All over the United States, children with special needs struggle with an education system that discriminates against them and their disabilities. This inherently unequal system continues to fail them and despite laws enacted to protect individuals with disabilities, students with disabilities and their families have to look for help outside of the school district to protect their children’s rights. In some cases, school districts deny these students their state and federal rights by withholding appropriate placement, services, and accommodations.
A majority of families with special needs children are unaware of the federal right to a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. The few families aware of this federal right and who actually try and advocate on behalf of their child with special needs on their own, get lost in the highly complicated and biased legal system.
Although this legal system started out with the intention of being a “parent-friendly” process where families would be able to advocate on behalf of their child without the need for an attorney, over the years, it has developed into a convoluted bureaucracy of state agencies acting without accountability and without adequate enforcement of state and federal timelines.
Parents now require an attorney to help navigate through intricate and lengthy assessment processes, Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) meetings, California Department of Education complaints, Office of Administrative Hearing requests, and federal court appeals just so their child can access a free and appropriate public education.
The Inclusive Education Project (“IEP”) is a non-profit organization that educates families on special education rights and connects California families with pro-bono legal aid. IEP seeks to spread awareness of parent rights by providing parent workshops and seminars. IEP also fundraises through charity events to fund pro-bono legal aid to California children and families who could not otherwise afford legal representation.