Second 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 made this mistake, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t made this mistake, DON’T, since it could lose your case for you down the road.
MISTAKE #2: Saying that you want “the best” program for your child.
You are not legally entitled to the “best” special education program out there. The IDEA requires a “Free and Appropriate Public Education.” The courts have interpreted this to mean that schools must provide a “Chevy not a Cadillac.”
A large percentage of the cases which end up in Due Process really boil down to this very issue. So, if you can, try to avoid feeding into the perception that you are looking for the absolute best that money can buy, at public expense. This mistake includes saying you want to “maximize the potential” of your child, referencing how much better their grades could be if only they were getting “better” services, and making comments that could be perceived as being judgmental about other types of disabilities (e.g., “you have her in a classroom with kids who are clearly not college bound”).
Please understand, I personally find it outrageous (and legally dubious) that school districts routinely tell the special education community that they are only required to provide an “appropriate” program to kids with disabilities, while simultaneously writing mission statements about “excellence” in education and touting “blue ribbons.” Apparently, the ribbons are only for children who do not have special needs. I get it. But you have to operate within the confines of the current status of the law.
Ultimately, your argument that your individual child’s needs are not being properly met will be far more effective if you haven’t allowed the school district’s attorney to distract the Hearing Officer in your case from the real issues, by putting into evidence all of your emails and letters demanding the “best” program for your child.