Do you feel as though your child’s school is not providing your child with the special education services he or she needs? Is your child’s school insisting that he or she stay the course with the same education plan when you know it isn’t working? Has your child’s school terminated his or her special education services? Have you been forced to send your child to a private school because your public school is not providing your child with sufficient special education services? Our lawyers may be able to help you and your family when issues such as these arise between you and your child’s school.
does my child with disabilities have education rights in North carolina?
The law requires that every child in North Carolina who is diagnosed with a disability have an individualized program so that they can be prepared for further education, employment, and independent living. The law also gives you the right to be involved in the decisions about your child’s education and the ability to contest those decisions, if you feel they are detrimental to your child.
Oftentimes, disagreements with school officials can be resolved informally through conferences or meetings with the appropriate decision makers. Prior to getting the court involved, you can still request the school participate in a facilitated individualized education plan (IEP) meeting or a mediation.
Facilitated IEP Meeting
A facilitated IEP meeting is led by a neutral third-party who is paid by the State of North Carolina with the goal of facilitating a productive conversation among the school officials and parents. The neutral does not take sides in the dispute and is only working to reach a resolution that both sides can agree upon.
To request a facilitated IEP, you must submit a request form to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Similar to a facilitated IEP meeting, a mediation is led by a neutral third-party, but is a less collaborative process. Oftentimes, mediators will convene the session with parents and school officials together for an opening and then separate them into different rooms to discuss their positions. Like with a facilitated IEP meeting, mediators do not take sides and are working to reach a resolution that the parties can put into writing at the end of the day.
You may request a mediation at any time in the process, even if you have already requested a due process hearing.
Due Process Hearing
If you’ve been unable to agree after these more informal settings, however, you may request what is called a “due process hearing.” These hearings are held in front of an administrative law judge with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings and are subject to complicated rules of procedure and evidence and almost always require testimony from expert witnesses like doctors. Ultimately, if you are successful through this process, the school may be required to reimburse your attorney’s fees as well.
Due process hearings are extremely time consuming and can seem daunting, especially when you’re seemingly up against an entire school system. Please remember, though, that you should not wait too long to request a due process hearing. The law only gives you one year from when you knew or should have known about the dispute with your school.
Our attorneys are eager to discuss your child’s situation with you to determine the best way to get your child the special education services he or she requires. In the event that an administrative hearing is the only way forward, we are here to guide you through the process.
For a more comprehensive look at the law applicable to students with a disability in North Carolina, be sure to check out A Parents’ Guide to Special Education in North Carolina, which can be found here.