Dorene Philpot is an attorney who represents children with special needs and their parents in Indiana and Texas.

Often this means going to a due process hearing in order to force the schools to comply with the federal and state protections afforded children with special needs.

Parents frequently do not know what their children's rights are in terms of the education and services offered by the schools, and they frequently feel intimidated by school staffs during case conference committee meetings and feel that they have little input into the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

These problems can have serious impact and their children's progress can be hampered by that lack of knowledge.

"What we have is what you get" is NOT what the federal and state laws provide.

The schools are required, by law, to devise an INDIVIDUALIZED education program for a child, based on that child's individual needs (not on the school's staffing or budget problems) that is reasonably calculated to confer MEANINGFUL educational benefit.

Anything less than that doesn't comply with the law, and is actionable through a due process proceeding.

A child's right to due process can be violated either procedurally or substantively -- sometimes it's both.

Examples of how the schools commit procedural violations:

  1. Failure to devise an appropriate IEP based on the child's individual needs.
  2. Failure to implement the IEP as written.
  3. Failure to allow the parents to meaningfully participate in the IEP development process.
  4. Failure of proper personnel to be present during the case conference committee meetings.
  5. Failure to give notice of rights, planned meetings.
  6. Failure of the school to prevent punishment of the child for actions or inactions that are manifestations of the child's disability (caused by the child's disability).
  7. Failure to train staff and aides in the child's areas of disability.
  8. Failure to train parents in the child's areas of disability.
  9. Failure to maintain proper records.
  10. Predetermining placement and services before the case conference committee meeting.
  11. Failure to conduct necessary evaluations of the child.
  12. Failure to provide education and services in the least restrictive environment, based on that child's individual needs.
  13. Failure to offer extended school year services to the child, resulting in regression of skills during the summer vacation that cannot be recouped quickly.
  14. Failure to convene a case conference committee meeting.
  15. Failure by the school to notice that the child was one in need of special education or services, despite evidence that the child was struggling academically or behaviorally.
  16. Failure to provide records within 45 days when requested by parents.
  17. Failure to allow the special needs child to participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as his non-disabled peers when the child could participate with accommodations provided by the school.