School boards are constantly challenged to effectively meet the needs of students with disabilities. With numerous federal and state laws and regulations that affect districts and ever evolving judicial and administrative interpretations of those laws and regulations, it is crucial that boards secure competent counsel to assist them in the timely and appropriate implementation of these legal mandates.
Special Education is in a category of its own and requires someone with the requisite skills and knowledge to handle the often complex and emotionally charged issues faced by school districts. It is safe to say that we have one of the most active special education practices in the state. Having represented school boards for over 20 years in special education matters, our special education legal team has established solid working relationships with mediators, due process coordinators, and hearing officers.
We have extensive experience advising school boards regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and corresponding state laws and regulations, and routinely consult with administrators, teachers, related service providers/therapists, and school psychologists concerning the district's obligations to properly identify, evaluate, and serve children with disabilities. Our special education lawyers present on all aspects of special education and are regularly appointed to defend due process complaints.
We routinely advise districts on:
- Child Find and Eligibility, including issues involving Response to Intervention, multifactored evaluations (MFEs) and evaluation team reports (ETRs), and requests for independent educational evaluations (IEEs);
- Development and review of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Section 504 Plans, including goals/objectives, specially designed instruction/interventions, related services, accommodations/modifications, extended school year (ESY) services, transportation, and placement and least restrictive environment (LRE);
- Parental consent issues;
- Behavior issues, including functional behavior assessments and behavior intervention plans;
- Development and review of Prior Written Notices;
- Discipline of students with disabilities, including conducting manifestation determination reviews;
- Custody, Guardianship and Surrogate Parents; and
- Parentally placed students with disabilities, including students involved in the Autism Scholarship Program (ASP) and Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program (JSPN).
We also represent districts at team meetings (ETR, IEP and Section 504), mediations, and due process hearings and appeals. We further have extensive experience representing district in investigations by the Ohio Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.
We find that many issues can be resolved without costly hearings and unpleasant confrontations with parents. By using creative problem solving and open communication, the concerns of parents and advocates can be met effectively while satisfying the board's obligations under federal and state law. However, in those instances where matters cannot be amicably resolved, we are zealous representatives for boards through any adversarial process.
We keep our clients informed of changes in this area of law through our newsletter, "PKM's Prior Written Notice."