Monday, August 15, 2011

Is a parent really the best advocate for their child?

By Robin Hansen, Special Education Examiner

Every parent is told the trite phrase, “You are the best advocate for your child” but unfortunately, this is only true some of the time. Remember this: No matter how smart you are, no matter how right you are. No matter how well versed you are in the law; there are simply school districts that don’t care about how they educate your child. In fact, large law firms and other legal consultants who make their living by teaching school districts how avoid giving children services or to give the absolute minimum legally defensible service.

To add to insult to injury, the entire public school system has convinced almost every citizen of the United States that they have “no money”. This is one of the most widely believed urban legends ever. If any parent stands up for their kid publically, they are derided in the court of public opinion. It rarely occurs to the public to ask what laws the school district actually broke. Nor do they ask for an accounting of tax payer funds especially when districts pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers to fight cases that would have settled for a fraction of the cost. Dry Creek school district is a great example of this. To read the saga of Dry Creek, click here.

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n order to have a chance of winning a case to get what a child needs, parents need to understand what your child needs to succeed academically and emotionally. Even when things are good, and a child seems to be progressing, parents must keep the “critical thinking cap” within reach.

Most parents do try to advocate for their children to get a fair education. In the special education world, one can never use the word “best” next to “education” due to a legal decision years ago called the Rowley decision. The judge stated that special education need not be a Cadillac when a Chevy will do. Instead, the standard is getting access to an education equal to “regular” education. This is key concept for parents to remember, don’t ask for the best, ask for what is fair and equal to what the “regular” children are getting.

Every day parents go to IEP meetings trying to get their child with special needs a decent and fair education. They talk to the teachers and staff. They tell them important facts, develop relationships and think they are doing everything they can and maybe even doing a great job. In fact, as one parent, who realized that her child was going down hill fast said, “I DO fight for him. I have told them (school staff) over and over the problems he is having and nothing changes. They KNOW what is going on and they don’t DO anything. It never changes.”

Article HERE.
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