Comments from the ATTORNEY,
Recently a young woman (Jane) came to my office to discuss her younger sister (Sara) and the educational problems Sara was having. The father was deceased and the mother did not want to get involved with the school system. The mom would say “Sara is fine she just doesn’t work hard enough.” Sara was being passed on from grade to grade. She worked very hard but was not performing anywhere near her potential and in fact was reading way behind grade level. Her school did not appear to be doing anything to help her.
I suggested to Jane that inasmuch as her mother was not willing to do anything, she should go to Sara’s school, talk to the chairperson of the Committee on Special Education and explain the situation. Sara was having. Any documentation that Jane might have relating to Sara’s disability would be helpful. I told Jane not to let the school tell her that there was nothing they could do unless Sara’s mom were to come in and make the request.
The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that any child with a disability be “identified, located, and evaluated” by the school district. This is referred to as the “Child Find” provision of the law. Jane’s conversation with the school puts them on notice that Sara might be a child with a disability and triggers their responsibility to investigate further. If they feel that an evaluation is appropriate they must then request the parent to consent to the evaluation. If parental consent is withheld there are various consent override procedures that the school must follow if they wish to proceed and evaluate Sara in the absence of such consent.
Once the evaluation is completed and if it is determined that Sara is a child with a disability and is in need of special education, there is still one more potential obstacle standing in the way of Sara’s actually getting the special ed she needs. This is the extent of mom’s resistance to special ed for her daughter. Even though an initial evaluation can be obtained without the parent’s consent, the actual providing of special ed cannot. This could be the deal-breaker. Jane’s, or the school’s, power of persuasion is hopefully up to the task.