While many parents care deeply for their children and are actively involved in their child’s education, they are woefully unaware of their child’s rights in education. Many parents believe that while at school, their child is being cared for in the same manner they would care for them as parents. Parents are justified in this belief. A school should be a place where every child can learn in a safe and secure environment, no matter the child’s abilities or needs. A close examination may prove that this is not always the case.
For instance, many schools shun the responsibility of proper service of their special education students and 504 students; despite the fact that both types of students are protected under Federal Law. Teachers with 30-35 students to a classroom are overwhelmed with responsibilities, not the least of which is making sure that every Individual Education Plan is followed and every accommodation under each 504 is fulfilled. This can become an impossible task without the proper support. Many public and private schools, lack the support needed to adequately provide for the student’s and the teacher’s needs. This may be due to budgetary constraints, a lack of administrative oversight, poor management, poor teaching, and a lack of effort. In most cases it is a combination of all of the above. Many good schools drop the ball when it comes to special education.
So how do you know if your child is being properly cared for? Ask. It is your right to ask your school’s principal if all of the modifications or accommodations that are part of your child’s plan are being followed. And, if your child is struggling and is not on an Individual Education Plan or a 504 Plan, ask whether the staff at your child’s school believes that your child qualifies for such a plan. A school cannot refuse a request from a parent to meet and discuss their child’s educational progress. In fact, most schools encourage it. When a parent appears to be disengaged in their child’s schoolwork, many times the school assumes that the parent simply does not care. Parents show they are engaged by contacting the school and their child’s teachers.
Lastly, if you do feel that your child is struggling in school and the proper steps are not being taken to assure your child’s education is the absolute best it can be; contact an attorney familiar with school law and special education law. They can steer you in the right direction and, if necessary, represent you going forward to assure that your child is property taken care of. There is nothing wrong in asking for help, especially in the complicated world that is education today.
Joseph W. Jussaume is a partner at Eno Martin Donahue, LLP. He is also an 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at the H. J. Robinson Middle School in Lowell, MA.