4 Parenting Tips to Help You Enforce Special Education Law

Do you have a child with a disability who is receiving special education services?

Are you frustrated because it is hard to get needed educational services, for your child? Would you like a few parenting tips, to help you make sure that special education personnel follow IDEA? This article will discuss 4 parenting tips, that will help you in enforcing, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

IDEA enforcement by law is to be the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which is part of the Department of Education. They are responsible in making sure that states, are in compliance with special education law. States are responsible for making sure that individual school districts comply with IDEA.

The reality is that parents are the main enforcement mechanism of special education law. Below are 4 tips to help you ensure that your school district is complying with IDEA, for the benefit of your child.

1. Develop a working knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By doing this, you will know where to look when you need a particular section of the law. For Example: If you would like to look at what is required for a free appropriate public education (FAPE), you would look under 300.101. Or Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) at 300.115.

2. Develop a working knowledge of your state regulations on special education (This is how the state is going to comply with IDEA). Some states regulations are actually better for children and parents, than federal law. By understanding these, you will be able to use them to ensure that your school district is complying with the educational law. You can get a copy of your state regulations from your state board of education.

3. Bring copies of the laws with you to any IEP meeting for your child, and place them on the table. You will be able to look up certain sections during the meeting, in case you need them.

By bringing up the special education laws that apply, you will make sure that you school district is following them. You also want to make sure, that the special education personnel in your district understand that you know the laws, and that you will be making sure that they follow them.

Also, when you write letters to school personnel, always quote IDEA or the state regulations, for special education when you can. This will help bolster your case, for whatever you are asking for.

For example: IDEA states, that my child has the right to a free appropriate public education, which I believe that she is not receiving at this time. In order for my child with a learning disability to receive FAPE, she must receive the appropriate amount of reading remediation, using simultaneous-multi sensory reading program such as Orton-Gillingham.

4. If your school district is in non compliance with the procedures of IDEA, consider filing a state complaint. The state complaint is filed with your state board of education; special education department.

The complaint should state the violation, the number in IDEA that is being violated, what your evidence is of the violation, and also the proposed resolution of the violation. Also, you can put more than one violation in a complaint, but number them for easier reading and tracking.

By doing these four things, you will be able to understand when special education personnel are not following special education law. It is sad that parents are the main enforcement arm of IDEA, but it is reality! Good luck, and stay focused, for the benefit of your child!

12 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Lawn Contractor

What makes your service different from your competitor?

This is an open-ended question that can be asked for a couple of reasons. First, does the contractor understand his own services. Second, if he’s been around for some time, he will also understand his competitor’s services. I like this question not just for the factual answer but also to see the spirit of how it is answered. The contractor should be able to point out the benefits of his own service instead of bad mouthing his competition.

Do you have customer references I can call?

Unless the contractor is new, they should have some readily available references that you can either call or drive by. It is not unusual for a contractor to be hesitant to give out phone numbers of his customers, to protect their privacy. However, they should be able to give you the street address of customers that you can simple drive by and see the quality of their lawn. Most contractors are going to send you to see their “best” lawns, so the question has value in the fact that they are willing to give you the information.

How many years have you been in business?

The answer to this question depends on your personal preference. You may want an established company. However, lawn work is often a young persons business, so hiring someone who is eager to get started and make a name for himself may not be bad.

Do you have insurance?

This is simple – do not hire someone unless they can show you a certificate of insurance.

Are all your employees licensed?

Each state has it’s own licensing requirements. All states require a license of someone who is hired to apply herbicides and pesticides to other person’s property. In general, the license is to be carried by the person. They should be able to show you an up to date license. Some states do not require a license if the products used are organic.

What products do you put on the lawn?

This is another open-ended question. The answer will let you know if the person understands his own products. There are always timing and weather issues for lawn care products. If the contractor is stumbling through the answer you should probably dig deeper: when do you apply pre-emergent; how often do you apply post-emergent weed control; do you use high nitrogen fertilizer; do you use a complete fertilizer (one that contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) or an incomplete fertilizer; what effect do you products have on the root system and the soil properties, etc. You need to pin them down on this question. It’s your environment they are treating and you should know the warnings, value, and consequences of anything they use.

Are there any restrictions on using the lawn after an application?

You will need to know any restrictions on using the lawn following an application. Many applications require that you, your kids, your pets, etc. remain off the lawn for up to two days. If you have a sprinkler system, you may need to turn it off for a couple of days.

How often do you treat the lawn?

The general answer to this question is about every six weeks. What you want to discern is whether they come every six weeks because they have a tight schedule and that’s what works for them OR they vary the time increment to come at a time that is best for your lawn based on timing, rainfall, air temperature, etc.

Is your service guaranteed?

Contractors don’t like this question and with good reason. They are working at the mercy of Mother Nature and it’s hard to guarantee results when they cannot control the weather. What the contractor can guarantee is timely applications, timely control of most weeds, correction of the pH value of the soil, etc. If you chose to ask this question, you may want to let them off the hook by stating “under normal weather conditions”.

Do you verify your employees using background checks?

My comment to this question is it’s better to be overly cautious. The typical time for lawn applications is summer. This is a time when kids are home from school and you know kids are always curious when someone new comes to their home. This is also a time when you have windows open to let the fresh air in. You need to know who is on your property!

How much is your service – what does it include – what does it not include?

Obviously you need to know the cost of the service. You should also inquire about a prepayment discount. In the lawn industry there are a number of add-on services and you should understand what is included and what will be an extra charge. Some common add-on services/charges are: pH (lime/sulfur), grub control, call back charges, and seeding. You can pick and choose which of these services you want, but have the contractor substantiate the charges such as: what is the pH of the soil, have them show you the grubs, etc.

What improvement can I expect to see in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year?

Use this question so that there is a mutual understanding of expectations. Companies that use synthetic fertilizer and herbicides will have a much faster improvement over companies that use organic fertilizer and IPM procedures. Knowing what to expect will alleviate frustration on both sides.

10 Things You Should Know About Education Law

If you’re involved in education, then you probably know already how important education law is. If you are new to the education sector, or are now dealing with education establishments, here’s what you need to know.

1. Education establishments such as schools and universities still have the same accountability as other organisations, and so will need to be just as organised in terms of the management, as well as educationally.

2. The health and safety of the pupils and staff is of paramount importance, especially when carrying out experiments, or whilst on trips. The relevant rules and regulation will have to be followed to the letter so that there is no risk of any accidents or injury.

3. Pupil discipline is often in the news, and it’s essential that staff know how to deal with unruly pupils, and their parents, in accordance with school policy and the law.

4. Employment laws are still applicable in a school or university, and so you’ll need to make sure that like pupils, the staff are not subjected to instances of bullying or discrimination, and that any instances are taken seriously.

5. You’ll need to make sure that recruitment policies are fair, and comply with the law. It’s important to remember that potential staff might need to have additional checks carried out on them, and that qualifications and experience are verified.

6. Although you’re not a standard sort of company, you’ll need to make sure that all paperwork, contracts and policies comply with relevant laws, rules and regulations.

7. Schools and universities will be dealing with many suppliers and so might need help with contracts and ensure that they get best value for money. Education law solicitors can help with this.

8. Some schools receive donations and funding, and it’s important that this is all documented properly and that the paperwork is properly filled in and that relevant forms have been submitted properly.

9. You might be involved in estate management, and want to make sure that if you’re buying and selling land that everything is legal and in the best interests of the school.

10. If you’re involved in education construction projects, then you’ll need to be aware that normal planning permission and environmental laws still apply, so you’ll have to make sure that all aspects of the project are legal.

Now you know more about education law, and how it might affect you, perhaps you need the services of an experienced education law solicitor.

Education Law and Faith Schools

According to recent estimates, almost a third of all schools in England and Wales are faith schools, and almost a quarter of all children are educated in a faith school. These types of schools were a key plank in the labour government’s strategy for education, and the Coalition has indicated that it will continue to increase the amount of educational services which are provided by religious groups.

There are three types of faith schools: voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and independent religious schools, and different rules apply to each of these.

Voluntary Controlled Faith Schools
These are schools which are funded by the state and where the state is responsible for the day-to-day management and control of the school. The buildings and land are owned by a religious group, and that religious group has the right to appoint the governors and often the head teacher, but other teachers are employed by the local education authority. The appointment of these teachers is subject to the same conditions as teachers in regular state schools and there is no requirement that the teachers profess the same faith as the religious group which established the school.

In voluntary controlled faith schools, the admissions policy is set and administered by the local education authority. This means that these types of schools are usually open to all students and there is no requirement that the student has an attachment to the faith held by the religious group which established the school.

Voluntary Aided Faith Schools
These are schools which are funded by the state but are managed and controlled by a religious group. The religious group owns the land and buildings, appoints the governors of the school and selects and appoints teachers. All teachers are directly employed by the religious group, and it is lawful for the religious group to require teachers to profess the same faith and to discipline staff for breaching religious principles or acting in a way which is inconsistent with the schools ethos.

In voluntary aided faith schools, the admissions policy is determined and enforced by the governors of the school. This means that very often prospective students are required to demonstrate some adherence to the religious principles on which the school is founded.

Independent Faith Schools
These are schools which are entirely funded and controlled by a religious group. The religious group appoints the governors and employs all of the staff as well as setting the admissions policy. Independent faith schools often require both teachers and students to be professing members of a particular religious sect or denomination, and can discipline both staff and students if they act in a way which is inconsistent with the schools ethos and religious values.

Teaching in Faith and Religious Schools
Both voluntary aided and voluntary controlled faith schools are required to teach the national curriculum, and students will cover the same subjects as pupils in other state maintained schools. The only exception to this is in the case of religious education, where faith schools are allowed to set their own curriculum which will usually focus on the religious beliefs held by the charity or church which founded the school. Voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools are also entitled to insist that religious education is taught by a professing member of a particular faith or denomination.

There is no requirement for independent faith schools to teach the national curriculum and these schools will set their own subjects and studies.

For a variety or reasons, ranging from smaller class sizes to higher standards of discipline many faith schools have better league table results than other state run schools and this makes them highly desirable. Many parents will consider legal challenges to admission criteria to try and get their children a place.

The Need for Cyber Law Research in Education

Cyber law in education is an issue that is ripe for scholarly research and analysis.  The importance of this topic is growing exponentially with the meteoric rise in social networking and other online forums which are becoming a primary source of interaction among school aged students. One result of these “virtual” relationships is a blurring of the lines of jurisdiction for disciplinary responsibility. At what point do a student’s actions fall outside of the authority of his or her school? When the student uses school equipment on school grounds the analysis is very clear, but case law has created a continuum that defies any objective definition of where that jurisdiction ends. Similarly, at what point does a teacher or administrator’s actions leave the authority of their employer and become protected by their right to privacy? The question of jurisdiction must be addressed before meaningful processes can be implemented to counteract the damage that online actions can have on the school system.

The harms that are caused at the hands of students through cyber actions include marring the reputation of teachers and administrators, harassing other students and threatening the security of testing and other educational information. Similarly, educators often cause harm through their own cyber actions by using online forums in an inappropriate manner to the detriment of their school or district. These actions may compromise the safety and morals of their students and affect the integrity of the educational system itself. Yet any restriction on these actions runs the risk of violating constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. Needless to say, there is a careful and ever-evolving balancing process that needs to be maintained in this area of law. And the decisions of our courts and enactments of our legislatures must be monitored and influenced by educators and education law experts.

The bullying laws that are springing up in local legislatures provide an excellent example of the issues at stake in this field. There is an important responsibility for governments to protect children from this new form of harassment. At the same time, however, in addition to the inevitable first amendment challenges, educators need to have a voice as to the practical limits on building level school personnel in implementing these new laws. These issues present a fascinating intersection of legal issues that will only become more relevant and topical in the decades to come. 

Research and analysis will be important in normalizing policy in the field. Ultimately statutory enactments and case decisions will  provide the law on these subjects.  However, these statutes and decisions are by no means immutable.  Like any other area of law, they evolve and change over time.  And these shifting principles are all the more prevalent in a field of law that is in its infancy such as this one.  There are no long-standing seminal court decisions on the topic, nor is there any conventional wisdom with respect to a proper statutory framework.  Therefore, in this field more than any other that I can think of within education law, there is a need for scholarly research and publication to help organize and shape the developing legal trends.