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SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW

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Under federal law, every child is entitled to receive a free and appropriate public education. We advocate on behalf of children and their parents to obtain the services public-school districts are legally required to provide. We also represent clients in school boundary disputes, student expulsion, suspension and disciplinary proceedings and disputes with local school districts.

Obtaining Special Education Services For Your Child

Special education is instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. A child with a disability is one who has been evaluated and determined to have: autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, developmental delay (in some school divisions), emotional disability, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, and/or other health impairment. In order to be eligible for special education and related services, the child’s disability must affect his or her educational performance. 

 

If you are concerned that your child’s school is not providing an appropriate educational experience, or your child has been denied services, we can help. 

Our attorneys advocate for children and their parents at evaluations, meetings, due process hearings, federal and state court litigation, and more.

We will also help you understand various options, including mediation and complaint resolution with the State Department of Education, the United States Office of Civil Rights, the Division of Education, and other local, state and federal agencies. 

Individualized Education Programs

When a child has a qualifying disability, the child’s school is required to develop an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.

The IEP details the child’s disability or disabilities and the ways in which the school will address the child’s needs.

 If your child has a disability and the school has failed to develop an IEP, or if the IEP the school has developed is not adequately meeting your child’s needs, we can assist you in developing, appealing or amending your child’s IEP. Contact WhitbeckBennett today to learn how we can help. 

Resolving Disputes

In the context of special education, dispute resolution may take many forms, including due process hearings, mediation and state complaint processes. 

A due process hearing is the most frequently used form of special education dispute resolution. A parent may demand a due process hearing if they disagree with the child’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, or if the parent believes the child has been denied a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). In deciding the dispute, a hearing officer will hear evidence presented by the parent and the school and will then issue a decision. 

Mediation is another form of special education dispute resolution. In this process, a neutral mediator assists both parties in negotiating issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA). Mediation may be used only if both parties agree to it. 

A written state complaint is a written document used to communicate and the request the investigation of a public agency (e.g., school district) that has not followed the IDEA. This dispute resolution is the only one open to any person or organization. The concluding decision may include child-specific corrective actions or even relate to system-wide issues.

Behavioral Intervention Plans

If your child breaks school rules, your child’s educational placement may be changed. However, before the school removes a child with a disability, the relevant members of the individualized education program (IEP) team must meet immediately. In this meeting, the team will consider whether your child’s disability caused the misconduct, or whether the misconduct was a direct result of the school’s failure to implement your child’s IEP. If it is determined that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP team must conduct a functional behavioral assessment. 

A functional behavioral assessment examines the underlying cause or functions of the behavior that interferes with the learning of the child or the learning of his or her peers. The functional behavioral assessment determines whether a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) is needed. A BIP uses positive behavioral interventions and supports to address behaviors that interfere with the learning of the child with the disability, interfere with the learning of others, and/or require disciplinary action. 

If a parent disagrees with the IEP team’s behavioral assessment, the parent may request an expedited due process hearing. 

Section 504 Plans

Some disabled students are not eligible for IEPs under the IDEA; however, the law still requires that schools meet the educational needs of all disabled students “as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons.” Section 504 plans are alternative protections that accommodate for a disabled student’s differences within the regular education environment. A Section 504 plan may require that a school provide regular aids or services (as opposed to special education services) in order to adequately meet the child’s individual education needs. Examples of Section 504 accommodations include preferential seating in the front of the classroom, a longer period of time to complete assignments, modified assignments and behavioral management plans. 

It is important to consider whether your child may be eligible for a 504 Plan if your child shows a pattern of not benefitting from the instruction provided, the school is considering retention, or a disability of any kind is suspected. Contact WhitbeckBennett to discuss how our team of special education law attorneys can help you and your family. 

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"I would highly recommend John Whitbeck to anyone needing legal counsel or representation. He was thorough, intentional, and professional in all of my dealings with him. He is well respected in the legal community of Loudoun County and is well liked by friends and colleagues alike. He has worked diligently to build a fabulous reputation and proven his knowledge of the law through his diligent practice in the area. No man would be as highly respected and sought after if he didn’t have the experience and professionalism to back it up."

Amanda
Loudoun County, VA

"I have over 10 years experience personally with Mrs. Laffey and if you want the best of the best look no further. She is incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in all fields of family law. She genuinely cares about your case and your situation and does whatever she can to improve it and do what is best for everyone involved. She is a fantastic mediator on all fronts especially dealing with other parties attorneys in the courtroom and with you personally. She is definitely an advocate for children and wants to see them happy healthy and growing through these trying times. She responds to any inquiries emails or phone calls with prompt attention and goes out of her way to find a solution for your particular case. She's extremely easy to engage with and you will not be disappointed with her services. I can not sing her praises enough. So if you want your case handled professionally proficiently and with a touch of TLC I highly recommend that you call her you won't regret your decision."

Deborah
Wilmington, DE

"My experience with WhitbeckBennett has been, and continues to be, extremely positive. My attorney, Mr. Beglis, has worked very hard for me. I can only wish that I had the sense to retain him for my Divorce, I would be in a completely different situation at this time! He is handling my custody issue. The level of comfort he has given me is worth everything to me. I truly feel like he is standing in front of me as a shield and his only function is to protect me and fight for me. This feeling, for me, is priceless. Thank you so much Mr. Beglis for giving me peace."

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Leesburg, VA

"Amber Godfrey is a consummate perfectionist with a heart of gold and a passion for her clients. I highly recommend her and her firm for any family law matter."

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Oklahoma City, OK

“Richard Tappan is one of the finest attorneys that you could have represent you...He went the extra mile and you can be assured this is just who he is...someone that will not let you down even though you are facing very difficult circumstances."

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Vienna, VA

“James (Jim) did an excellent job with my case! Whenever I had any questions, he responded to my inquiry the same day and always provided a clear explanation. He made a confusing and stressful situation very, very simple and my case was closed in less than 3 months—even during this pandemic! I absolutely recommend!"

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Leesburg, VA

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The Virginia Book on Family LawDid you know that we're releasing a book? That's right!

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