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Please note: some of the below questions and answers may not contain the most current information as they were published at varying dates.  Please consult a legal advisor for the most up to date information.

Q: The school is refusing to allow my special needs son to transfer out of his current school. He is placed away from the traditional setting and does not get much interaction with non-disabled peers. I want to put him in a charter school where he would do great and would be more integrated into the general population. What do I do? Can I move him now?

A: You do not have to wait for district approval to move him, so long as he was accepted at the charter school. Either request an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting to negotiate this move and the supports to be put in place at the charter school, or simply place him in the charter school now and hold the IEP meeting after the move. Which option you choose really depends on your son’s needs and his ability to move with or without supports in place.

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Q: Where can I get a complaint form for a situation at my school?

A: Contact the district office and request copies of their complaint forms. You can also try locating them on the district website. The district should have forms to address different situations, but what they have can vary. Some forms they might have include a general complaint form, a sexual harassment complaint form, and a personnel complaint form. If they do not have all the forms you desire, you can still put your complaint in writing. You might also want to review the district policies on complaints. Policies should also be available at the district office, or on the district website.

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Q: My son is being involuntarily transferred to a continuation school. Can I fight it?

A: Yes. Per Education Code section 48432.5 if a district wishes to transfer your son you have the right to request a meeting with the district prior to the transfer. At the meeting you should be told the reasons for the transfer, can inspect all documents, and may question evidence and witnesses. You can also present evidence on your son's behalf. A decision to transfer must be based on the fact that your son committed a suspendable offense or that he has been habitually truant or irregular in attendance. Other means of correction should be attempted prior to such a transfer UNLESS your son presents a danger or threatens to disrupt the instructional process if he remains. You should get a written decision if the transfer proceeds, with the reasons supporting the transfer.

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Q: My son is having problems at his home school. I want to move him next year for a fresh start. How does open enrollment apply and what is it?

A: Pursuant to California Education Code school districts are mandated to have a policy of open enrollment. Under this policy, a parent, on behalf of their child, may apply to attend any school in their home district, regardless of where they reside in that district. This means that although a child lives in the area of School A, he/she can still apply for and attend School B across town. Applications are usually mailed to families in the beginning of the calendar year for attendance during the next school year.

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Q: My son was brought into the principal’s office and questioned without me, the parent, being present. Is this legal?

A: Yes. School officials can interview students, can question them, and can ask them to write statements about events which occurred. They can even release your son to the police, and call you afterwards.

You should discuss with your children what they should do if they are ever called into the office.

For example, they should ask to call their parent before proceeding. They may also want to request another individual whom they trust at school be present, such as their counselor. You can also put something in their file informing the school that you wish to be present if your child is to be interviewed.

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Q: I want to monitor my local school board, as I may become a member soon. What are my rights?

A: Access to public boards is regulated by the Brown Act. This act sets forth protections to ensure that public boards provide proper notice, and that the majority of their meetings may be accessed by the public. You have a right to attend school board meetings and to address the board. You also have the right to tape record, or even videotape, the public portion of the meeting.

It is a great idea to become a board member. School boards are the top dogs in local school districts and can create negative or positive changes for the district they represent. If a parent has a problem, they may want to become part of the solution by becoming a board member or bringing concerns to the school board.

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Q: My daughter was suspended a few days ago, and now the school has told me that there is a “pre-expulsion” meeting being scheduled tomorrow. What is this meeting? Is this the expulsion hearing?

A: If school personnel determine that the act for which your daughter was suspended warrants expulsion, they will recommend an expulsion hearing be scheduled within 30 days. If they wish to keep your daughter off campus until the official expulsion hearing is held, they will arrange a “pre-expulsion” meeting. This is NOT the expulsion hearing.

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Q: I want to go visit my son’s classroom. Can I just show up and go in?

A: Generally, to visit a child’s classroom, certain procedures are followed. They usually involve signing in at the school office and obtaining a pass to be on campus. You may also be required to schedule your visit in advance to minimize disruption.

If you do not follow the procedures, you may be escorted off campus and/or the police could even be called. The formalities are ultimately to protect our children, so do not take it personally, just follow the school/district procedures to ensure a smooth transition.

If you want to volunteer in the classroom, coordinate with the teacher in charge on what days/times your help is most needed to maximize benefit and minimize disruption for all concerned. Most schools allow liberal access by parents who want to see their child’s classroom, and welcome parent assistance. Check with your school handbook and/or the school secretary regarding your school’s rules.

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Q: My daughter’s cheerleading advisor has targeted her in a negative manner. She has gotten away with this before with other students who have resigned from cheer. My daughter is thinking of quitting, but we do not think she should have to quit. What can we do?

A: Sometimes a situation is encountered where there is a longstanding problem with an advisor (or teacher). Oftentimes, parents’ think the only remedy is to remove their child from the activity. However, this does not fix the problem as the advisor is still there, getting away with abuse. In fact, it may worsen the situation as the advisor may now think they were correct in their actions.

You should first attempt to approach the advisor with your daughter’s complaints. You should attempt to get the advisor’s side of the story and to reconcile the situation. If this does not work, bring your complaints to the next in command, such as the athletic director. Then, keep going up the chain of command until you get your problem remedied. Meanwhile, document everything that is happening. Having an attorney is also advisable to ensure the situation is addressed properly.

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Q: I heard about a case regarding the rights of students involved with extracurricular activities? What does this have to do with my daughter, who is in the Debate Club?

A: There was a major decision this year by the United States Supreme Court, Board of Education of Pottowotomie County v. Earls, 122 S. Ct. 2559. In this case, the highest court in the United States approved a school district policy requiring random drug testing as a condition of being involved in competitive extracurricular activities. Prior cases had limited such policies to students in competitive sports.

What this means in English is that your District can now adopt a policy requiring your child submit to a drug test prior to joining an extracurricular activity which competes, such as band, cheerleading and even Debate. However your District has to adopt such a rule prior to enforcing it on your daughter. Check your Board of Education policies.

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Q: Why is the school not protecting my son? I have complained regarding my son being abused at school, but nothing is being done. What do you suggest?

A: One of the basics of reporting complaints or wrongdoings to schools is to PUT YOUR COMPLAINT IN WRITING. Write the FACTS down and send them to the District. Who exactly you should send your complaint to may vary, but the Board of Education and Superintendent are always good bets.

Oftentimes parents complain verbally, and later when they try to prove they complained, there is no proof but their testimony. Creating a paper trail is vital to moving on to court and to getting your matter resolved. The District is much more likely to respond to a written complaint than to a verbal one.

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Q: I want to appeal a suspension my son received. What should I do?

A: The best shot you have at appealing a suspension is to hire an education attorney. Districts’ rarely work with parents to remove suspensions. The only possible way this will be resolved is with legal assistance.

With an attorney you can force the District to stand up and take notice of your demands. The District may even have to pay their own attorney just to defend your legal appeal.

General attorneys do not specialize in Education Law issues. As such, you would be best served by hiring an Education Law specialist, such as The Law Office of Michelle Ball, to maximize your chances of success.

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Q: My son was stopped and questioned by a vice-principal regarding an alleged crime he committed. Is this proper?

A: The California Supreme Court recently handed down a decision entitled People v. Randy G. which discussed this very issue. Their decision does not bode well for your son.

In Randy G., the Supreme Court ultimately held that a minor student may be stopped by school officials in order to ask questions or conduct an investigation so long as such authority is not exercised in an arbitrary, capricious, or harassing manner. What this means in laymen’s terms is that your son can be stopped unless you can prove the school personnel are stopping him to harass him or their stop was based on whim, fancy, or was capricious. School officials are given great power as they supervise students in a limited environment. As such, the students have more limited rights than someone outside the school environment.

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Q: Can my child get in trouble for bringing a knife to school? What about a Swiss Army Knife?

A: Schools are heavily regulated as far as what can be brought on campus. One class of prohibited items includes weapons, such as guns and knives.

If a student brings any knife to school they can be suspended or recommended for expulsion, unless they have prior written consent from a certificated employee and the principal or the principal’s designated agent. A knife includes a folding knife with a locking blade, a razor, a weapon with a blade longer than 3 1⁄2 inches, and other similar items.

There may be one argument however against a mandatory expulsion recommendation with a Swiss Army Knife, if the knife has a reasonable use for the student. However, we would strongly advise against tempting fate and would tell your child to leave their Swiss Army Knife at home.

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Q: Can a public school make the wearing of uniforms mandatory? What punishment can be meted out if a uniform is not worn and the parent has not signed a form excusing their child from the uniform requirement?

A: Pursuant to California Education Code section 35183, school districts may adopt dress code policies requiring students to wear uniforms. The purpose of this law is to prevent gang activity and the need to identify ever-changing gang clothing. Parents should be provided with the option to opt out of the uniform requirement which means their children can wear regular clothes to school despite other children wearing uniforms. If parents opt out of the uniform requirement, their children cannot be punished for not wearing uniforms per se.

However, if a parent does not opt out of the uniform requirement and thereby agrees to have their child wear uniforms, their child must wear a uniform every day unless excused by the school/district. Additionally, children may be punished for failing to wear their uniform and such punishment should be outlined in the school district policies.

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Q: Help! I have a complaint about how my daughter's teacher is treating her. What can I do?

A: You may want to speak with the teacher to request he or she change what they are doing. If the teacher will, great. However, if that does not work or this is not something which can be addressed with the teacher, you can request to meet with the Principal to discuss the matter. He or she will likely meet with you and the teacher, and perhaps your daughter, to talk about what happened and what would resolve your complaint quickly and easily.

If things do not work out there, then you should file a personnel complaint in writing with the school district and request to be notified in writing of the results of any investigation conducted.

Other avenues and tactics can also be tried but there are too many to be listed here! Good luck!

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Q: I want to be a special education advocate. How does one go about becoming one?

A: The fact that you want to be a special education advocate is admirable. It isn’t an easy cross to bear, but with the right determination and understanding of what it takes to be an advocate you should do just fine. Some qualities you will need to demonstrate are a strong interest in helping people, ability to hold your position, and willingness to confront the educational system.
The law of special education is vast and complex, while constantly changing. It is important for you to be well versed in all the relevant federal and state laws, federal court rulings, administrative decisions, and other legal information. One does not necessarily have to be an attorney to assist parents and students, but having such a credential definitely assists in getting your points heard and addressed. If you have legal teeth and the power to pursue the schools at a hearing or in court, your case will be more easily won.

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Q: My son is up for expulsion from his school district. What are my rights?

A: You have many rights when it comes to the expulsion of your child. First, you have the right to be represented by an attorney at the expulsion hearing. You may also present witnesses, documents and evidence to the expulsion panel. Prior to the expulsion, you have the right to written notice of the facts and charges upon which the proposed expulsion is based. You may also inspect and obtain copies of all documents to be used at the hearing. Notice of these rights and many others are to be provided to you in writing at least 10 calendar days before the hearing.

It is strongly recommended that you seek legal representation when your child is up for expulsion as the effects of the expulsion hearing can be very far reaching. An expulsion will affect your child far into the future as it will be a permanent black mark on his/her record which could affect admission to college and will reflect on your child's character when applying to enter certain professions.

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Q: My son has an audiological disability (hearing impairment) which I do not fully understand. It definitely affects him in school, but I am not sure what services he needs or what to do next. Please help.

A: Any child with a disability which affects his education is entitled to certain special services and/or accommodations from his or her school. Your son needs a thorough evaluation of his exact disabilities. Depending on the facts of the case, your school may have to provide a thorough assessment of his current condition. Such an evaluation is helpful if it provides the parent with a thorough analysis of the child's condition and what can be done to help improve educational performance. Such an assessment is definitely the starting place for handling educational difficulties that have not been fully assessed.

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emptyQ: My daughter has been verbally threatened at school and now this has turned to shoving. No one is taking action. What should we do, and when does this become something we should report to the District?

A: Anytime there are threats of harm, injuries to students, shoving, pushing, hitting, slapping, or other assaultive types of behavior, it is time to act. You must IMMEDIATELY call school officials to tell them what is going on. It is also imperative that you follow up with a written communication with names, dates, times, facts, and figures, outlining what happened, to whom, etc. This communication should be on good old fashioned letterhead (your personal letterhead) and sent to the Principal, with a copy to the District Superintendent.

Situations like these can be ignored by, or unknown to, school administrators, who can become lackadaisical about an environment which may seem mild, but is actually dangerous. Make it the school’s problem by putting complaints in writing EVERY SINGLE TIME something happens. Then, after five incidents (and five letters), there is quite a paper trail which cannot easily be ignored.

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Disclaimer: This website deals with laws applicable in California. Applicable laws in other states may be different than listed within this website. Any expression of opinion given in the Law Office of Michelle Ball website is not a substitute for legal advice; nor can it be relied on as providing a definitive answer to a problem. Statements in this website are statements of opinion only and should not be found to be Conclusive legal advice. Seeking legal advice on problems you are encountering is strongly and definitely recommended in all situations.


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