Part seven in the Series: Unfortunately, prevailing in a legal dispute against your school district is very difficult, so if you can avoid some common traps, why not just avoid them? If you’ve already done one of these things, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t done any of these things, DON’T.
MISTAKE #7: Signing Things You Don’t Understand
Here is the deal, as a Connecticut special education attorney, every school year I represent several children whose parents actually are attorneys. Special education law is complex and there are significant legal ramifications to much of what you might be asked to sign.
Don’t just sign papers because they ask you to.
There is something about being in a school building that makes people revert to childhood. I have spoken to many parents who are high-powered executives or very experienced lawyers who have signed documents that make me shudder, and they will tell me that they just felt so pressured. I genuinely believe that some people feel around their child’s teachers and administrators like they are kids themselves who have been called to the Principal’s office!
Documents that require your signature usually have serious legal implications.
If your school district asks you to sign something, anything, READ IT!!! If you don’t understand it in its entirety, ask if you can take a copy home to review it before you sign it. Ask the administrator to explain to you what it means, then repeat back to him or her what you understand them to be saying it means. Then, when you get into your car or when you get home, write down what they told you it meant and make several copies for your files. If you can follow that up with an email documenting the communication, more the better.
Finally, if your school district asks you or your child (if they are over 18) to sign anything that remotely resembles a contract or asks you to waive any rights at all, do not sign it until you have at least consulted with a special education attorney. I have seen families give away years of rights without even realizing it. Don’t let it happen to you!