Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Oftentimes parents attend Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings where a special education student is denied needed services. Sometimes parents hear reasons such as: “no funding,” or “we just don’t have the resources.”
Are these legal reasons to deny a student related services that will meet their unique needs? No! Not if the student needs the services to receive FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education).
Can You Trust IEP Team Denials?
The whole special education system can be very overwhelming for parents. Parents, unfortunately, often “trust” the student’s IEP team to guide them on what a student should or should not receive as far as special education services, placement, and education.
This may be a mistake if the denials are not based on the students needs and instead are based on money.
Money Alone Is Illegal Reason For FAPE Service Denial
Regardless of the financial problems school districts may have, they cannot deny special education services required for FAPE based on money alone. If a student requires a service (e.g. resource class, speech therapy, or a one-on-one aide) to receive FAPE and to meet their unique needs, the school district should provide the service.
Was a Student Assessment Provided First?
If a school wants to deny or limit services, they have to do so legitimately. In other words, a school should first do a thorough assessment to evaluate whether a student service is needed.
If the school assesses the student properly, they must take the recommendations of the assessor and implement them. Or, if the assessor states the student does not need a service, a decision to reduce or deny a service may not be based on money alone.
However, the problem is that many school districts, instead of assessing a student to find out their needs, may steer a parent away from assessment, or can just deny the request. Sometimes they say that “we can’t afford student speech and language therapy.” Sorry, that is not legitimate.
No Staff? Tough
If the school district does not have staff to provide a service such as speech and language therapy, and the special needs student requires that service, the school district still needs to meet the student’s needs some other way.
For example, the school district can pay a private speech therapist to deliver the speech and language therapy off site and can also pay for transportation to and from the speech therapy.
The school district can’t just say the student won’t receive the service as they don’t have the staff. If the student needs the service to meet their unique needs, it needs to be provided one way or another.
Recording IEP Meetings Can Prove Discrimination
This is one reason why recording IEP meetings is so crucial. Usually, school personnel won’t include in student’s IEP notes everything that is said at an IEP meeting, and likely would not write in “services denied based on lack of funding.”
Parents don’t have to rely on the IEP notes, and can document any illegal service denials simply by recording the student’s IEP meeting (with at least 24 hour advanced notice).
Then, when a school representative says “we don’t offer student speech and language due to lack of funding,” the parent has a record of it. Then, the parent can support a disability discrimination claim with the Office for Civil Rights or can raise the illegal denial basis in a state administrative hearing (aka due process hearing).
If a school is denying student special education services based on money alone, parents need to express that is an unacceptable reason and demand the student’s FAPE services be provided.
Special education student lawyer Michelle Ball assists with IEP meetings, services, enforcement of IEPs and other special education matters. As a Sacramento California attorney she may assist in Elk Grove, Auburn, Roseville, Stockton, Lodi, Marysville, Yuba City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno and many other locations.
[originally published January 31, 2012]