FAPE Lawyers in Los Angeles

Your Child Is Entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education

There is education support “to meet the special needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are met.” That is the promise of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to all children with a disability in the United States. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) promises even more: a free appropriate public education, funded by the state and federal government.

However, getting the best education for your child isn’t that simple. Every student has strengths and weaknesses, and your child may need an Individual Education Program (IEP) under IDEA’s requirements, or a 504 plan, under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Learning how to explain your goals for your child is essential to getting the right services.

Our Los Angeles special education attorneys can assist you. We offer an absolutely free initial consultation to discuss your child’s wants and needs. Please call our lawyers at (626) 440-0028 today. Our law firm speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, and Spanish.

What Is FAPE?

FAPE is a statutory term under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. It includes special education and related services that are:

  • Provided and supervised at public expense.
  • Meeting the requirements of the state’s educational agency (in this case, the California Department of Education).
  • In the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means as close to a normal classroom experience as possible.

This includes preschool, elementary school, and secondary school. It does not include post-secondary school, such as a college or university.

Who Is Eligible for FAPE?

California defines individuals with “exceptional needs” as:

  • People with a disability defined in Section 1401(3)(A) of Title 20 of the United States Code:
    • Intellectual disabilities
    • Hearing impairments or deafness
    • Speech or language impairments
    • Visual impairments or blindness
    • Serious emotional disturbance
    • Orthopedic impairments
    • Autism
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Other health impairments
    • Specific learning disabilities (for example, ADHD)
    • People whose impairments require instruction and services beyond the modification of a regular school program.

The definition includes those under 3 years old up to 22 years old, who have been identified as needing program services (EDC Title 2 Division 4 Part 30 Chapter 1). A child who has limited English proficiency, lack of instruction in reading or mathematics, temporary physical disabilities, “social maladjustment” (which is generally agreed to be a pattern of purposefully disruptive and delinquent behavior), or environmental, cultural, or economic factors impacting his or her ability to learn, is not considered an individual with special needs.

Every school district in the state has an obligation to “identify, locate and evaluate” the children who may be eligible for special education, including those who are attending private schools, under U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 34 § 300.111. The State must have a “practical” method to determine who these children are, and if they are already receiving the correct assistance. Children who advance from grade to grade but are suspected of having a developmental disability, and the children of migrant parents, are also covered under this code.

Should My Child Have an IEP or a 504 Plan?

IEPs and 504 plans have several things in common: they lay out a blueprint for your child’s access to special services in a school environment, and they are provided at no cost to the parents. But they are governed by separate laws, and that makes a difference in who makes the plan, and how it is implemented.

To qualify for an IEP, a child must have one of the 13 learning disabilities specified under IDEA, and the disability must have an “adverse impact” on his or her classroom performance. To qualify for a 504 plan, the child must have a disability, but the definition is broader, and a child who does not qualify for an IEP may still qualify for a 504. Also, the disability does not require specialized instruction to teach the child – he or she just needs another accommodation to assist in learning. 504 plans most often cover children with ADHD or ADD.

IEPs are written documents, drafted by a specific team of people required by IDEA (including specialists), and measurable progress goals have to be set for the child. They are reviewed every year. By contrast, 504 plans do not need to be written down, are drafted by people familiar with the child and the accommodation options, and focus more on which services will be provided than if the child meets measurable goals. They are usually reviewed every three years.

Which one is right for your child? Our law firm can work with you to find the best option.

Know What Your Child Is Entitled To

In late 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case called Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. This ruling has changed the way school districts must interpret a student’s progress. Before, educational programs geared toward FAPE were allowed to offer “merely more than de minimis” (barely more than the minimum) when it came to helping students achieve goals. The Supreme Court said, “a school must offer an IEP that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Their unanimous decision emphasized that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” In other words, the bare minimum isn’t enough.

However, it should be noted that the Supreme Court has also ruled that special needs students are not entitled to the “best education money can buy,” or even a program that is “ideal”—the new standard is education that is “reasonably calculated.”

Need Help Setting Up an IEP or Section 504 Plan? Please Call Our Lawyers

If your child has special needs and requires help to learn, this is not just one battle, but a lifelong path with many obstacles to come. However, there is a solution, and we can help you find it. Woodsmall Law Group knows how to resolve your issues not just for the upcoming year, but for many years to come. Our attorneys offer guidance to parents throughout La Cañada, the San Gabriel Valley, and Los Angeles County. For a free initial consultation, please call (626) 440-0028.

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