SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEY CALIFORNIA

Every Child Is Unique
Every Child Deserves
To Learn

Having a child with special needs is difficult. Our special education attorney California provides representation for children’s rights. We represent children and their families throughout California, from Santa Barbara south to San Diego.

What Is Special Education?

Special education is the education of children with special needs or disabilities to the extent that they need certain modifications to typical school practices and programs. People with behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, psychiatric disorders, emotional distress, autism, and learning disorders often need special education.

How Many Students Are in Special Education in California?

According to the report of the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), in 2017-2018, around 12.5% or every eighth student of California public school students received special education.

Although most had relatively mild conditions, the number of students with severe disabilities has risen.

 

What Is a Special Education Attorney?

 

Special education lawyers are legal professionals who handle legal issues related to special education. We understand the intricacies of special education law and how it impacts the education system. We can represent you in a dispute with a school and ensure that your child’s special education needs are met.

What is a special education

How Does Special Education Typically Function?

 

Since the 1970s, federal law has required that the public school system (elementary and secondary schools) provides special education services to students with disabilities. Usually, after the teachers or the parents notice that a student could benefit from special education services, the child is referred to a school district specialist.

If the specialist determines the child qualifies for special education, they receive an individualized education program (IEP). The program typically includes the additional services the school has to provide for that child. If it is determined, after some time, that an IEP is insufficient, a Nonpublic School Placement (NPS) can be arranged. NPS is considered an extension of the public school system that provides a place where these students can learn and thrive.

How Do You Qualify for Special Education in California?

 

Although all California school districts have to provide a free appropriate public education to every student with a disability, a child has to qualify for special education first. In general, a child must have one or more eligible disabilities that require special education and negatively affect their educational performance.

California special education laws (§56026) also state that a child has to meet other criteria and requirements to be eligible for special education.

With children between 5 and 18, age is not the factor that limits their eligibility for special education. On the other hand, children younger than 5 are eligible for special education only if a local educational agency has identified them as individuals needing early or intensive special education. Also, when it comes to students between 18 and 22, their age is a limiting factor for special education, and they are eligible only if they haven’t finished high school.

In other words, a child can have a medical diagnosis for a disability but not qualify for special education because they don’t meet all the necessary requirements.

 

What Is a 504 Plan in California?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities and protects them from discrimination based on their disability.

When it comes to the school system, that means students with conditions that can affect their life activities are entitled to adequate education and an individualized “504 plan.” That plan specifies how schools will react and accommodate their medical needs.

Their conditions range from disabilities that typically don’t qualify for special education, such as diabetes or severe allergies, to conditions that could potentially qualify them for special education.

WHAT CAN A LAWYERS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION DO FOR YOU?

A special education lawyer is necessary when dealing with any disputes arising from your child’s special education needs. We can:

  • Assist you in negotiating with the school
  • File complaints, represent you at special education hearings (due process hearings), and diligently represent you at all your meetings and proceedings
  • We can help you write letters and file any documents regarding your case to preserve your child’s rights in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process
  • Attend IEP or 504 plan meetings
  • Review your child’s IEP or the school’s 504 plan to give your child the special support they need
  • Give you information about your child’s rights and advise you on a strategy for working with the school
  • Recommend specialists, service providers, evaluators, and schools, if necessary

As your direct representatives, we can be the voice of reason, using the law and our extensive special education law experience. Contact us for a consultation.

What Is Currently the Most Significant Legislation for Special Education?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the most comprehensive and significant piece of legislation regarding special education. This landmark US law ensures that special education services and the educational needs of children with disabilities are met. 

In terms of IDEA, children or minors with special needs up until the age of 21 are entitled to a free and appropriate public education that can prepare them for further education or employment.

What Are the Rights of Children With Special Needs?

A child with a disability is defined as a child with intellectual disabilities and different health impairments, including hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, visual impairments, specific learning disabilities, and developmental delays.

Every child with special needs is entitled to an evaluation if a school professional or parent thinks the child has a disability that can influence their behavior or learning. Public school districts usually perform these independent educational evaluations at no cost to parents. If the child is eligible for special education services, they are entitled to a free appropriate public education.

Since every child with disabilities has unique needs, they are entitled to an IEP specifically created to meet their specific needs. This program requires a meeting or a series of meetings to determine an educational plan.

The child’s parents, a special education teacher, and a person from the school district will be present at these meetings. Parents of a child with disabilities are also allowed to have a special education attorney present at the IEP meeting.

IEP meetings typically result in detailed descriptions of the programs, services, and education they need to receive.

Although attorneys can provide assistance throughout IEP meetings, they can also formally represent parents. That way, an attorney can help parents with several tasks, including:

  • Requesting an evaluation if the school refuses to provide one
  • Reviewing evaluations
  • Preparing the parents for the Individualized Education Plan meeting
  • Handling a potential dispute with the school district

Resolving Disputes with the Help of Special Education Attorneys

Disputes may arise regarding your child’s education for several reasons. You may believe that the school district is not providing your child’s IEP with the services they need because the assessment is not comprehensive or accurate. Or you might want your child to be mainstreamed in the general education curriculum.

A special education dispute may be resolved in several ways, including the following informal methods:

  • Voicing your concerns to your child’s teacher or school staff
  • Contacting the Director of Special Education for the School District or the superintendent about your child’s special education requirements
  • Attending an IEP meeting

Consulting with lawyers for special education is necessary before you take any action. It is not typically necessary to do any of the above informal activities to resolve your dispute before your lawyer files a complaint on your behalf.

What If Informal Dispute Resolution Methods Don’t Work?

If the informal dispute resolution methods don’t work, IDEA recommends mediation and a due process hearing.

process hearing

Resolving Disagreement Through Mediation

Mediation is an optional dispute resolution process in which a neutral, trained, and qualified third party (mediator) helps parties resolve disagreements. Mediation may not be used as a tactic to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing. The mediator does not rule or decide on cases but merely facilitates the two parties in reaching an agreement.

Although lawyers are not needed in mediation proceedings, parents often prefer to have one present. Through mediation, both parties agree to a settlement, which becomes a written contract signed by both parties. Due to the legal nature of this contract, which can be enforced in State or Federal court, an attorney might be advantageous.

WHAT IS A DUE PROCESS HEARING?

According to IDEA, a due process hearing is the next step if mediation fails.

A due process hearing is a legal process that includes submitting evidence, witness testimonies, and writing briefs. Although you can represent yourself, the knowledge and skill of a special education attorney experienced with legal procedures and special education law would be an invaluable asset.

In due process proceedings, the following must take place:

  1. Complain to the California Department of Education (CDE) about a violation of a child’s rights under IDEA that occurred within two years after the parent discovered it.
  2. The School District has 10 days after the complaint is filed to respond to the issues raised in the complaint.
  3. The officer assigned to the hearing must decide whether or not the due process complaint, on the face of it, meets the basic filing requirements, including:
  • documentation of the child’s name
  • address
  • school attended
  • a description of the nature of the dispute
  • proposed resolution to the problem
  1. A resolution meeting must be held to provide the parents and the school district an opportunity to resolve the matter before the due process hearing can commence.
  2. Within 15 days of receiving the parent’s due process complaint and before the initiation of the hearing, parents, members of the child’s IEP team, and a school district representative should meet to attempt to resolve the complaint.
  3. If a resolution meeting fails to resolve the due process complaint within 30 days of receiving the complaint, the due process hearing can begin.
  4. The entire process must be complete within 45 days after the start of the due process hearing.

Do You Really Need a Special Ed Lawyer?

If your child’s special education is going smoothly, you may never need a special education attorney. But, with the nature of special education, you may need to consult or hire a special education law firm and an attorney who can help you advocate for your child and protect their rights.

Such cases are usually complicated and riddled with legal issues.

Consider talking to a special education attorney if you feel that your loved one’s special education needs are not being fulfilled.

Brian R. Sciacca, Attorney at Law, has represented families before the California Office of Administrative Hearings Special Education Division and federal court actions. We represent children and their families throughout California, from Santa Barbara south to San Diego. We Our special education attorneys are prepared to fight for every child’s right to provide them with appropriate education guaranteed under the special education law.

Special Education Mediation

Mediation is an optional dispute resolution process in which a neutral, trained, and qualified third party (mediator) helps parties resolve disagreements. Mediation may not be used as a tactic to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing. The mediator does not rule or decide on cases but merely facilitates the two parties in reaching an agreement.
Although lawyers are not needed in mediation proceedings, parents often prefer to have one present. Through mediation, both parties agree to a settlement, which becomes a written contract signed by both parties. Due to the legal nature of this contract, which can be enforced in State or Federal court, an attorney might be advantageous.

Due Process Hearing for Special Education

According to IDEA, a due process hearing is the next step if mediation fails.

A due process hearing is a legal process that includes submitting evidence, witness testimonies, and writing briefs. Although you can represent yourself, the knowledge and skill of a special education attorney experienced with legal procedures and special education law would be an invaluable asset.

In due process proceedings, the following must take place:

  1. Complain to the California Department of Education (CDE) about a violation of a child’s rights under IDEA that occurred within two years after the parent discovered it.
  2. The School District has 10 days after the complaint is filed to respond to the issues raised in the complaint.
  3. The officer assigned to the hearing must decide whether or not the due process complaint, on the face of it, meets the basic filing requirements, including:
  • documentation of the child’s name
  • address
  • school attended
  • a description of the nature of the dispute
  • proposed resolution to the problem
  1. A resolution meeting must be held to provide the parents and the school district an opportunity to resolve the matter before the due process hearing can commence.
  2. Within 15 days of receiving the parent’s due process complaint and before the initiation of the hearing, parents, members of the child’s IEP team, and a school district representative should meet to attempt to resolve the complaint.
  3. If a resolution meeting fails to resolve the due process complaint within 30 days of receiving the complaint, the due process hearing can begin.
  4. The entire process must be complete within 45 days after the start of the due process hearing.

Do You Really Need a Special Ed Lawyer?

If your child’s special education is going smoothly, you may never need a special education attorney. But, with the nature of special education, you may need to consult or hire an attorney who can help you advocate for your child and protect their rights.
Such cases are usually complicated and riddled with legal issues.
Consider talking to a special education attorney if you feel that your loved one’s special education needs are not being fulfilled.
Brian R. Sciacca, Attorney at Law, has represented families before the California Office of Administrative Hearings Special Education Division and federal court actions. We are prepared to fight for every child’s right to provide them with appropriate education guaranteed under the special education law.

PRACTICE AREAS

Special Education Law
  • Individual Education Program (IEP)
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plan
  • Special Education Resolution Session
  • Independent Educational Evaluation
  • Compensatory Education
  • Unilateral Placement Reimbursement
  • Nonpublic School Placement
  • Special Education Mediation
  • Special Education Due Process
  • Due Process Appeal

PRACTICE AREAS

Student Discipline
  • Manifestation Determination
  • Expulsion Hearing
  • Expulsion Hearing Appeal
  • Student Records Dispute

PRACTICE AREAS

Civil Rights
  • Section 504 Plans
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation

About Us

Brian Sciacca is a graduate of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and has practiced exclusively in the area of special education law for over 15 years. He believes that no child should be denied legal representation solely because of an inability to pay and offers a range of no cost and low cost options to families working to ensure that the educational needs of their children are met.