Pursuing remedy to special education violations is an emotionally draining task for any parent. It’s easy for some parents to go on the warpath, leaving nothing but scorched earth after everything is said and done, and that’s a terrible way to try and solve a problem of any kind. It’s an incredibly harmful approach to use in a situation involving children, handicapped or not. Continue reading
In special education, the implementing regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) establish the basic framework of how the process is supposed to work, but it’s the case law that comes from due process cases and their appeals that refine the use of some terms in many cases. Often, the case law summarizes bits and pieces of the regulations taken from different legal citations to arrive at the formal definition of a particular term, such as the definition of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”). Continue reading
KPS4Parents will be conducting a parent & educator training workshop on IEP Goal-Writing in Camarillo, California on May 15, 2010 from 9:30 to noon. The event will be held at Channel Islands Social Services.
Space is limited, so please register early to save your seat. Registrations close after April 12, 2010. Click here for more information and to register.
UPDATE (03/11/2011): Subsequent to posting this article, we became aware of a memorandum from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) of February 20, 2004, in which it states that parents determine which outsider assessor will conduct an IEE. Click here to download the OSEP letter. Please use this update to inform your decisions as you read through the content below.
I want to talk about Independent Educational Evaluations, or IEEs, in today’s posting and podcast because there seems to be a fair amount of confusion about what they are and when parents can ask for them to be provided at public expense – or even what it means for parents to ask for IEEs at public expense. And the confusion is not just on the part of parents, which should be somewhat expected; it’s also on the part of special education professionals of varying ranks within public education agencies.
First, let’s define what an IEE is – it is an assessment that can inform the special education process that is conducted by a professional not employed by or acting on behalf of the public education agency responsible for educating a specific child. An IEE can be obtained at private expense or at public expense.
An IEE is not, however, the same thing as a school district using an outside assessor to conduct an assessment on its behalf. For example, many school districts do not have staff audiologists and will contract with third-party audiologists to conduct assessments for Auditory Processing Disorders (“APDs”) on their behalf, but this is still considered a district assessment since it is being done on the district’s behalf as a normal part of the assessment process when an APD is an area of suspected disability.
Many times, parents who do not understand the special education process will privately fund IEEs not realizing that assessment in all areas of suspected disability is the financial burden of the public education system. I’ve had parents come to me after having paid for a private assessment such as this only to be surprised when I’ve informed them that the public schools have a mandated obligation to assess students who may be in need of special education.
These are often the parents who suspected their child had a learning problem and went out to the private practice community first to get answers to inform themselves. Once they had information about their child’s unique learning needs, they subsequently found out that they could have gone straight to their child’s school for help.
Then there are parents who tried to get assessment from their child’s public school but were given misleading information regarding the school’s obligations with respect to assessment and were sent away empty-handed. These parents then went out and paid for private assessment because they thought the school system couldn’t do anything to help identify why their child was failing to learn, only to find out afterward that they had been lied to and jerked around by the public schools or that whomever they had spoken to at the school had no idea what he/she was talking about and had provided them with poor guidance.
The thing to bear in mind is that if parents obtain an independent assessment at private expense and present it to the school district, and that outside assessment is used to find the child eligible for special education, the school district must reimburse the parents for the cost of the assessment. This is because the financial burden of assessing for special education eligibility is that of the school district to bear. This is why many districts will insist on doing their own assessments after receiving an outside assessment from a parent indicating that a student has special needs. Outside assessments are often more costly than those done in-house by the district, so it’s less expensive to do its own assessment than reimburse the parent for the independent assessment that he/she had done at private expense.
The same rules for reimbursement can apply to an assessment that identifies needs that were not identified by the district that drive the content of a child’s IEP, even if the district found the child eligible as a result of its own assessments on the basis of some other need. So, for example, let’s say we have a child with an APD in addition to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). But, in this example, the district’s assessments only identified the ADHD and found the child eligible on the basis of that condition but failed to include assessment by an audiologist for an APD. If the parents subsequently paid for an APD assessment by an audiologist and those finding were used to amend the child’s IEP to include auditory processing therapy, accommodations for auditory processing needs, adaptive technology for auditory processing issues, etc., then the district would owe reimbursement to the parents for the APD assessment.
Unfortunately, what often happens is that school districts do not want to admit that they failed to attend to their duties and will thus argue against the information brought in from the outside by parents. They’ll argue all kinds of crazy things, not necessarily because they’re against the types of services that the independent assessments recommend, but more often because they don’t want to admit that they screwed up in the first place. A lot of due process cases arise out of situations like these. And, the child is the one caught in the middle failing to receive appropriate interventions while the adults involved argue over what is really going on and what should be done about it.
IEEs become particularly important when parents disagree with the assessments conducted by the public schools, and this is where things can become particularly tricky. Some parents, completely unaware of their rights, will go out and pay for a private assessment after receiving an assessment from the public schools with which they disagree. They will then submit the findings of the independent assessor to the school district to refute the district’s findings from its own assessment.
What these parents often don’t realize is that if they disagree with the school district’s assessment, they have a right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) to an IEE at public expense – that is, a second opinion by someone not employed by the public schools but at the expense of the public education system. What these parents also often don’t realize is that just because they provide the school district with an independent assessment, the school district is not procedurally bound by what the independent assessment recommends.
School districts must consider outside assessments provided by the parents. Considering something and being bound by something are two different things. When the findings of an independent assessor, particularly one paid for by the parents, conflicts significantly with the findings of the school district’s assessment, the school district will often “consider” the IEE to be without merit. What can then ensue is a “war of the experts” in due process.
The cleaner, much preferred way to go about IEEs in my experience is to let the school district perform its own assessments (presuming they don’t refuse to assess) and see what they say. If the district’s assessment results are inadequate and/or inaccurate, then the parents should disagree in writing with the district’s assessment and ask for an IEE at public expense. The only way a school district can lawfully deny funding an IEE under such circumstances is to file for due process to assert the appropriateness of its own assessments, and this is a critical procedural consideration that parents and educators alike often fail to understand. (See 34 CFR Sec. 300.502(b).)
I have a number of refusal letters on file from school districts where they declined to honor parents’ requests for IEEs after the parents disagreed with the districts’ assessments but the districts never filed for due process to assert the appropriateness of their own assessments. In some of the cases, all I had to do was file a compliance complaint over the procedural violation and the state education agency ordered the offending districts to fund the IEEs. In other cases, there were other issues that made due process necessary and the failures to fund the IEEs were just more fuel for the fire, so they were dealt with as due process issues. In those cases, the parents had usually gone out and funded the IEEs themselves after their requests for IEEs had been unlawfully declined and the districts owed them reimbursement at that point.
And, that brings up another critical consideration. If a parent asks for an IEE at public expense and the district refuses to fund it but fails to file for due process to assert the appropriateness of its own assessments, and the parent goes out and pays for the IEE at private expense, then files for due process over the denial of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), the school district is then given the opportunity to demonstrate in hearing that its own assessment was adequate.? Parents need to take this into account.
Just because the district failed to abide by the procedural requirements to file for due process upon declining to fund the IEE does not mean the parents will automatically prevail in due process. It is possible that a hearing officer could determine that, procedural violation aside, the district’s assessment was nonetheless adequate and reimbursement is not due.
However, some school districts will attempt to argue that the parents should be procedurally barred from seeking reimbursement from the district for IEEs if the parents didn’t first give the district notice that they intended to fund the IEEs themselves and later seek reimbursement from the district. This is a misrepresentation of the regulations by the school district. Parents are not required to give notice of their intent to seek reimbursement for a private assessment from the public schools upon disagreeing with the public school’s assessment.
When school districts try to assert this argument, they are confusing the notice requirements for unilateral placement by parents of their children in private schools or private special education programs with the intent to seek reimbursement for IEEs. These are two completely unrelated types of reimbursement requests that are bound by completely different regulations.
Under the IDEA, if a parent believes that the district’s offer of services and/or placement are not appropriate, and the parent decides to put his/her child in a private program and seek reimbursement from the district for the costs of that program, the parent must give notice to the district at the last IEP meeting held before the unilateral placement by the parent is made or give written notice at least 10 business days prior to making the unilateral placement. This is to afford the school district one last chance of pulling its butt out of the sling before it’s on the hook for the costs of a private placement, presuming the parent is right and the placement offered by the district was inappropriate.
However, the same rule does not apply for IEEs. Parents can go out and get IEEs at private expense then turn around and hit their school districts up for reimbursement without having given prior notice of their intent to do so. I’m not saying I recommend taking this route, though there are situations that sometimes make it necessary.
Again, the only way the school district can refuse to pay for the IEE is to prove in due process that its own assessments were adequate. If the district commits the procedural violation of failing to file for due process after declining to reimburse the family, then the family can file a compliance complaint or, if the failure to provide the IEE results in substantive harm to the student, the family can file for due process asserting a denial of FAPE and ask for reimbursement as one of the remedies being sought.
In any of these scenarios, the two most important things for parents and educators alike to understand is that 1) an IEE can only be provided at public expense when the parents disagree with the district’s assessment and 2) the parents’ request for an IEE or reimbursement for an IEE can only be declined by the district if the district proves in hearing that its own assessment was adequate. This generally means that parents have to give districts the opportunity to do their own assessments first, or there’s nothing with which they can disagree.
The exception is if the district fails to assess when it should have, only for outside private assessment to reveal the presence of needs for which the child requires special education and/or related services. In essence, the district’s findings are that the child has no special education need in that area and the independent assessment indicates otherwise. A hearing officer can find that the district’s assessment was not adequate because it consisted of nothing at all and, therefore, the district owes the parents reimbursement for going out and doing the district’s job at their own expense. As stated previously, the burden to assess in all areas of suspected disability is the district’s to bear, so if it fails to meet that burden by refusing to assess at all, it’s essentially the same outcome as assessing poorly.
This causes confusion for many because, generally speaking, an IEE at public expense is only warranted if a referral for assessment was made in the first place. In such an event, either an assessment was conducted with which the parents disagreed or the referral to assess was declined by the school district and the parents then went out and got their own assessment by an outside assessor at private expense for which they subsequently sought reimbursement.
However, there is also the issue of “child find,” which is the federal mandate that all school districts actively seek out and identify those children within their attendance areas who are eligible for special education. It can be successfully argued that if a school district fails to conduct child find, then when parents go out and get assessments done on their own dime only to later seek reimbursement for those assessments that reveal the child is in need of special education, and the record is clear that the child has not been successful at school for some time, then the school district can be found to owe reimbursement.
In essence, due to the district’s failure to conduct child find, the parents had reason to “disagree” with the school district’s “determination” that the student failed to qualify for special education and the district obliged itself to reimburse the parents for their costs to essentially conduct child find on the district’s behalf. A failure to assess in an area of suspected disability is essentially the same thing as assessing poorly in an area of suspected disability, thereby preventing the district from successfully asserting the adequacy of its own assessments. You can’t assert the adequacy of something that doesn’t exist.
All of this said, parents need to understand that they only get one IEE for every assessment by the district with which they disagree. If they don’t agree with the findings of the IEE, they can still go out and get additional outside assessments and provide the reports to the district for its consideration, but they aren’t entitled to additional reimbursements.
I was at a training the other day for a surrogate parent program for incarcerated youth and the trainer was unclear on this issue. She was under the mistaken impression that parents had the right to IEEs, but they had to pay for the IEEs themselves regardless of the circumstance. And, this was a dedicated educator who regularly goes out on a limb for children who are, without a doubt, some of the most difficult-to-serve special education students in the world. The rules about IEEs are confusing to a lot of people and our public schools have not done a particularly good job of training their people on how those rules work, which makes it that much harder on parents who understand special education procedure even less.
Click here to download the podcast version of this article.
There has been a tremendous movement among a group of special education lay advocates across the United States and beyond to get to the bottom of a very troubling situation involving an individual who claims to be a highly successful and renowned special education advocate but whose claims cannot be substantiated and, in fact, appears to have defrauded a number of parents of children with special needs, particularly targeting high-profile autism-related seclusion and restraint cases. This individual, who goes by the name of Michael E. Robinson, Sr., is suspected of being located in Redding, California, based on the physical location where the phone numbers he gives out are installed.
Robinson was previously located in Hawaii, so it seems. He claims to be located in Washington, DC, Arizona, Hawaii, and California. He has claimed to be a lobbyist (not registered); a special education lay advocate and/or attorney (he’s claimed both) with years of experience with due process cases and litigation going all the way to federal court (no record of him involved in any special education due process or court cases could be found); a medical doctor (there is an autism specialist also named Michael Robinson whose work Michael E. Robinson, Sr. has attempted to claim as his own); and, of all things, a NASCAR racer.
He’s also claimed that he has epilepsy and was given a wolf as a service animal because wolves can allegedly detect the onset of a seizure before it happens, thereby making them superior service animals – forget the fact that it’s not legal to have a wolf as a service animal. And on and on. His behavior seems indicative of a narcissistic personality disorder and an absolute disregard for the consequences of what he is doing.
It’s easy now that so many people have come out of the woodwork to share their Michael E. Robinson, Sr. stories and much of his story has now been pieced together to look at the big picture and reach the conclusion that Robinson is up to no good. He’s solicited money from several parents, apparently. He’s also requested copies of legal documents in individual student’s cases from parents to allegedly use for his “lobbying” efforts, only to turn around and copy and paste from these documents to attempt to misrepresent the work of other advocates and attorneys as his own to his next set of victims.
His M.O. is apparently to collect enough information from past cases to be able to initially convince parents in newly developing cases – usually horrific situations in which the parents are in dire need of technical assistance – that he is experienced and can help them. He commiserates with them over the injustices they have suffered and tells them not to worry because he’s going to take care of things for them. Then he takes whatever money they’ve given him and copies of their records and is never heard from by them again. He seems to particularly seek out single mothers who are emotionally vulnerable as they fight to protect their children with disabilities from harm and have little to no support from their children’s fathers.
As a special education lay advocate for over 18 years and a paralegal in special education-related litigation for the last 5 years, I have to say that the prospect of someone using special education lay advocacy as a vehicle for running a con is particularly disturbing. While it’s expected that different advocates have different styles and ways of going about things, this is well beyond anything like that.
What is so damaging is that the child who was in such dire need that his/her case caught Robinson’s eye continues to go unserved. Robinson’s advocacy, such as it is, fails to achieve appropriate outcomes, based on the reports coming in from families who claim to have been taken advantage of by him.
This hurts children with special needs overall by undermining the credibility of lay advocates everywhere. Every time I go into a school district in which I’ve never advocated before, I find myself having to prove that I’m not some crazy person or someone with an axe to grind. The expectation maintained by many school districts is that all advocates are adversarial jerks and a righteous pain in the keister. It usually takes months of working with an IEP team in a district to which I am new before people finally figure out that I’m just trying to solve problems and facilitate a rebuilding of trust between the school district and the student’s family and that I’m only going to pursue accountability if the school district personnel keep failing to perform their mandated duties.
But, when I have to follow behind someone calling him- or herself an advocate who has behaved disreputably, demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge regarding what constitutes an appropriate IEP, and antagonized the situation to such an extent that a power struggle has ensued between him/her and the school district, I am put at a tremendous disadvantage. The time I have to invest in proving that I’m not going to do the same thing is time that could have otherwise been invested in properly educating my client.
I want to make clear, though, that very few advocates are so lacking in knowledge and so adversarial that they do more harm than good. Mr. Robinson is the exception, not the rule. Nonetheless, parents need to be diligent about making sure that whoever represents them is on the up and up. When I meet with parents for the first time, they will often tell me that they Googled me beforehand. I’m totally okay with that; there’s a pretty good chance that I Googled them, too. Advocates have to protect themselves from shiesters, as well.
To read more about the evidence compiled against Michael E. Robinson, Sr., see:
The Employee Assistance Report is a publication of Impact Publications, Inc. It is a monthly newsletter provided to Employment Assistance professionals to help them provide appropriate guidance to the employers and employees they support.
I had the distinct honor of authoring a portion of the March 2010 issue of the Employee Assistance Report: the “Brown Bagger” insert that comes with each issue. The “Brown Bagger” is a pull-out piece that trainers can use for lunch-time learning session.
The title of the piece I wrote for the “Brown Bagger” is “Special Education and the Workplace: What Employers and Employees Need to Know.”? Please share this material with your employer and co-workers, or with your staff if you are an employer yourself. Also visit the Business and Industry page of our website at http://www.kps4parents.org/BIE.html.
Most parents should find the subject of today’s article shocking and I hope that this remains the case for a long, long time. The reason shocking topics are shocking is because they’re about things that don’t happen that often and stun us when they do.
However, it is not unheard of for schools to call the police on parents when special education disputes arise. When this happens, either the parent legitimately did something wrong for which police action is warranted or somebody at the school did something outrageous and got caught by the parent, resulting in power struggle in which calling the cops is a childish trump card played by a power-tripping school site administrator who has become hell-bent on coming out on top without concern for the damage that will otherwise be done.
I’m not going to dwell on the former possibility because it goes without saying that our children should safe at school and sometimes that means that calling the police on a parent who is being dangerous and disruptive is necessary. I’m going to focus on the latter possibility, instead, because this is an evil that has no business in any free society, much less America’s public schools.
I’ve been dealing with such a situation this week and am really disgusted over the whole thing. This topic also falls right into line with our on-going series on the negative influences that undermine the special education process, which we’re identifying so that all of us who are working so hard towards appropriate outcomes can do so collectively and collaboratively to right these wrongs and make special education actually work.
It has been my observation that single parents, low-income families, and ethnic minorities tend to be the ones most targeted by this unseemly form of retaliation. Heaven help the single, low-income, minority parent who gets faced with a triple-whammy of discrimination on top of the discrimination that is frequently inherent in being the parent of a child challenged by disability. The School to Prison Pipeline involves undermining parents’ advocacy efforts as much as anything else, and calling the cops on a parent from a marginalized population who is insisting on appropriate intervention for his/her child with special needs is exactly the kind of abuse of authority that contributes to the funneling of children from these families out of the classroom and into a prison cell.
Our founder, Nyanza, and I had our families together for a KPS4Parents social event several years ago and I remember that she had to admonish her own son for doing something pretty typical for a kid with ADHD (but that he still shouldn’t have been doing). I don’t even remember what it was exactly, just that it was relatively minor in the grand scheme of the cosmos but it had the potential to call serious negative attention to him if he didn’t knock it off. As much as Nyanza and I are like-minded and practically finish each other’s sentences, it’s the day-to-day life stuff that makes it clear just how racially defined modern American life still is and how different her family’s experiences are from my own.
What stands out in my memory is what she said to him after she looked him in the eye to gain his attention, pointed out what he was doing wrong, and told him what he should do instead. She told him that, statistically speaking, young black men between the ages of 12 and 25 are the most feared people in America and that, as unfair as this was, it was the truth. So, anything he did that was inappropriate for any reason would put him at risk of being treated unreasonably harshly because of this irrational fear. What was obviously an ADHD-related issue was not generally identified by society with his disability but, rather, with his race. That concept makes my mind spin even now.
Fast forward to this past week and I’m working with a single, African-American mother of a handsome little boy with ADHD. He’s a really sweet kid by all accounts, but he’s impulsive, wiggly, and easily provoked by his peers who have totally figured him out and set him up to get in trouble over and over. He’s also in an economically depressed, urban community in a school district that, by reputation, is mediocre on its best day. His elementary school principal has created her own little slummy fiefdom where she can throw around her Caucasian weight and intimidate the parents, most of whom are low-income minorities. You could fit what this principal knows and cares about special education compliance on the head of a pin.
I’m not going to assert the position that I am in any way qualified to speak to the black experience. I’m so white I glow in the dark and I was raised in the racially segregated South. I don’t abide by the really perverse ideas I was exposed to as a kid, but I haven’t lived what black families in America have lived, so I can’t speak with authority on the subject. However, if the amount of stand-up comedian material produced in the United States is any kind of barometer for what goes on in our society, that combined with my personal experiences through the friendships I’ve forged with the African-American women I know, black women have a tendency to speak their minds and God help you if they get mad.
This is a gross over-generalization of course. I know when somebody has crossed the line with Nyanza because she gets really, really serious, looks them dead in the eye, and says what she has to say extremely eloquently. But, I’ve also known a number of opinionated, strong African-American women who, if provoked, will come completely unglued. Amongst their friends and families, this way of reacting to injustice is perfectly acceptable. In elementary school offices, not so much.
Which brings me full circle back to the business of police being called on parents. In this week’s moment of drama (which was another first for me – after over 18 years of this you’d think I wouldn’t encounter anything new), I just happened to return this parent’s phone call as she was sitting in her car in the elementary school parking lot after “having words” with the principal over an improper disciplinary measure taken by school site staff regarding her son. She was just starting to tell me what was going on when she stopped and said, “The principal’s coming.”
The principal approached the parent in her car and began to say something to her, but stopped when the parent put me on speaker phone and identified me to her. I introduced myself, as awkward as the sudden introduction was, and the principal advised the parent that she needed to talk to her. The parent asked “About what?” The principal wouldn’t say anything at first, but upon the parent’s insistence, the principal finally said “Your behavior.” The principal said that if the parent didn’t leave, she was going to have the police escort her off the campus. And, then the powder keg blew.
What was weird was that even though the principal told this parent that she needed to leave, the principal wanted to first talk to the parent at length about her alleged behavior before letting her actually leave the campus. I realized the principal was up to something.
The parent was very upset, insisting she hadn’t done anything wrong and it took a few moments for me to get her attention, but I did. I got her to take me off speaker phone and told her, “She said she wants you to leave. Leave! Leave now!” I guess my tone was compelling because she stopped insisting that she hadn’t done anything wrong and said, “My advocate is telling me to leave, so I’m leaving.”? Then she drove away. After leaving the school’s parking lot, as she was driving down the street, she saw in the distance in her rear view mirror a squad car pulling into the school parking lot. It took me a half-hour to calm her back down again.
I’m not going to say that this parent didn’t disrupt the school environment. I honestly don’t know.? I wasn’t there. I didn’t see or hear what happened prior to my call with the parent. It is entirely possible that her voice was raised high enough while in the building to cause concern. If that’s the case, then the only argument I have against the request for her to leave was that it came after she had already left the building and was sitting in her car preparing to drive away followed by a delay tactic that was clearly meant to keep her there long enough for the police to arrive and escort her off the campus she was already in the process of leaving.
It was plainly evident to me that the principal was deliberately provoking this parent into an outburst with the intent of having the police pull up in the middle of it.? Even if the principal’s only purpose was to make the record that the parent had to be escorted off school grounds by the police and not actually have her arrested, there are a thousand things wrong with this situation, starting with the fact that the basis for the entire incident is that this parent’s child is not receiving a FAPE and when the parent first approached school site staff for help to resolve the problem, they responded to her with disrespect and refused to help her.? Nyanza’s admonishment to her son about how young black males are perceived sprang to my mind when I first accepted this case because that’s exactly what is happening here.
School districts, or even just individual school sites, that are run by unethical people have a fairly predictable way of doing business. A parent raises a concern and the school site administration discounts it and condescends to the parent. The parent then goes on the internet and researches his/her rights, then goes back to the school and demands an appropriate response, which is not forthcoming. If the parent is unsophisticated, the exchanges are entirely verbal and the only record being kept is whatever is written up by school site staff and placed in the student’s file after each trip into the office by the parent. This cycle repeats for a while, with the parent getting more and more agitated each time around.
If the parent eventually gets outside help or files a complaint with a regulator, the school is suddenly at risk of having its dirty laundry aired to people who might actually have the authority to do something about it. The fiefdom is suddenly on the line. So, an active campaign to discredit the parent is waged and all hell breaks loose. This happens everywhere with parents from all walks of life. But, it is particularly harmful to low-income, minority, single parents whose word has to stand against that of someone in a suit with a Master’s Degree.
A few months ago, I added another tool to our toolbox here at KPS4Parents that may actually turn out to be useful after all. I wasn’t sure how we could exactly use it but it had potential so I went ahead and added it to our collection of resources. I have to be careful how I present it here because I don’t want what I say to be misconstrued as an unauthorized advertisement for something for which we are contractually obligated to seek prior approval to advertise. You can see our approved web content for this possible solution by clicking here.
A friend of mine turned me onto this legal planning solution a few months ago.? While my initial thought was to provide it to parents as an option for due process representation or even estate planning when special needs beneficiaries are involved, there was a whole bunch of other stuff that came with it that I really didn’t think was all that relevant to what KPS4Parents does.? Until the cops got called on my client the other day.
Had I not returned her phone call when I did, my client would have been unwittingly detained by the principal long enough for the police to become involved.? The record would have been made in a manner that misrepresented the situation to the detriment of my client’s case and personal well-being.
That night, I lay in bed thinking: “What about the other parents who will find themselves in similar circumstances but who don’t have an advocate who will just happen to call at the most opportune moment possible?? What would have happened to the sweet little boy I’m representing if his single mother had been taken into custody?? What’s going to happen to him now that he has to go to school at what is clearly now a hostile environment?”? (I’m working on that latter issue, actually.)
If parents who find themselves in situations like these had a 24-hour hotline to call for immediate attorney support when approached by the police, which is one of those things available through that relatively recent addition to our toolbox mentioned above that I never really thought as being relevant to our work until now, that would be a very powerful resource indeed.? So, I’m now rethinking the application of this new tool now that this new situation has developed.
The most useful advice I can give to parents, regardless of who they are and where they live, is to never, ever, under any circumstances, let school site staff goad you into an outburst.? If they try, recognize it for what it is and, if necessary, leave before things get worse.
If you are worried about your child’s welfare in such a hostile situation, and you think the threat is severe enough, remove your child from school and file a suspected child abuse report.? If you determine that your child is not at risk and you send him/her back to school, do not discuss what happened with your child in intimate detail.? You will make your child unnecessarily fearful, which will only make things worse for your child.
If things have gotten so far out of hand that the school has gotten the police involved, it’s time to seek legal representation.? Walking that landmine field alone is just a bad idea.
Click here to download the podcast version of this article.