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  1. #1
    JustMe is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    Default What to consider when deciding whether or not to hire a spec ed lawyer?

    So, it took a year and a half to get dd an IEP and an additional year to get her an IEP I felt reflected her needs. I recently posted on the spec ed part of the BBB about some of the spec ed dept's latest shenanigans. In short, after having the spec ed admin critique and wordsmith everyone of my requested accomodations to her liking, the new spec ed teacher this year made changes without my consent or awareness. (This is detailed in my recent post in the spec ed sub-section). I am supposed to sign for this, but was mis-lead about what I was supposed to sign (I was told she just needed to change dates).

    Anyway, I work with a local agency that is mandated to mediate between unhappy parents and the school district. It has been about 3 years. They have told me they are frustrated too, but as an agency don't do things through legal routes and try to work things out. Yeah, me too, but it is not working.

    I have spoken with the one local spec ed lawyer and, honestly did not like her that much but she has a great reputation. I am not even sure if she can help me or not. I hesitate to go this route because I have good relationships with dd's teacher and have heard that teacher are forbidden to talk to you once this happens. Money is also an issue, and I wonder if I should give up and just spend money I would spend on a lawyer on a tutor--although if I were do do that I would need to post separate questions about that.
    lucky single mommy to almost 16 yr old dd and almost 13 yr old ds through 2 very different adoption routes

  2. #2
    Kindra178 is online now Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    We have friends with 4 kids, three of whom are in private school and the 4th has severe developmental delays and is in a very average public school district. The mom told me that she spends more on the 4th's child lawyer than a year for another child in private school (they pay $16,000/year for private school for one kid). In her case, their school district doesn't have the resources or experience to really deal with that child, so she probably fights for things that other school districts have without the fight. Based on their experience, I would hire a tutor.

  3. #3
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    I think it depends on what you want. If you want a private placement, I would lawyer up. If you want to keep your dd in a public school, I would be more hesitant to go the lawyer route. Instead I think I would focus on continuing to try to work with the school and providing what extra support I could (tutor, outside evaluations, outside therapy, whatever seems most crucial). I really wish I had better advice for you and could help somehow. I would be so frustrated to be in your shoes.

    Catherine

    ETA. ONe other thought is to meet with a lawyer (try a different one if you didn't click with the first) and ask for guidance on what you should be doing in case you decide to go the due process/lawsuit route in the future. Proper documentation makes all the difference and there's no reason you can't get that kind of advice and start that paper trail now just in case.
    Last edited by crl; 10-19-2013 at 02:52 PM.

  4. #4
    inmypjs is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    I wouldn't hesitate to contact the lawyer for guidance. I would not pursue a lawsuit at this point - but I would have consultations with the lawyer and get advice about what to do. If that doesn't help, the next step might be to hire the lawyer to attend IEP meetings with you. I know it is hard to take this approach because it can be seen as adversarial, but you have to do what you have to do to get results for your child. I am active in a local group with special needs, and pretty much no one around here gets results very quickly. This changes however as soon as you involve a lawyer.

    Another option is to consider taking or hiring and advocate with you to these meetings. I've actually started doing this for some of my friends with special needs kids. They've all remarked that with me there, even if it is just taking notes and I don't talk, people are much more cooperative. We don't have many in our area, but look around in yours. If you can't find any, consider taking someone you know who has a basic understanding of your situation. I write down everything that is said and agreed to at these meetings, and if the person I'm there with is upset or having trouble, I explain her point of view and what she wants. And I'm not a "professional" advocate, just someone who has BTDT.

    Good luck and good job fighting for your child.
    Last edited by inmypjs; 10-19-2013 at 03:46 PM.

  5. #5
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    I don't have BTDT advice. But I was wondering it there are other parents in your DD's school who have been through similar situations, and could tell you what they wished they'd don't differently/the same. Particularly any who went the attorney route. There experiences in that very school might help your decision making. Good luck.
    Mommy to my wonderful, HEALTHY twin girls
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  6. #6
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    Well, the lawyer's advice could help you for more than one year. The tutor will be a recurring expense.

  7. #7
    sariana is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    What did you not like about the lawyer? If it was a personality thing, consider whether the characteristics you didn't like might make her a good lawyer--thus the excellent reputation you mention. If, on the other hand, you felt she didn't not listen to you or something similar, that is an entirely different issue.

    Also keep in mind that sometimes just the mention of legal action will cause a district to get its act in order. You many not need to retain anyone long term.

    Have you researched whether there are any organizations local to you that can provide legal support for a lower fee or even no fee? Talking to other parents of children with SN is a great place to start, even if their specific needs are different from your DD's.

    If your DD needs specialized support, a tutor likely won't help. You will need someone with training in her specific needs. Tutors usually provide extra support for those who need more time and/or a different approach. They generally are not equipped to deal with the types of issues for which IEPs are intended. Of course, there very well might be tutors near you who do have the right training; that would be something to find out.

    I wish I had better advice. I mentioned on your other thread that I've had some problems with my DS's IEP too. Fortunately we have been able to work things out so far. But I do know families who had to take more drastic action. Some ended up changing schools. At least one ended up in a private school paid for by the district. There are various options out there, most of which your public school district will not likely share with you.

    Good luck in navigating the best course for your DD.
    DS '04 "Boogaboo"
    DD '08 "Lilybear"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by inmypjs View Post

    Another option is to consider taking or hiring and advocate with you to these meetings. I've actually started doing this for some of my friends with special needs kids. They've all remarked that with me there, even if it is just taking notes and I don't talk, people are much more cooperative. We don't have many in our area, but look around in yours. If you can't find any, consider taking someone you know who has a basic understanding of your situation. I write down everything that is said and agreed to at these meetings, and if the person I'm there with is upset or having trouble, I explain her point of view and what she wants. And I'm not a "professional" advocate, just someone who has BTDT.
    Yes, this this this!

    My mom has been teaching special ed since before I was born and knows the system quite well, but she STILL ended up getting in an ugly fight with her own district over issues with my brother's IEP not being followed, ridiculous teaching crap, etc. (One example, he was getting services for reading help, but the special ed teacher would pull kids out of their regular classtime and let them "silently read" the whole time...and they would be reading Where's Waldo and Magic Eye books!) It got pretty uncomfortable as the head of special ed services (ie.her boss) sat in on some of the meetings (for the school's side). She seriously considered suing over some of it and making them pay for my brother to go to a private/better school, and probably would have won since she knows the system very well.

    Anyway, what she ended up doing was having her good friend, who she used to teach with another district, come with her to a meeting. Friend was dressed very professionally, took notes through the meeting, but didn't say anything. My mom simply introduced her by name and said she was there to help advocate, etc. Even though the friend wasn't a lawyer, the district didn't know that and quickly got their act together when they thought a lawyer might be starting to get involved.

    If you want to keep your DC at the same school but are unhappy with the IEP/compliance, try bringing a friend before paying a lawyer to help. If you want them to pay for private school, then I would go the lawyer route.
    Angie

    Mom to
    DD- 9/09-9/09
    DS- 2011 DS2- 2012 DS3- 2015 DD-2019

  9. #9
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    I am pretty sure the OPer has already been working with an advocate who has been attending IEP meetings.

    Catherine

    ETA. I am sure there are many very different experiences but my friends who lawyered up found the district incredibly hostile from that point forward. They ultimately are going for the district paying for private, but they have a typical child attending the same school their special needs child used to attend and it has been very difficult for them.
    Last edited by crl; 10-19-2013 at 07:37 PM.

  10. #10
    JustMe is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    Thanks so much for the replies.

    I really still don't know what to do. I do have an advocate, but I do not pay her. I have looked for a paid service locally, and there does not seem to be one. I am trying to get a friend who I think would fit the bill you all are describing to come to the next meeting (not a lawyer, but knowledgeable about education, very professional looking, etc), but don't know if she will. She's actually a former supervisor and very busy person. Not to mention that it is hard to get anyone to come with me, as the meetings are during business hours.

    There really aren't even any private school options locally that would work. Almost all of our local schools are Christian, which won't work for us, and I don't think they would know how to work with dd. We have one non-religious very elite (meaning high achieving) private school --which also wouldn't fit, and a Warldorf school, also not a good fit. We do have one newish (a couple of years) Sudbury school that I wondered about, but from what I read about the philosophy I don't think it would work (kids can learn what they want, are equal to adults etc).

    I do think I would be dealing with a lot of hostility if I hired a lawyer, PLUS the reasons I stated in my OP.;

    The whole school district is just a mess. I just think they have not managed well with the budget cuts and do not know how to serve children effectively.

    As far as talking to other parents at the school/switching schools, etc, the school is really not the issue, the district's spec ed dept is. Dd's regular ed teacher is great, and dd is treated better/more appropriately than she would at any other public school in the district. We actually switched to this school 2 years ago from a school where this was not the case. She goes to middle school next year anyway.
    lucky single mommy to almost 16 yr old dd and almost 13 yr old ds through 2 very different adoption routes

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