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Georgia Special Education Law Blog

Special Education in the News - 8/14/12

on Tue, 08/14/2012 - 18:01

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a heartwarming story today about iPads as assistive technology for children with severe developmental delays. The child's father, who works for AT&T doing product development, brought technology ideas home to help his daughter communicate more effectively. The story reports that the child is doing much better in school since the introduction of the assistive technology. Particularly interesting is the mentioned of using social media to keep parents, teachers, therapists, and other care providers on the same page about the little girl's progress.

Many school districts already use assistive techology, although they aren't always using cutting edge equipment and they seldom use social media to keep everyone in the loop. A good IEP should have a some discussion of what assistive technology will be provided to support education. A picture system like PECS can be very helpful, but feel free to ask about computer based-systems at the IEP meeting. Implemented well, a computer system could easily provide more flexibility an customization for a particular child. And your child might be more motivated to participate if a computer, tablet, or smart phone is part of the system.

The father's name is Lee Mabie, and he has recently launched a website at

School District Evaluations: Basic Information

on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 18:50

In theory, every child with special needs must be evaluated by an expert so that the school district will know the precise extent of the child’s needs and receive some guidance from the expert in effective strategies to educate the child. Like any medical intervention on your child, you generally must authorize the evaluation or it does not happen. In practice, the evaluation process can be very aggravating for parents. Here is some basic background on the legal issues in trying to get out of the evaluation process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

The school district is obligated to evaluate a child to determine eligibility for special needs. Unless the school district has different timing rules, the evaluation must generally occur within 60 days of the request.(1)  The district must seek your consent for this evaluation.(2) You are legally authorized to withhold or condition your consent, perhaps because you think that the proposed evaluation is not targeted at your child’s problems. But the school district is not obligated to accept your conditions. If the school district treats your response to its request for consent as a refusal to consent, the district might seek an administrative determination that it may evaluate without your consent – essentially take you to court before an administrative law judge for the judge to decide if your refusal was appropriate.(3)

Re-evaluations can occur whenever the situation warrants, including when you request a re-evaluation.(4) But this requested evaluation is different than your right to an independent evaluation at public expense. In terms of timing, the evaluations cannot occur more frequently than once a year, nor less frequently than once every three years, unless you and the school district agree otherwise.(5)

Thus, every third year, the IEP meeting will be particularly long, as the school district creates a record that it complied with the re-evaluation requirements. As I noted, you and the district can agree that the re-evaluation process can be skipped, but that means you are relying on the conclusions and guidance that is three years out of date. But if you withhold consent, some cases suggest that the school district would have the same options it had in dealing with withheld consent on an initial evaluation.



(1) 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(1)(C)

(2) § 1414(a)(1)(D)(i)

(3) § 1414(a)(1)(D)(ii)(I)

(4) § 1414(a)(2)(A)

(5) § 1414(a)(2)(B)

Open Thread July 2012 - Why I am a Special Education Attorney

on Mon, 07/02/2012 - 14:33

When a school district will not provide services to a student with special needs, the district saves money in its budget. But this is a false saving. The more prepared for independent living a person is at graduation, the fewer support services must be provided in adulthood. Living independently serves two purposes – it allows a people to choose their own goals and it saves society unnecessary expense in providing the social safety net. That’s why I’m a special education attorney for parents.

It’s time for an open thread. What are you thinking about?

The basic rule: Be polite. Think of this as a pleasant dinner party. Comments may take some time to appear.

You Are a Member of The IEP Team

on Thu, 06/28/2012 - 18:51

As the parent, you are a member of the IEP Team.* You have incredible knowledge about the practical issues created by your child’s special needs. Remember that you have more experience about your child’s difficulties than any school employee. Feel free to talk about how problems you have at home might be similar to problems at school. Try to suggest ways that the school could implement solutions like those you use at home. If there is a difference between the types of problems at home and at school, it is worth the effort to figure out the reasons for the differences.  Those reasons help you and the school design concrete changes that will help your child learn more effectively.

You might be worried that a school employee will suggest or imply that you are doing something wrong at home that is causing your child’s problems. You should respond that vague suggestions are not helpful and ask for concrete actions to take. Then give other IEP team members a chance to make concrete suggestions. Although this can be unpleasant to hear, your child is worth the effort it will take to think about better ways to help your child learn. If the school employee cannot make precise suggestions, then politely suggest that the meeting re-focus on specifics for the IEP. Remember that your purpose at the IEP meeting is to create a plan with specific steps to help your child learn despite special needs.

* 20 U.S.C. ∫ 1414(d)(1)(B)(i)

Crowded IEP Meetings

on Fri, 06/15/2012 - 18:39

When you attend an IEP meeting, there are often a lot of school employees at the meeting. Who are these folks and why are they there? The legal answer is fairly simple(1) – certain school employees be attend the IEP meeting, including at least one regular education teacher, at least one special education teacher, and someone who can interpret the evaluations used in making the IEP. Additionally, a district employee who knows the potential special education placements within the district and knows the general education curriculum must be there. Finally, someone who can commit the district to implement the plan needs to be at the meeting. A district does not meet its obligations by submitting a potential IEP to higher officials for review and approval because that would defeat the purpose of the IEP meeting, which is to create a plan to implement.

In practice, there are an overwhelming number of people working for the school district in the room during the IEP meeting. Having that many people in the room can be stifling because you interrupt the flow of the meeting with every question. But you are a co-equal member of the IEP team. You know your child better than anyone else in the room. Give yourself permission to politely but firmly make suggestions or ask why the district proposes a particular goal or service. The district must consider alternatives, even if it decides not to implement them.(2)


(1) 20 U.S.C. ∫ 1414(d)(1)(B)

(2) Greer v. Rome School Dist., 950 F.2d 688 (11th Cir. 1991)