Monday, January 07, 2013

Call a lawyer

I've been in this special ed gig for 8 years now. I've gone to good meetings, nasty meetings, confusing meetings. I've spent weeks putting together presentations, binders, handouts, and data graphs. I've sifted through evals in techspeak, observation reports that have some or no observations, and IEP goals that are measurable and unmeasurable. I have fought, planned, co-operated, held my ground, given ground, compromised, and even thrown a hissy fit.

I am not an OT, a PT, an SLP, a neurologist, a developmental specialist, or a special educator. I am an art historian. And educated person, but not an expert at this.

Our back-up plan, like so many other special ed parents wrestling with an uncooperative and ill-funded system, is that great mantra, "Call the lawyer!" There lies the secret weapon, the person who can come in, look over all the mistakes you have made, and tell you to do next- or if the next step involves, say, the lawyer.

This is such an ingrained mantra that we have taken up Wrightslaw as a banner, reading the books, going to the workshops, making sure we were ready, making sure we had done all we could do before... well, calling the lawyer.

This morning, I called the lawyer.

When your back-up mantra is "call the lawyer", you also recognize that calling the lawyer is an admission of defeat. That despite trying to be an expert at the system, trying to keep the ducks in a row, trying to advocate for your child as best you can, something is terribly wrong. The question is, "what am I doing wrong? And how do I fix it?"

And so you call to make an appointment with a lawyer.

Sounds idyllic, yes? Well, what no one tells you is what happens when you make that call.

See, when you call, apparently you have to be ready, like a lawyer yourself. You have to know exactly what is wrong and exactly why you want to speak to the lawyer. "Something is wrong" won't even get you past the receptionist. Even, "this meeting went badly and I don't think what they gave me is appropriate" isn't enough.

Seriously, I never got past the receptionist, who kept interrupting me to say, "I don't understand why you want to see a lawyer."

We've had a blow, folks. The back-up plan just told us they don't know why they should help us or have our back.


Stimey said...

It sounds like maybe the option here is "call a different lawyer." I know that is harder in some places or other, but it is unacceptable for the receptionist to have that response. S/he should have booked a consult for you to talk to the lawyer. I'm sorry. It's so defeating to run into a roadblock like that with someone who is supposed to help you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry it's gotten to the point that you even need to consider calling a lawyer. :-( That being said, I agree with Stimey.

Another possibility is to call your Parent Information Resource Ctr to ask for some guidance as to what language to use?

Or, simply call this first lawyer back and tell them this: "I have reasont o believe my child's being denied access to his Free Appropriate Public Education based on his disabilites. I'd like to schedule a consult with an attorney to discuss the matter further and determine how to proceed." If the receptionist pushes back, you pish back y telling them "Unless you are a licensed attorney, I don't think it's necesary for me to delve into the matter with you. Can you schedule a consultation or not?" If they say they cannot or will not, fine...move on. But be sure to write a confidential letter to the partners and board of the law firm to apprise them of the fact that their receptionist is, potentially, costing them business.

Wishing you all the best and sending love. xo