Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Take Action

Children are the most vulnerable when adults have disputes.  They are often caught up in the middle.  When school districts resist to resolve parental concerns, it negatively impacts the children and their education.  There needs to be steps and procedures to ensure timely resolution so the impact on our children’s education is lessened.  We need to remove the stumbling blocks and one of the largest to overcome is finances.  Parents cannot be effective advocates for their children if they do not have the financial resources for attorneys and expert witnesses.  Money should not be an issue to ensure a FAPE – free and appropriate education.

I have been working for the past two years trying to resolve issues with my school district.  It is an extremely vulnerable time for my son developmentally.  As a result, many opportunities have been lost.  My son is at risk of failing due to the resistance of the school district to resolve disputes in a timely manner.  This is wrong on so many levels.  This needs to change for all children

We need to do more to protect children with disabilities and their parents/caregivers.   Parents should not be concerned with how they will afford the fees for expert witnesses in due process proceedings.  In fact, I advocate that parents who seek due process should not have any out of pocket expenses.  There needs a system in place where school districts are put on notice whereby parents follow a step of procedures to work out issues prior to filing for due process.  After exhausting those measures in a short timeframe of 6 months, the parents can proceed to file for due process at no expense.  An attorney should be provided by legal services at no expense regardless of income.  The only expense would be if the parents hired an attorney privately which should be an option but not a requirement.  It will put more pressure on school districts to work with parents to resolve issues in a timely manner.

Below are links to a survey regarding IDEA.  Please take a few minutes to respond and pass it on to all concerned persons.  We are all impacted as a society when children are not appropriately prepared for life beyond school.  Education is the key for our children to lead independent and successful lives.





More Info




1. Complete the IDEA Survey

2. Get co-sponsors for the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (permits expert witness fee reimbursement)


1. IDEA Survey


Please participate in the IDEA National Survey Project, a survey which examines whether the rights of parents and children with disabilities in special education are protected.  Go to http://www.ideasurvey.org to take the survey or for more information. You can also visit the project on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/IDEA.Survey and Twitter, https://twitter.com/#!/IDEASurvey .  The deadline for completing the survey is June 14, 2011.


The survey project is sponsored by the National Down Syndrome Society, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Autism Society of America, Autism National Committee, and The Advocacy Institute. The survey examines whether the playing field is level for children with disabilities and their parents, and whether parents are treated as equal partners in their children’s education. A report will be compiled from the responses. There are a few choices of surveys, each appropriate for different groups: parents of children with disabilities; self-advocates (a long and short version); and attorneys, advocates, and other professionals. 

2. IDEA Fairness Restoration Act


In early May there will be a call-in day to get co-sponsors for the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613 in the Senate; H.R. 1208 in the House). You can find the name of your elected officials and contact information at http://capwiz.com/ndss/dbq/officials/?command=local. We will send out another action alert once the call-in date has been selected. If you are in contact with your Representative and/or Senators before the call-in date, please ask them to co-sponsor this bill. They will be back in your state for Spring Recess from April 18-29.


On March 17, 2011, federal legislation was introduced to allow parents to recover expert witness fees in due process hearings and litigation under the IDEA.  The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act was  introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee; Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT); and introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1208) by Congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pete Sessions (R-TX).

When schools fail to meet their legal obligations under the IDEA, parents may seek an impartial hearing. Parents need expert witnesses for these hearings, especially in states where they have the burden of proof.  Expert witnesses can include psychologists; pediatricians and other physicians; therapists; educational, inclusion, or positive behavioral support experts, and others.  Their testimony ensures that children with disabilities get the educational programs, accommodations, and supports they need.

In 2006, the Supreme Court held in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy that parents could not recover their expert witness fees under the IDEA even if the case is decided in their favor.  Many parents cannot afford to shoulder this expense. Therefore, they are unable to defend their child’s educational rights.  The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will override the Murphy decision.  It will enable parents who prevail in due process hearings and litigation to recover their expert witness fees.




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