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

Published on April 21, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

Part five 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 #5:  Not notifying the school of important information about your child until it’s too late.

Too often parents wait until their child is in serious trouble, such as a psychiatric hospitalization or major disciplinary trouble at school, before they begin discussing issues they are having with their child with the school.  Even when a kid has been struggling for months or years, many parents I talk to have been reluctant to tell the school district about events like suicide attempts, “cutting” and self-injurious behaviors, or other “red flags” like ongoing school avoidance.

Therefore, what often occurs is that it takes a crisis for the parents to reach out to educational and other professionals.  Unfortunately, if the first time you are bringing your concerns to the district’s attention is when your child happens to be up for an Expulsion Hearing, the school district and some Hearing Officers will not see your concerns as longstanding, but reactionary.

Tell your school district if your child is exhibiting significant behavioral difficulties. Call the guidance counselor, school psychologist, or social worker if your concerns persist.  Many parents worry that if they tell the school district then “everybody will know.”  Remember, your child’s educational records are private and school district staff are not lawfully allowed to disclose this information to individuals who do not have authorization.  If it makes you feel more comfortable, let the school know that the information is sensitive and should be handled with discretion.

If the situation does not improve over time, and you have documented your efforts to keep the school informed, you will have more credibility when you approach them asking for help and, if they don’t, evidence of their lack of response.

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

  1. Laws
    May 4th, 2009 | 6:26 am

    Great blog, yet another great post!

  2. Rochelle Dolim
    August 24th, 2009 | 7:32 pm

    Haven’t made this mistake either. They say our informing them is disruptive … that too much time is taken up.

  3. Deborah Wilson-Zweig
    April 25th, 2015 | 11:05 pm

    After many absences for headaches, and the school staff witnessing my child’s daily discomfort and being constantly sent to the nurse – never leaving staff in the dark regarding the steps being taken for her – I was presented “coping goals” which were added to her IEP. While thinking they might be good helping her identify the stressors in school that could be creeping up exacerbating the headache… my daughter called crying to pick her up as the social worker was proding her to come up with issues from home that could ‘be creating her headaches.’ While asking if there are stressors at home are not a problem (for me), I had provided the name of the Therapist my daughter has been seeing for a few years and explained she is constantly kept abreast of the situation and communicates directly with her doctors. I discussed in a meeting the very day the ‘questioning’ began that my daughter was in the hospital for an MRI, and there will be subsequent days at Yale for neurological tests and meetings. I am quite outraged that my daughter had to endure the line of questioning (which hadn’t been broached prior), and had even provided the school with bills of the days out, as well as the testing which was set for future dates. Most upsetting is that a social worker tried ‘explaining the headaches could be from ‘issues of her past.’ Further, the headaches were noted by drs to have commenced after suffering a horrible brain injury.

    Apparently being forthcoming with documented information hasn’t helped us in the least!

    I am extremely upset with how this was approached, and my daughter suffered another blow and stress which she didn’t need to be involved in.

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