DISCLAIMER: I have provided zealous, efficient and effective representation to families of children with special needs for over 15 years. Here are some of the successful outcomes I have achieved for my clients. Please keep in mind that special education matters depend greatly on the facts of each individual case. The favorable results I achieved in the following decisions do not guarantee I will win the same results in your case. Please contact me to discuss the merits of your particular case.
Many parents come to me seeking tuition reimbursement from their school district so their special needs child can attend a private school. These parents often have tried for years to convince their school districts to help their child but received nothing in return.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides a three part test in such cases. First, Parents must establish that the school district’s proposed program and placement is not reasonably likely to allow their child to make meaningful educational progress. Second, they must prove the private school they selected will allow their child to make such progress. Importantly, a school district cannot avoid tuition reimbursement just because the private school Parent selected is not “approved” by the State of Pennsylvania. Third, the “equities,” including District misconduct and Parental participation in the IEP process, must favor tuition reimbursement. If Parents meet this test, then the District must reimburse their special needs child’s private school tuition, transportation, books, fees, etc. Since private schools for special needs children routinely cost $40,000 per year or more, this is a huge benefit for Parents.
Every case for tuition reimbursement is different. Please contact me for a free consultation so we may discuss the merits of your child’s claims.
Many Parents don’t fight for their children’s special education rights because they think they cannot afford an attorney. However, I have proudly represented Parents with limited financial means for sixteen years. My hourly fees often are much lower than other, far less experienced attorneys. In select cases, we may agree on a cap or limit to Parent’s legal fees.
Plus, under Federal law, if Parents are successful in challenging the school district, they may be entitled to reimbursement for all or some of their attorney’s fees. In that event, I typically reimburse Parents for their prepaid fees to the extent the District reimburses me, less my costs and whatever money Parents still owe me. In this way, I keep Parents’ out of pocket fees and costs to a minimum.
Of course, every case is different. Please contact me for a free consultation so we may discuss your child’s particular special education needs and your unique financial status.
Sadly, many special needs children suffer through years of educational neglect in their public school districts. Compensatory education is an important remedy for such students. It gives them a bank of hours to use, at District expense, for private tutoring, online courses, computers and other educational purposes. In a new case called G.L. v. Ligonier Valley School District Authority, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled there is no limit to the amount of compensatory education a hearing officer may award a deserving child.
In G.L., the District delayed for several years before evaluating the student for special education. Then, instead of helping the child, the administration sought to expel him on residency grounds. Students, administrators and teachers bullied the student for his disabilities. In finding for the parents, the court emphasized that, when a District fails to educate a special needs child:
“ . . . [he or she] is entitled to be made whole with nothing less than a “complete” remedy. Compensatory education is crucial to achieve that goal, and the courts, in the exercise of their broad discretion, may award [remedial education] to whatever extent necessary to make up for the child's lost progress and to restore the child to the educational path he or she would have traveled but for the deprivation.” (Emphasis added).
This is a great victory for parents of special education children. Please contact my office to see if your child has a case for compensatory education.”
I just received the following note from one of my clients. This is why I became a special education attorney:
Dear Mr. Voigt,
Thank you very much for everything. I received your attachments. [My husband] and I are very appreciative of all you are doing for [our daughter]. [Our daughter] says thank you as well. I can honestly say for the first time I feel less scared with the school now. Before, it absolutely made me feel like a bad mom because I couldn't help my own child, because I didn't know what to do at the IEP meetings. My husband and I were so scared because we don't have any family to talk to or know people who are possibly going through like our scenario with [our daughter].
But now we have you, just being here for [our daughter], and all the work you are doing, is sincerely appreciative. For a parent that’s unaware of how to protect there child in the education system or any situation that takes more than just a kiss on the forehead or hot soup for a cold, something that takes hard work and dedication , it's truly amazing. And you are doing something I would not be able to do, that is fight for what’s right for [our daughter]. So once again thank you so much. We wish you and your family a very wonderful weekend and a Happy Valentine's Day.[Parent in Lancaster County]”
Some school districts do not spend the money and effort necessary to write IEP's with measurable baseline data. As a result, I often see IEPs with boilerplate annual goals and “baselines to be determined” later. This shortcut enables districts to write lots of IEPs in short order. However, it violates the student’s rights under the IDEA.
In a recent Federal court case, a school district gave parents an IEP without any data showing where the student was performing at that time. The court struck down the IEP and awarded the parents tuition reimbursement. It emphasized that the district’s omission of measurable baseline data “goes to the heart of the IEP.” Without a starting point, “the IEP cannot set measurable goals, evaluate the child's progress, and determine which educational and related services are needed.”
When you read your special needs child’s IEP, do you have no idea at what level your son or daughter is functioning? Are you frustrated by the IEP’s vagueness and “education-speak?” If so, please contact me to discuss your case in greater detail.
Parents often complain to me that their School District will not offer their special needs child any services because he or she is passing his or her classes. One official even stated that her District did not provide special education to “students who have good skills so they can have better skills."
Districts that take this approach violate Federal law. In one recent Pennsylvania case, an elementary school student had a gifted-level IQ but struggled to pay attention in class. The District refused to evaluate him because his grades were satisfactory. Parents took the case to court. The Federal judge ruled in Parents’ favor and awarded the child substantial compensatory education. The judge emphasized that simply advancing from grade to grade does not automatically mean a child is receiving a free appropriate public education. Rather, schools must consider the child's progress in light of his or her potential. In this case, the student had the potential to be extremely successful. The fact that he was just getting by meant the District had denied him an appropriate education.
Please contact me if you have any questions about this case or any other special education matters.