Special Education

| Volunteer Resources | Education | Special Education
The law requires that students are given a “Free, Appropriate, Public Education” (FAPE). What, “Appropriate” means, exactly can vary depending on whether the student has a qualifying disability.

If a student has a qualified disability, then the school must provide whatever is necessary for that student to access his or her education. The key to providing special education services is to assess the child, and then if necessary develop an
IEP – Individualized Education Plan.

Getting an IEP Started:

  • 1. Request an IEP in writing. This will trigger mandatory timelines.
  • 2. A CASA volunteer is a “service provider,” and therefore may request that an IEP assessment begin; however, the parent or person holding educational rights must be the one who signs to authorize the actual assessment.

For more help, ask your CASA case manager and refer to the following Fact Sheets and/ or Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.

Foster Youth Education Fact Sheets 2010
These Foster Youth Fact Sheets provide easy to access information on Foster Youth Educational Rights, Special Education, Nonpublic School, Discipline Issues, and more.

Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Handbook
This is – by far – one of the best, most comprehensive guides on special education. If you have a youth who has or needs an IEP, this should be your go-to guide.

(By Case and Disability Rights California).

IDEA vs. 504
Generally, when asking for an IEP it is a good idea to cover all of the bases. There are some needs that will be covered under IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Act and others that will be covered under the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

When asking for an IEP, it is best to request that assessments for BOTH special education under IDEA and section 504 be conducted. Click on this comparison chart to help understand the differences.

Foster Youth and Special Education
Special Issues
Unfortunately, foster youth tend to do less well in school than their peers who are not in care. There are infinite possibilities for why this could be – a child could have been kept out of school, can be suffering from grief and loss, or can be suffering from any measure of trauma. This does not mean that the child has a disability that requires an IEP and provision of special education.

Explore the Possibilities
A child who seems hyperactive might benefit from enrolling in a sport or other activity. Likewise, a child that is not doing well in school might be suffering from being bullied, or just hasn’t had enough hours practicing. Perhaps tutoring is and option. Whatever you can think of that might help a child should be looked at to help them learn. Think outside of the box.

Issues with Compliance
Some schools have special education programs that are impacted, and have waitlists or try to have Student Success Team meetings before moving to a full assessment. However, it is important to note that when a written request for an IEP is made, the school district must comply within the timelines; and, if there is an IEP, whatever is written in the IEP must be provided.

Usually, if there is some issue with a school’s compliance with the child’s special educational needs, a parent will file for a due process hearing, make a complaint to the state, or file suit in civil court. For foster youth, though, we have another tool in to the toolbox – joinder.

If advocacy and diplomacy fail, Welfare and Institutions code § 362 allows the court to “join” a school district as a party and make appropriate orders. Thus, if it is clear that the school is supposed to be providing a service to the child, and the school is not, then bringing them into dependency court is one way to get quick judicial review of the issue. A CASA can make this recommendation to the court and/or may team with the attorneys and the social services agency as needed to accomplish the goal.