1. Facts. This means that you have evidence that supports your position that the school district violated your child's educational rights under the IDEA and that this violation resulted in a denial of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE). A violation in and of itself is not sufficient if it didn't result in a deprivation of an educational right.
  2. Expert witnesses. These are people who support your opinion that the child's program is not appropriate. It is valuable if these individuals are well-credentialed in their area of expertise. The testimony of outside experts is often a pivotal factor in due process hearings.
  3. A well-organized case. Meticulous preparation and documentation of the District's inaction or actions are essential. Parents who are organized and committed to the preparation of the case along with their attorney.
  4. The Law. A thorough and nuanced understanding of the law in the area of special education. There are rarely black and white issues in these matters and each case is different.
  5. Advocacy. You must be able to clearly and concisely, present your position to a hearing officer. Emotion is not enough.
  6. Data. When appropriate, the use of data to refute the district's claims of progress or other matters assists the hearing officer in understanding the case. Charts, graphs and other quantitative exhibits can illustrate your case to a hearing officer.
  7. Cooperation. A demonstration to the hearing officer that you have attempted to work with the school to resolve the dispute and participate in the process in a collaborative manner.

Since the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this, I have been once again thinking about how school shootings have become a tragic and all too common event in this country. I have avoided this discussion in a wider forum because the issues are complex and emotionally charged for people. To say nothing is to accept this as the new normal and to dishonor all the children and school personnel murdered and the lives destroyed by this senseless violence.
When my son was four years old, we moved to the North Shore of Chicago. On a beautiful May morning in 1988, the two of us went for a walk in Winnetka, very close to where we lived. This was a time before cell phones announced tragedy or communicated immediate information. In this normally tranquil town where we stood in line waiting to buy a cookie at a bakery, the sounds of sirens filled the air, a helicopter circled over-head; something felt wrong. I told my son that rather than play at the park, we would go home. Once at home, I turned on the television to find the news that there had been a shooting at Hubbard Woods School. Children had been injured and perhaps killed. The shooter, a young woman from the nearby suburb and babysitter to many children had taken hostages in a house less than a mile from ours. I shielded my son from this news as I absorbed the idea that someone would and could walk into a school and kill innocent children. That afternoon the neighborhood was as silent as a tomb, everyone locked inside and stunned.
Later that day, the news of second grader Nicholas Corwin's death was announced, along with other injuries. I couldn't breathe when I thought of this event. I couldn't imagine losing my son at all but to be shot in school seemed a violation of a basic tenet of life. It had until that time never occurred to me that my son, or any child, could be murdered at school, the victim of random violence. We lived in a safe neighborhood, protected from this possibility, or so we believed.
As the years passed following the Laurie Dann shooting, I persuaded myself that this was an exceedingly rare tragedy. Children should go to school and will be safe. My son did, and he was safe, but the notion that at any moment that would change was ever present.
Several years after that shooting I returned to law practice and opened an office focusing on representing children and teens with mental health issues and other disorders. Many of my clients were idiosyncratic and suffering from mental health challenges that made school and life a challenge. Four years after I started my practice, on April 20,1999, the shootings at Columbine High School occurred. The Columbine shooting changed my practice and for the next two years, any student who was different, wearing a black trench coat or appearing a little odd, was met with suspicion. Schools requested evaluations, placed students in alternative schools and over-reacted in many instances to students who were not in the mainstream. No school wanted to be accused of failing to investigate a potential school shooter. Security tightened in school buildings, particularly high schools. Metal detectors were installed in some schools, and the presence of security guards and police assigned to schools increased.
Then the Sandy Hook massacre occurred. This was followed by an outcry by school personnel, gun control advocates or their opponents, accompanied by anguished parents begging for this to stop, generating a conversation that yielded nothing but inaction by our legislatures who are more invested in the gun lobby than the lives of children. At the end of the day, twenty- six people were killed at the school, twenty of them children.
As part of my work, I am in schools several times a week. Following Sandy Hook, bullet proof entrances to elementary and middle schools were built. Security tightened. These efforts are not enough. They may provide an illusion of security but these measures aren't addressing the underlying issues around school shootings and they will not stop these events from occurring again and again.  There have been over  One Hundred  school shootings since Columbine. This number should and does shock me to the core. No one should view this as a given in this country.
The carnage continues. There is no sustained effort to stop this slaughter, to make schools a place of refuge rather than fear. We must do something and this is possible.
Using the Endrew F. Standards to Enhance your Child's IEP

In the wake of Endrew F. v. Douglas County, as a parent lawyer, I am often asked what does the case mean from a practical standpoint? In short, how does it relate to my child's educational plan.
In the fall of 2017, our firm was involved in a case involving a child who had not been in school for two years and required home-bound instruction. The district refused to provide home-bound instruction prior to the late afternoon based on their internal rules requiring that home bound instruction could only occur after the school day was over. For our client, this wasn't an acceptable solution. Her worst hours of the day were late afternoon and she frequently was too ill to participate in the home-bound instruction. As a result, she lost a great deal of instructional time and wasn't available for learning. Multiple IEP meetings were held and the district ignored the parent's request for home bound instruction that was individualized to meet their daughter's unique educational needs. Citing Endrew F., the Impartial Hearing Officer noted that an IEP team must develop an IEP that is specially designed to meet a child's unique needs after careful consideration of the child's present levels of achievement, disability, and potential for growth.
In addition to the denial of appropriate homebound instruction the student was also denied extended school year services. The Hearing Officer awarded the student 330 hours of compensatory tutoring services for one hour per day to remedy the past denial of FAPE. In addition, she instructed the district to provide two hours of home bound tutoring per day by a certified special education teacher during the school day for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year.

  • Is the IEP appropriately ambitious in light of your child's circumstances?
  • Data is helpful in this discussion. Where is the child functioning now?
  • Is the IEP reasonably calculated to help your child make educational progress?
  • What behavioral supports are needed to help your child make educational progress?
  • Is the IEP based on your child's individual educational needs?
  • Has the school explained why what they are offering will allow your child to make appropriate progress?
Preparing for Your Annual IEP Review

Click Here for a PowerPoint for a recent presentation by Micki Moran

Micki Moran
The Child & Family Law Center of the North Shore
1950 Sheridan Road, Suite 201
Highland Park, IL 60035
Phone (847)926-0101
Fax (847)926-8500