Friday, June 28, 2013

Last year we had our attorney file a compliance complaint when our district, Chino Valley Unified School DIstrict, and WESELPA called to cancel an IEP meeting at the last minute.  We were called 32 minutes before the meeting was to have been held in Rancho Cucamonga, it takes about that long to get there, we were in fact on the way out the door.  When we tried to stop the cancellation we couldn’t because the staff who cancelled the meeting had not yet even come into work.  It was obvious that this cancellation was some sort of funny business, and it made it so my daughter’s IEP meeting was held a month late.  As a result her goals were not updated and we incurred financial loss due to taking off of work and having scheduled a sitter that we then had to pay despite the lack of need.  Additionally, her school, a specialized non-pubic school also was negatively effected as they had hired three substitutes that theythen had to pay at least a minimum amount due to the extremely late cancellation of hte meeting.  This is a definite compliance issue and so we asked our attorney to file theis complaint on our behalf.  I have filed many of these myself but this one got a bit complex so I asked him to handle this one.  We won the complaint easily.  It was our understanding that in the event of our winning a compliance complaint against the district we would be reimbursed for our attorney expenses, these totaled $5542.16.  When the district refused to reimburse us for those expenses we allowed our attorney to file a suit against the district for the cost of those expenses.  We were not aware that the cost could be avoided by the district if the judge found that the complaint was not substantial enough in the judge’s eyes, and that is what happened, so we did not win our attorney's fees as we expected. 

In order to fight this fee of of $5542.16 the district paid the legal firm of Fagen, Friedman, and Fulfrost $15,829.39.  When the district felt they had spent enough, perhaps they reached their limit, they went to the Superintendent’s Council and convinced them to pay the remainder of the legal fight.  An additional $33,702.07 was spent by West End SELPA, for a grand total of $$49,531.46.  This much to fight $5542.16.  Nothing was gained in the fight, no precedents set, nothing but the avoidance of a $5542.16 attorney bill.  Taking away the cost saved, it put the district and WESELPA in the red for $43,989.30.

Now, if it was me, I would try to take care of the district’s money as though it were mine.  I would have started by trying to negotiate a lower fee, which we likely would have considered.  Tthe district could have probably negotiated and paid us $3500.00 to $4000.00, maybe a bit more.  No one tried to negotiate at all.  Instead the district seems to have gone along with the district's attorneys who were the only ones who would gain in this plan, and gain they did, to the tune of nearly $50,000.  I would hope the district would ask questions, and would place caps on the amount of money they are willing to spend to save a relatively small amount of money.  Certainly about 10 times the original fee is outrageous.  I can only assume that we are not the only family that the district and WESELPA has overspent on legal fees in order to beat.  Had the district lost, which is a possibility with a different judge, it could have cost even more - about another $50,000.00.  The only real winners in this entire issue are thedostrict's attorneys.  The district won nothing, the family won nothing.  I would consider who it is that is recommending I spend more money than I would save, and if it is the person or group that stands to gain I would take that into account when determining how much I would be willing to spend.    

I am hoping that given this information the Board members will look into other legal battles and see if the district can in fact, save some of the money spent on litigation in the future.  This year alone the Chino Valley Unified School District spent $620,404.34 in legal expenses, some of this cost was for special education litigation, and I don’t know how much more was covered by the WESELPA.  Wouldn’t it be better to see that the money sent to the district be used to educate our children?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Recording Your Meetings

When parents tape in CA we have to give 24 hour notice - I usually give that notice early on in my child's education and then I send a reminder - that way if I don't get the full 24 hour notice they were already notified years ago.

I have only once or twice needed the tape, but I have often listened to portions over again to remind mself as I don't always remember exactly how things went since it is a very emotional time, I am advocating for my child's life!

Also, if I record, the district records - which is great, since there have been times when I forgot to turn the recorder back on or some other foolishness and they have a record!  I can request it along with my child's educational records!

For me, my iPhone is the best recorder I have ever used.  It picks up sound better than any others I have tried.  I use the app Audio Note and I love it.  I have only recently begun to use it well, which is, to take notes of what happens so I have documented where to find what I may want to hear later.  That way I can go right to the area that includes the recoding that I need to hear again.  Other prefer other recording devices, but you have to find what works best for you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Questions to Ask Re: Your Child's Reading Program

  • If your child is having reading difficulties the district will often try to avoid doing anything tht is research based to help them your child.  By law the programs used must be research based and the shool must collect data in order to know if what they are doing is helping, if it isn't helping the district must change their methods. 

    When they offer a program we need to ask:
    1. Is this a research based program?
    2. How will it be implemented?
    3. How will data be taken?
    4. Has the research been peer reviewed?
    5. Who did or funded the research? If it was done by the manufacturer or marketer, you wnat to know if ther eis additional research.
    6. What population is the research based on? It should be based on the same group that they are planning to use the program with. IE: If research was with gen ed, may not work with Special ed, ELL won't tell you if it works with Special ed either.
    7. How large was the study group?

    If the district says they are implementing a reading program we need to ask:
    1. What is the district doing to help my child's reading improve?
    2. Are they using a research based program?
    3. How have they been implementing the program?
    4. Can we look at the data?

    5. Has the research been peer reviewed?
    6. Who did or funded the research? If it was done by the manufacturer or marketer, you wnat to know if ther eis additional research.
    7. What population is the research based on? It should be based on the same group that they are planning to use the program with. IE: If research was with gen ed, may not work with Special ed, ELL won't tell you if it works with Special ed either.
    8. How large was the study group?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Choosing an Expert

Things to do before signing up for an expert to do your IEE:

Check their CV.  Do they have the proper qualifications?  Do not take anyone's word that they have qualifications, even your attorney.

Find out if they are on the District's list of preferred providers - if they are, you likely don't want to use them.

Get references from other parents - you might be able to use a preferred provider, but be careful, only use them if they come reommended by other parents who have used their reports to get services for their chldren without going to court if possible.

Look at one of their reports - hopefully they have on with private information redacted or you may be able to see a friend's report.


Questions to Ask About a BSP - Is it Being Implemented?

  • Questions to ask about BSP and implementing it.

    1) Ask to see the BSP (many times it can't even be found)

    2) Ask for the documentation that shows it was implemented.

    3) Ask for the ongoing data collection/progress monitoring.

    4) Ask how do we know this is working if we don't have the data? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Is Your Attorney Really an Attorney?

Recently a friend of mine found herself in a difficult situation.  It seemed that her "attorney" was doing everything wrong.  She shared that he was overbilling her for IEP meeting atendance, he was asking the district for things for her son that were not justified.  He requested a Non-public school when that is not what the parents wanted and not what was recommended in the IEEs that the district had paid for.  We began to ask a question, was this guy truly an attorney?  A question that should have been asked at the beginning of the search for an attorney.  But he had led us to believe he was an attorney, when the word attorney was mentioned, he did not deny that he was an attorney, he spoke at training meetings and it was at the very least inferred that he is an attorney.  Well, it turns out he isn't an attorney.  How did we find out?  We went online to the state bar associateion website, put his name in, and you guessed it, he is not listed as an attorney with the California Bar Association.

In the future, if I have any dealings with any attorney on any issue, I will go to the website and find out if they are indeed listed as an attorney in my state.  For California that site is  Every state will have their own website, but if you are paying for an attorney I would want to be sure that the person is indeed an attorney.

PWN - What, Why, and How it Can Benefit You

PWN tells you a lot.  If the district has real reasons for their denial of a service it wil be included.  If they don't have any good reasons to deny your child a service, such as budget constraints or just because they can (in their opinion), then it is your green light to go the next step - either a compliance complaint or an Alternate dispute resolution, Mediation only, or Due process request.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Using Paperwork to Prove Your Case

This is a must read!  What a great way to achieve a needed outcome for your child without attorneys and advocates, without due process hearings.

How to Be An Effective Advocate!&id=6366014

A great article on how to become an effective advocate adn get your child's needs met.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Q & A Should I Walk Out of an IEP Meeting?

I can't go into specifics, but I had a huge difficulty in my IEP today and I wanted to walk out early because it was going nowhere. What should I have said? Have you ever left an IEP early for that reason? After hours and hours, I ended up not signing the IEP it and rescheduling for another day.

It's pretty difficult to know how to suggest what you should have said.  Each situation is so different.  I would never suggest walking out of an IEP early, I think you did well to stay.  I always take my IEPs home, unless it is very simple, so that I don't have to worry about what is in the paperwork as I can very clearly see that the goals are what we discussed, the services are what we discussed and the notes are simple and I can take in what it says easily.  I just did that with an IEP that was to discuss an IEE and the district agreed to do exactly what we wanted, we wrote one goal, there was no change in services, and less than half a page of notes.  But that is rare.

I would write out what I wanted to see happen, maybe even send it to the head of Special ed if you think that would help.  If you need an evaluation to back up what you wanted think about that.  Was this a Triannual IEP?  If so you are entitled to an IEE in every area you think should be addressed.  They may try to say you are only entitled to them in areas that they addressed but that isn't true, they should have already addressed all areas of suspected disability and if they didn't then you have the right to an IEE in an area that you suspect now. It is best to include your suspected concerns on the Assessment Plan, but you are not responsible for all of the assessments being on there, they are.  If it wasn't a Triannual then you may need to ask them for evaluations and then get the IEEs after they present you with evaluations because their evaluation had to be within a year.  

I think it is always better to sign for the aspects of the IEP that you agree with (though usually at home), you will also look more reasonable that way should you end up in due process later.  I usually sign for goals and services except that I may disagree with the services being so few maybe in behavioral - so I would say "I agree to implementing the IEP as it is, but I do believe that there should be more behavioral therapy than is being suggested.  I will accept what is current ly being offered but do not agree that it is enough."  Or if they are suggesting reducing or removing services I would say "I do not agree with the reduction in services offered in this IEP.  I would like to request an IEE to confirm if the reduction is reasonable and in the meantime, I would like the district to continue the services as they were presented in the last IEP."  Then I would send a letter requesting the IEE and mention the stay put for services that you have requested.  The cannot legally discontinue services or reduce them now without taking you to due process to prove that they were right.  Most often the district will need to give you the IEE unless they are also prepared to insist that their evaluation was adequate - which then means you would need to get the evaluation and pay for it out of pocket and have the expert show that their evaluation was crap, but that may be a long way out and my never happen, just trying to give you advance warning. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Attorney Advice

The above link is to a review of what a Special Ed attorney shared with parents of students in Special Education.  There are some excellent tips about goals and red flags in the IEP meeting.  Good reading!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Power of "No"

"No" is an incredible word, when used judiciously.  We have had occasion to say "no" to changes in our children's IEPs.  When we say "no" to changes we say "yes" to stay put.  Many district will not however, enact stay put unless the parents specifically request stay put.  I always make it a point to tell all at the IEP meeting that I am requesting that they initiate stay put until such time that we come to an agreement, sometimes this may be until we get an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) that confirms the districts belief that my child is no longer in need of or ready for a reduction in services.  I then follow this up with a letter just to be sure that they got my message.  If I wait, thinking they are giving a service as prescribed by law, I may find out months later that they did not do as requested, so I do everything in my power to be sure that services are being provided as they must by law be given.

Following the Money

From Special Needs Advisor:

This is a well thought out view, though sadly, I have to admit, I believe there are some evil people in the world who seem to enjoy doing any trick they can think of to avoid getting services to our kids with special needs.