Arizona Special Education Attorney | AZ Special Needs Advocate Attorneys
Statistics indicate that about 112,000 students in Arizona fall under the special needs category.
That’s about 11% of the total student population, which suggests that this is a significant issue that parents and learning institutions need to understand. Unfortunately, some parents don’t know what special education means.
In the United States, the Disabilities Education Act protects the rights of students with a disability using various approaches. One of the main approaches in the country is using a Least Restrictive Environment, commonly known as LRE, to enable such students to access their education smoothly.
However, there are a few aspects parents with such students don’t understand, which I will elaborate on below.
Who Determines Placement of LRE Students in Arizona?
The first thing parents need to understand is that determining where they will place their child for learning is a collaborative effort between the school team and themselves.
The IEP or Individualized Education Program team, which comprises the student’s teachers, therapists, parents, and administrators, makes this decision.
Therefore, as a parent, you must ensure that you actively participate in all the meetings convened by this team. Your active participation is vital because you are the only person who knows your child best.
You understand their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses better than anyone else, and thus your input is essential in making the right decision.
What are the 2 Components of LRE in Arizona?
The LRE approach comprises two main components, which are:
The General Education Setting
Most people think of the general education setting when they hear the phrase ‘Least Restrictive Environment.’
It refers to the typical classroom setting where students with special needs learn alongside their general education counterparts. It helps such students interact with their peers regularly, learn how to socialize, and develop their communication skills.
The supportive services, on the other hand, are the extra services and accommodations that these students require to be successful in the general education setting.
These may include having a smaller class size, having a paraprofessional in the classroom, or receiving occupational or physical therapy. You must ensure that your child’s IEP team puts these services in place before placing them in the general education setting.
When is a Parent Entitled to an Individual Educational Evaluation in Arizona?
As a parent, you have the right to request an Individual Educational Evaluation for your child if you disagree with the school’s evaluation of your child. However, you need to know that the public school is only obliged to pay for one IEE per disability per student.
You also have the right to choose the professional conducting the IEE. However, this professional must not be working in the public school that your child attends. Once the IEE is complete, the professional will share the results with the IEP team, who will use it to make decisions about your child’s education.
How Do I Write a Letter Asking for an IEE in Arizona?
As highlighted above, you can request an IEE at any time as a parent.
You must include specific information to write a letter asking for an IEE, such as:
- Your child’s name
- The name of the school they attend
- Your contact information
- A description of your child’s disability
- The reason why you are requesting an IEE
You must also send this letter to your school district’s Director of Special Education. You can find the contact information for this person on your school district’s website. The goal of this letter is to give the school district notice that you are requesting an IEE.
It is important to note that you do not need to state a reason for requesting the IEE in this letter.
What is the Child Finding Process in Arizona?
The Child Find process is a continuous effort by the public school system to locate, identify, and evaluate children who may have disabilities and need special education services.
This process applies to all children aged 3-21 who reside in Arizona.
The evaluation team responsible for carrying out this process is known as the Multi-Disciplinary Team or MDT.
If you believe your child may have a disability and requires special education services, you should contact your school district’s Special Education Department. The school district will evaluate your child’s eligibility for special education services. Make sure to ask for a copy of the evaluation report to keep it for your records.
What is the Multidisciplinary Team in Arizona?
The MDT is the team of professionals responsible for conducting the Child Find process in Arizona.
A variety of experts make up this team, including:
- School psychologist
- Speech-language pathologist
- Occupational therapist
- Physical therapist
- Special education teacher
- General education teacher
- Parent or guardian
The MDT will use a variety of assessments to determine if a child has a disability and requires special education services. These assessments may include observations, interviews, and academic and behavioral testing.
Once the MDT has completed their evaluation, they will meet with the child’s parent or guardian to discuss their findings. If the MDT determines that the child does not have a disability, the child will not be eligible for special education services.
What is Proper Restraint and Seclusion of Arizona Students?
The proper restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities is a hot-button issue in Arizona.
The state legislature has passed a law requiring all public schools to have a policy regarding the proper use of restraints and seclusions. This policy must be reviewed and updated every year.
The law defines restraints as any manual or physical technique that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move their body or head freely.
It includes, but is not limited to, holding a student in a seated position or against a wall. Seclusion, on the other hand, is the involuntary isolation of a student in a room or space from which they cannot exist.
There are a few circumstances where the school can use restraints and seclusions on students with disabilities:
First, they can use it if the student poses an imminent threat of severe bodily injury to themselves or others.
Second, if the student’s behavior is significantly disruptive and other de-escalation techniques have failed. Also, they can use restraint and seclusion if the student is engaging in self-injurious behavior and if control is necessary to prevent them from harming themselves.
Special Education Attorney
As a parent, you must understand your child’s rights under the Disabilities Education Act. It will ensure that you can make informed decisions about their education.
If you have any questions, or seeking legal advice about your child’s rights, or are in need of assistance in ensuring they receive the best possible education, contact an experienced Arizona special education attorney.
At Chelle Law, we understand the unique challenges parents of children with disabilities face. We are here to help you navigate the special education process and ensure that your child receives the best possible education.
Contact us or visit our office today to schedule a meeting.
Title I of Americans with Disabilities Act
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in Title I programs and activities.
It includes public preschool, elementary, and secondary schools (both public and private). Title I IEPs must contain statements ensuring that the school doesn’t discriminate against children with disabilities based on their disability status.
To meet ADA requirements, IEPs should include language like “the child will be educated to the fullest extent appropriate with students who are non-disabled.”
Title I also requires IEP teams to consider a child’s language needs. The IEP team needs to conduct an assessment of the child’s English proficiency. This evaluation should assess your child’s skills in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding the English language. The evaluator should be fluent in your child’s native language.
IEPs must also include language stating that the IEP team will consider how your child’s disability affects their involvement and progress in the general curriculum.
Title I, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and IDEA are civil rights laws. Schools receiving federal funding must comply with Section 504 to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to education as their non-disabled peers.
Federal law doesn’t require IEP teams to follow a specific process for developing IEP goals. Privacy is critical to special needs families.
I think it is vital for parents’ voices to be heard during IEP meetings and throughout the IEP process. I encourage parents who attend an IEP meeting to feel free to take notes if they’d like.
Arizona Child Legal Services from our Attorneys
The most important federal laws for special education are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
These federal laws require schools to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. I have assisted parents through IEP meetings, IEP goal development, and IED due process.
I encourage all parents to become involved in their child’s education by attending IEP meetings or a Section 504 meeting if your school provides one.
I provide special education representation and legal advice for children with disabilities from preschool through high school.
I have worked with families who have children with the following:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
- Intellectual disabilities,
- Learning disabilities such as dyslexia or math disabilities,
- Speech and language disorders,
- Emotional disturbance or mental illness,
- Hearing loss, blindness/visual impairments, deafness/hard of hearing,
- Other health impairments, including epilepsy and traumatic brain injury (TBI),
- Gifted students, and
- The full range of developmental disabilities.
Identifying students who may need extra services is a critical duty of any school.
This process, called “child find” in schools, has been designed to keep teachers and staff on the lookout for children that could benefit from additional support.
If they suspect one such student exists, then an IEP team should meet – consisting of only limited members (including parents) because privacy concerns arise when discussing individual progress within class discussions or performance reviews.
It highlights how important it can be to identify struggling learners early enough not to impact their ability later in life. Several people from different offices at a school make up IEP Teams.
A team could include:
- Special education or general education teachers,
- A parent or guardian,
- Sometimes a representative from another agency (such as related services personnel working directly with students outside the regular classroom environment. For example, physical or occupational therapists), or
- Someone from student support services who provide assistive technology for students or a member of the school administration
Child Attorney Advocates
IEP teams are responsible for making educational recommendations about the appropriate program that best suits each student. To do this, they need input from administrators such as principals or teachers who know what works well in their classroom so it can be used appropriately across other schools too!
I’m not sure how much advice you want me to give. Still, these people deserve more than just being “consulted” when deciding something important—they need full participation, including voting rights (unless there’s some compelling reason why those aren’t available). And since nearly every state now allows remote participation via video conference callings.
Schools must evaluate students who they believe may need support. The evaluation process should decide whether or not the child meets legal requirements for “a person with disabilities” under IDEA and Section 504.
Still, these definitions differ slightly in their interpretation of what makes up this category. So there is an initial determination that needs to be made based on evidence provided during assessment hearings, which can later lead to recommendations about how best to serve each individual’s needs best accordingly!
The right to request an evaluation of their child exists in every parent. It’s because the team gets to develop IEPs by collaborating with students and parents.
The team can start a session by discussing special education needs or disabilities which may exist with any student’s intellectual functioning skills—including those who have not been diagnosed yet but could do so at some point down the future road(s).
A good way for families looking into these options is to start talking things over informally among themselves before bringing anything formalized back home from school, etc. since there might already be.
Each IEP must contain the following:
- A statement that the school will provide all students with disabilities with appropriate special education
- A statement that parents who were denied and disagreed with the IEP offer will receive prior written notice.
- Description of present levels of educational performance
- Annual goals, including short-term objectives related to achieving those goals (and how the school will measure progress toward them)
Schools must serve students by providing a Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. It means that the school must have a plan in place designed for each student.
The plan for students who qualify under IDEA is called an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. For students who qualify under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the plan is called a 504 plan.
Schools cannot place students in special education or 504 programs only because parents complain or request one.
Special Needs Education Law Issues
The IEP is the document schools use to provide students with disabilities an appropriate free public education.
By law, IEPs must be tailored to each child’s individual needs. IEPs are specifically designed for the individual student and should not be confused with the school district’s general curriculum or other educational materials.
IEPs include nine elements that address all areas of a child’s educational competency:
- Must have statements of present levels of educational performance, both academic and functional
- Measurable annual goals
- Explanation of progress measurement
- Individual education programs need a description of special education services
- Statement of participation in the regular education program
- IEPs and Testing—a description of testing adaptations and modifications
- Disclosure of length and duration of services—they must explain services
- Statement of transition
- Age of majority
You should know that you have rights regarding school disputes as a parent. You can submit an appeal for your position on special education and how much time your child spends at home without being considered neglectful. You can do this by participating in mediation or another meeting where people from both sides come together to resolve their differences amicably.
However, if this does not work out, then due process hearings are available, providing more information about what happened between them.
If a student gets disciplined for breaking the rules, the parents must know about their rights under federal law. Students with disabilities must be treated fairly and equally by teachers or administrators, so they can’t take advantage of special treatment just because they’re supposed to leak out an IEP.
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