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

Published on March 17, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

Second 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 made this mistake, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t made this mistake, DON’T, since it could lose your case for you down the road.

MISTAKE #2:  Saying that you want “the best” program for your child.

You are not legally entitled to the “best” special education program out there.  The IDEA requires a “Free and Appropriate Public Education.” The courts have interpreted this to mean that schools must provide a “Chevy not a Cadillac.”

A large percentage of the cases which end up in Due Process really boil down to this very issue.  So, if you can, try to avoid feeding into the perception that you are looking for the absolute best that money can buy, at public expense.  This mistake includes saying you want to “maximize the potential” of your child, referencing how much better their grades could be if only they were getting “better” services, and making comments that could be perceived as being judgmental about other types of disabilities (e.g., “you have her in a classroom with kids who are clearly not college bound”).

Please understand, I personally find it outrageous (and legally dubious) that school districts routinely tell the special education community that they are only required to provide an “appropriate” program to kids with disabilities, while simultaneously writing mission statements about “excellence” in education and touting “blue ribbons.”   Apparently, the ribbons are only for children who do not have special needs.  I get it.  But you have to operate within the confines of the current status of the law.

Ultimately, your argument that your individual child’s needs are not being properly met will be far more effective if you haven’t allowed the school district’s attorney to distract the Hearing Officer in your case from the real issues, by putting into evidence all of your emails and letters demanding the “best” program for your child.

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

  1. Rochelle Dolim
    August 24th, 2009 | 7:25 pm

    We’ve always asked for the appropriate placement and accommodations … they are the ones who bring the word ‘best’ into it so they can entrap parents.

  2. Viola Marie Marie Patterson
    November 24th, 2009 | 11:03 am

    I am one who has made that mistake of wanting the “best”. I need the perfect words to say in her behalf before Dec. 15 when the IEP is due. Thank you for the help. Please email mail me back

  3. Katerine
    August 27th, 2012 | 10:04 pm

    There is no best–there is….well, as i learned options. i have an older teen with LD-dyslexia. She had the best but now she needs to be more typical with her classmates via classes beyond the remediation she receives. That is ok–sometimes the best takes away and what the school offers may be just enough when kids are older struggling readers. Many get tired of all the remediation and succeed without the “best program” but succeed with the program available, determination and a vision for their future.

    We parents ask for the best–our older LD kids may want enough