Tag Archives: Special Education

Important things to know when hiring a special education attorney

We at the Leigh Law Group know hiring a special education attorney can be (wait,… is) daunting.  You have to face trusting your child, that precious gift that changed your life more than any one single thing, to someone you only barely know.  Here are some things you should know:

1. Some attorneys have never taken a case to due process.  They will talk tough at an IEP, or maybe take the case to mediation, but they will never take that extra step to convince districts who truly do not want to comply with the law that you are willing to fight.

2. Some attorneys have never taken a case to the appeal process.  Parent success before the California Office of Administrative Hearings is notoriously elusive (we are being nice here). The appeal from a due process proceeding is taking a case to federal or state court.

3. Some attorneys have never taken a case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Judges in state and federal court, the vast majority of which are well meaning, are both overburdened and lacking in specific training under the IDEA.  Appealing to appeals court, or having an attorney who has done so, gives your case credibility in the trial courts and before the administrative hearing office.

Leigh Law Group, special education, education and civil rights attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area, have successfully taken special education cases to all of the above levels.  We have prevailed in due process proceedings.  We have settled cases in federal court obtaining substantial services for our clients’ children even in the face of a loss at the due process level.  We have argued and received favorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on cases which have made law for all families in California, even in the face of federal trial court judges telling our clients they had no case.

Because we have taken cases to every level of the court systems (short of the Supreme Court of the United States), school districts know that we are in the case for the long haul, for the families we represent.  We don’t pass a case off when the going gets tough.  We get tougher.  We zealously advocate our clients’ meritorious cases as long as our clients desire us to do so and as long as it is in our clients’ interest to do so.

We did an informal count recently, and realized that we have represented no less than eight other families of attorneys’ children who have needed special education or education assistance.  Those attorneys have uniformly recognized that our expertise and skill is unmatched.  We also looked at how long some of our clients have been with us and found that some of our clients have been with us for 8 years or more – using our assistance when necessary to guide their children through their school career.  We’ve seen students go from fourth or fifth grade through high school — graduating when no one thought they would.

Our experience allows us to work reasonably with school districts to obtain services to which your child is entitled.  We have our own kids and care about kids.  Let us guide you and your family through this difficult process and toward a result that your child deserves.  One of dignity in a society that sometimes has to be reminded that the smallest, quietest, shyest, and most awkward can grow into a shining example of humanity.

Leigh Law Group is a special education, education, civil rights, disabilities rights and business law firm in San Francisco and Marin Counties.  We were established in 2004 by a daughter who is a former school teacher turned lawyer who aspires to be a singer/songwriter and teachers’ son (mother and father) who aspires to do well by doing good.

 

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Audio Taping the IEP: Know Your Rights

Audio Record the IEP Meeting.

While the IDEA, the federal laws protecting special education rights, doesn’t specifically mention audio recording, California law does allow audio recording of an IEP.  Each state may have its own laws related to IEP audio recording.

Know that in California at least, you can audio record an IEP if you give the school district advance notice (at least 24 hours notice in writing).  This can be helpful if you are nervous about getting accurate notes of the meeting and if you want to create a record of what was actually said.  It also can be helpful later on if you get into a dispute with the district.  If you audio record the IEP, the District can also audio record.

Audio recording is allowed in California.

California Education Code §56341.1.(g) states:

(1) Notwithstanding Section 632 of the Penal Code, the parent or guardian or local educational agency shall have the right to record electronically the proceedings of individualized education program team meetings on an audiotape recorder. The parent or guardian or local educational agency shall notify the members of the individualized education program team of his, her, or its intent to record a meeting at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. If the local educational agency initiates the notice of intent to audiotape record a meeting and the parent or guardian objects or refuses to attend the meeting because it will be tape recorded, the meeting shall not be recorded on an audiotape recorder.

The audio recording provisions of the Education Code incorporation provisions of federal law. The code  protects the audio recordings under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act specifically incorporating confidentiality provisions from the Act. Any recording of an IEP that is maintained by the school as an education record requires the school district to apply the protections of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act.

Additionally, pursuant to the Family Education Rights And Privacy Act, the Education Code states that with respect to the audio recording of the IEP meetings, parents have the following rights:

   (i) Inspect and review the audio recordings.

   (ii) Request that the audio recordings be amended if the parent or guardian believes that they contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the rights of privacy or other rights of the individual with exceptional needs.

 

Moreover, to the extent that a school district has a policy about audio recording the IEP, that policy may not be more restrictive than the rights to audio record pursuant to state law and that policy must provide for exceptions to the extent that the audio recording is necessary to comply with the parents right to understand the IEP and make informed decision about the IEP and the IEP process.

 

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A Resource for Autism Treatment and Therapy

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