The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees special ed students extra help no matter how much it costs.
Can IEP Teams Say “No” To Special Education Services Based on Money Woes? No, No and No!
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Oftentimes parents attend an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, and although their child needs additional services to meet his or her goals, can be denied needed services based on reasons such as: “no funding,” or “we just don’t have the resources,” or “that is not available here as there are no staff.” Are these legitimate reasons to deny a student services that will meet their unique needs? No!
The whole special education system can be very overwhelming for parents and they often “trust” the IEP team to guide them on what their child should or should not receive as far as services, placement, and education. Parents may also simply accept an IEP team denial of services based on money woes of the school district. However, regardless of the funding problems school districts seem to be having right now, they cannot deny special education services based on those issues. If a student requires a service (e.g. resource class, speech therapy, or a one-on-one aide) to receive an appropriate education to meet their unique needs, the district should provide the service.
If a district wants to deny services, they have to do so legitimately. In other words, do a thorough assessment to evaluate, and prove the service is not needed. If they do this, they may be able to “legitimately” defend themselves on a decision to reduce or deny services. However, the bottom line is that many districts still will flat out say that “we can’t afford speech and language therapy,” and tell the parent to take a hike. Sorry to say, but that is not legitimate.
If the district does not have staff to provide a service such as speech and language therapy, and the special needs student requires that service, the district has to provide the service another way. For example, the district can pay a private therapist to deliver the speech and language therapy off site and can also pay for transportation to and from the therapy. The district can’t just say the child won’t receive the service as they don’t have the staff. If the child needs the service to meet their unique needs, it needs to be provided one way or another.
This is one reason why recording IEP meetings is so crucial. Often parents can document denials based on lack of money simply by recording the meeting. When a school/district representative says “we don’t offer speech and language due to the budget crisis,” or words to that effect, the parents have a valid argument which they can later raise in a due process hearing to overcome the denial.
If a school or district is denying services based on money, parents need to stand up and say that is an unacceptable reason for the denial and demand the service be provided.