I entered my child’s IEP meeting armed with a 4″ binder overflowing with my child’s life history … and an advocate.
An IEP is an individualized education plan for children with special needs. It is federally mandated and public schools must implement and follow per federal law.
My husband and I had sorted our tasks and goals into separate lines of priorities with getting our son in a safe school first and foremost.
So we engaged Disability Rights Florida for legal advocacy and representation in navigating our child’s IEP as we recover from his inappropriate Baker Act.
DRF is a federally mandated organization dedicated to defending the rights of any person with documented disability. Because our child’s rights were violated, they will advocate with us to get him the education he needs and is entitled to. They also will help us pursue compensatory education if deemed appropriate. They are funded through Social Security Administration, the Administration for Children and Families, and several other administrations.
If you think or know your own child is not getting an appropriate education, call them. They offer free services if they can take your case.
We called them and did an initial intake. I emailed my son’s IEP and behavior intervention plan and reviewed the circumstances of his Baker Act.
They took our case and requested our son’s comprehensive file from the school board.
Our advocate called in to our scheduled IEP meeting and had clear questions and concerns on our behalf. She asked many questions to clarify nuances and was highly effective.
I highly recommend always having an advocate in some way, shape or form at an IEP meeting.
Another option in Brevard County is the Family Liaison Project. They are funded through Brevard County Public Schools. We have not paid for advocates, although some people have reported positive experiences with them.
I’ve learned in IEP meetings: that if I ask for certain supports and am told no, I can ask for a list of criteria that would be used to determine support. I can ask for documentation of policies and procedures and for clear timelines. In statements we disagreed with, our advocate had the meeting notes amended to reflect our disagreement or changed.
We were reminded by our advocate that we aren’t just lucky to be at the IEP meeting: we are integral members and the school is required to invite us.
Our county grants families access to use “out of area” requests for school placement. We considered jumping to this option instead of navigating another cumbersome IEP but decided that working with the system:
- forces the system to work better and
- puts the burden of transportation on the school.
Our child deserves a free and appropriate public education.
The school system has to accommodate him and must learn to do better for all students with special needs.
We have spoken with many attorneys and it seems we do have a legal case with our child’s civil rights being violated. We haven’t decided how to proceed regarding this yet.