Common Legal Mistakes Parents of Children with Special Education Needs Make, But Can Avoid: Part IV

Published on April 6, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

Fourth 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 #4:  Stating, or agreeing with a school district’s statement, that a program/service/school is “medical” in nature and not “educational.”

Whether a particular service or program is medical versus educational involves a very complicated legal analysis, based on interpretation of the IDEA and cases in your particular geographical area.  Many educational and related services which are required by law are services which the average parent does not realize are potentially the responsibility of the school district.

As an example, for some students, counseling and psycho-therapy might be required in order for the child to make progress on their IEP and to allow the child to receive FAPE.  If so, they are likely educational, which means your school district must provide or fund the service.

Many special education administrators will try to get you to agree that a service is medical so that the school district doesn’t have to pay for it.  Education is more than just academics, so don’t pin yourself down to something being medical unless you’ve consulted with a good special education attorney in your area.  If you’re asked point blank whether something is educational or medical, just say “all I know is my child needs it.”  Let the lawyers figure out who has to pay for it.

2 Responses to Common Legal Mistakes Parents of Children with Special Education Needs Make, But Can Avoid: Part IV

  1. Rochelle Dolim
    August 24th, 2009 | 7:30 pm

    We always approach the issue from a ‘how it will enable success of an appropriate educational plan. Anything we say is invalidated for the input of people who wouldn’t even be able to identify the girls in a hallway and who ignore previous documentation

  2. John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
    December 12th, 2009 | 12:14 pm

    Good point, one worth thoughtful consideration.

    Here’s a related (but not right on point) issue: The category of Learning Disabilities is an educational, not a medical, concept. Medical personnel have no special expertise that allows them to determine whether an individual has LD. The categories of special education were created by and for their utility in education.