hosting a concert by Ernie Haase on October 20, 2012 at the First Baptist Church in Lilburn, GA. Tickets start at $20 ($10 for Special Olympics Athletes). Also, Ernie will be hosting a basketball clinic before the event that includes a pizza party and tickets to the concert. Check it out.

The School District is Suggesting a 504 Plan - 9/20/12

on Thu, 09/20/2012 - 00:00

A parent recently told me that the school district preferred a 504 plan over an IEP for her child with special needs. The parent asked me whether an IEP is better than a 504 plan. I said that, all else being equal, an IEP is better.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates creation of IEPs, is filled with procedural rights for parents. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which includes section 504, has far fewer procedural rights. For example, the school district must hold an IEP meeting every year and write a new IEP document - in practice, drawing on the previous IEP. By contrast, a school district is not even obligated to create a 504 plan, so long as the student is able to participate as if the student was not disabled. When a 504 plan is created, the district has no obligation to periodically review the document. This means that the district could go a long time before stopping to ask the parents about their views on the accommodations at the school. And even if your child has an IEP, the requirements of Section 504 still apply.

In practice, some districts are willing to offer more in a 504 plan than in an IEP, which can be a good reason to accept one rather than push for an IEP. But if your child has a medical problem that interferes with learning, including learning social skills or life skills, then the district basically has no legal way to deny your child an IEP.

Let Georgia Hear - 9/18/12

on Tue, 09/18/2012 - 17:46

Last week, I met the leaders of Let Georgia Hear and learned that many medical insurance providers classify hearing aids as cosmetic rather than medically necessary. As such, the insurance companies do not cover hearing aids. Let Georgia Hear wants hearing aids treated like any other device that treats a medical problem. Therefore, Georgia law needs to be changed to require hearing aids be treated as medical devices, not cosmetic devices.

Let Georgia Hear has a petition for us to tell our elected officials that the law should be changed. I've signed - have you?

Focusing on the Plan 9/11/12

on Tue, 09/11/2012 - 19:44

My colleague TJ Thurston wrote an interesting article titled Special Education is not about Revenge

My take: The post is essentially right. Not matter what it looks like on the surface, all IEP disputes are about the plan to educate your child. Trying to fight about other issues is very difficult to accomodate in the IEP process. When there are problems, changing the plan might include the school district providing, paying for, or reimbursing you for additional services. Or it might involve a new teacher or placement. But if your thinking is not focused on the plan for educating your child, you might not be focusing directly on the school district's obligations under the IDEA. And that will make it difficult to compel the district to change its behavior.

In other news, Autism Speaks has invited me to speak at 9 am on September 15 at their office about IEP basics. I will be speaking about general issues in the IEP process that are applicable even if your child does not have Autism. Attendance is free, but Austism Speaks asks that you RSVP here.

Special Education in the News - 8/22/12

on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 16:07

Yeaterday NPR's Tell Me More had an interview with several parents of children with special needs. Most of the conversation was about finding the right placement for the child, one of the core issues in creating a good IEP. Here is a transcript of the conversation.

I agree with basically everything the parents said. It is really hard to be sure that the district's chosen placement is right for your child. I suggest visiting the placement to see what it is like. If your child is high-functioning, but the other children are severely developmentally delayed, the placement probably is not right. If your child has a cochlear implant and needs auditory stimulation, a classroom focused on sign language education probably is not the right placement. The other thing to do is to track your child's progress. Even if there is not as much progress as a typically developing child, you should see evidence of improvement on a biweekly or monthly basis.

If you are not satisfied with the placement, you should ask for another IEP meeting. There is no rule that IEP meetings can happen only once a year. The fact that you liked the IEP two months ago (or even yesterday) does not mean that you like it today. And lack of progress is a completely reasonable justification to having another meeting with school officials to talk about what can or should be changed.

If school officials cannot explain the reasons for problems, then you should ask what they will do going forward to figure out the problem. Maybe another evaluation is needed. Or an outside expert needs to be consulted. School districts are not required to do what is best, but they are required provide educational benefit. It is practically the definition of a bad placement that it does not provide educational benefit.

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