Special Education by the Numbers
According to figures compiled by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services in 2019, out of the 2.8 million students in Pre-K through 12th Grade in the State of Florida, approximately 414,000 have a disability. This accounts for 14% of all school children in the state.
FLDOE collects data on the overall academic performance of its special education students. Below is data primarily collected from the students of the 2018-19 academic year:
- 77.41% (with a target of 62.3%) graduated from high school in the 2016-17 academic year.
- 96% and 96.36% of special needs students participate in reading and math, respectively.
- Only 26.02% and 32.07% (with a target of 66.0%) of students demonstrate proficiency in reading and math, respectively.
- Only 25.58% (with a target of 39.00%) of students remained in higher education within one year of graduating secondary school.
How Can an Attorney Help My Special Needs Child?Everyone needs legal assistance from time to time, including special needs students striving to earn an education. All school districts must comply with certain state and federal laws and regulations to provide students with the minimum standard of education. Unfortunately, because of a lack of funding, past practices, or little oversight, these institutions neglect their legal responsibility to children—none more so than children with special needs. Thus, an experienced special education attorney can determine if your special needs child is receiving the appropriate services based on their needs.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in education and established the basis for reasonable accommodations for these students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) goes further and requires schools to provide eligible students with a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE).
To provide FAPE, public school districts (including charter schools) must appropriately identify special needs students and ensure that they are taught in the least restrictive environment with necessary services and accommodations. The districts must also comply with federal standards for special education, meet every special needs student’s individualized needs, adequately fund special education programs, and establish due process procedures for parents to contest decisions made by school districts regarding a special needs student’s education.
These federal laws are the basis for any legal action taken against a school district for failing to meet FAPE standards. Our experienced special education attorneys can advocate for your child’s interest if filing legal action is necessary to provide them with the education and support they deserve.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a federally mandated plan created by the parents, teachers, and other stakeholders involved in the education of a special needs child to provide that child with the resources needed for their education. IEPs can be complicated because they require evaluation of the individual child’s needs, cooperation of the involved parties, knowledge of the child’s rights, and resources to facilitate that child’s education.
When a child has an identified disability, the school district must create an IEP annually with that child’s parent(s) or guardian(s). This includes an in-person meeting with parents, teachers, administrators, and other necessary service providers to review the child’s needs and implement a plan for their education. IEPs assist in evaluating a child’s performance levels and create a plan to reach specific educational goals based on individual needs and the services and accommodations required to meet those goals.
Creating an IEP may seem like a straightforward process. But, you may be asking yourself, how are my child’s needs different from other students’ needs? Are the services currently being provided by the district adequate and meeting my child’s needs? Creating a plan is one thing, but ensuring the IEP is implemented appropriately and that your child is being afforded proper placement are other necessary factors of FAPE. Having an experienced special education attorney to advocate on your child’s behalf to draft, analyze implementation and compliance with an IEP, and pursue further remedies as needed can provide a parent or guardian peace of mind that their child’s needs are met.
Special Needs PlanningNot only will our experienced special education attorneys help with advocating for your child’s interest inside the classroom, but our attorneys can also aid in planning for your child’s future.
In certain instances, a child with special needs was not born with a disability. Sometimes, they are caused by personal injury or medical malpractice, resulting in legal settlements and large sums of money awards.
When this occurs, money may be deposited into a trust fund or other account that can only be used for specific purposes. Thus, a special needs attorney can aid parents through the process of protecting and using these funds for their intended purposes, like paying for your child’s education, living, or medical costs.