Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Common Sense Prevails in the Supreme Court

That's right: if the school denies you special education, and you prove independently that your kid needs special education support and thus put your kid in a private school so s/he can have an appropriate education, you can be reimbursed by the school for the tuition.

Go ahead and go read about it. It's fabulous. Then come back.

Are you back? Good.

Now, I am not a legal analyst, but this looks like good news to me. What do I think it means? I think it means:

All students, not just students with special needs according to a district's definition of "disability", have a right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Students with disabilities who are struggling with academic and life function skills (such as social skills), whether they meet a district's strict definition of a disability (which around here requires a 25% delay. 24%, and you're screwed) or not, still have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Schools will want to be considering the quality of their in-house special ed services and making sure they have services available that are appropriate for the kids in their system, because that's usually cheaper than private school tuition.

Schools need to possibly reconsider their definition of "disability" and how they screen for kids (Child Find), to be sure kids who have disabilities which effect their ability to learn and function receive the support they need to have a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Why is this such good news for us? Because it fills in some of cracks too many kids fall through, and that we are scared stiff Andy might fall through (well, kids like Andy, but who don't have active parents like us making sure he doesn't fall through anything, even if I have to homeschool him myself, by God). Those borderline cases where districts deny service, but the kids are floundering and need support.

This kind of ruling also stitches up a loophole of schools getting around providing service by simply claiming a child is ineligible for service, through such means as failing to do appropriate screening (intentionally or not), having overly restrictive definitions of disability, or having issues with categorizing a child (such as Virginia's change in the "developmental delay" category, from max age 8 to max age 6... where do they think those two years' worth of kids are going to be categorized?). It seems the thought was if a child was deemed ineligible by the district, that was it. Well, no, it isn't it- if I can prove my child needs support, even if your screening process kicks him out of the system, my child still has his or her right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, which still needs to be considered and addressed.

And that, folks, is a huge victory or the rights of children in this country, and their right to an education, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and for us, Article VIII of teh Constitution of Virginia).

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