Compton Unified Schools and Their Blood Sucking Lawyers

I just got this email hot off the Outlook press today. This is the stuff that makes my blood boil as the parent of an autistic child who has in the past had to press a due process in order to adjudicate my son’s education. It riles me to NO END when I see the frivolous and outright waste of OUR tax dollars on issues such as the one I linked to below. Rather than just award the child the proper education as deemed by an administrative law judge, school districts and the slimy education law firms that represent them just tap into the seemingly endless pot of financial backing the school district has at it’s disposal. In our own personal experience we found that the school district that chose to go to due process with us in Michigan spend no less than $100,000 in legal fees just to have us win and settle on an amount less than a tenth of that (you can request that through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) like we did to get those figures from our enemy at the time). Please read the summary at Wrightslaw.com about this school district in Compton, CA who were slam-dunked on violation of IDEA (click here). They not only appealed to the Federal Court level and lost their appeal, but took it a step higher and submitted it to the Court of Appeals at the Circuit Level. When that appeal was rejected, they have subsequently made an appeal to have the case tried by the Supreme Court! Can you believe the audacity of this school district? How dare they take an obvious denial of FAPE and WASTE so much money on the legal process. That money is so desperately needed in this time of state budget cuts on student programs and education, not funding the purchase of a new Porsche for one of the partners of the law firm representing Compton Schools!

Remember this my friends in advocacy: Your school district doesn’t have to do SQUAT relative to offering even an ‘appropriate’ education to your child. You have to press, and press and press some more. You see, they don’t have to, and won’t do anything unless compelled legally to act. They can just sit and let time pass. Time is on their side. The burden of proof is on you to make them act to provide the proper program you seek. Time, though, is not on your child’s side.

As unfortunate as it is to see a public institution waste finite monetary resources for ridiculous campaigns like this, as an advocate you have to be prepared that they just may decide to appeal when you win! And if they lose there – appeal again! And when they lose yet again…heck it isn’t their money, it’s the parent’s money – so keep on making the law firms rich and the let the special needs kids suffer!

Jumping over dollars, just to grab pennies. But, like all things related to government waste – why take the easy and fiscally sensible path when you spend ten times as much and then have nothing to show for it.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Insurance Coverage for Autism & the Military, Part #2

I shared some thoughts a little while back on the Military Officers Association Blog. Jeremy Hilton followed up and provided me some great information on their efforts in Washington on behalf of autistic special needs military families. Here is a link to my response to the news he was sharing. Click HERE.
Yes, I agree that although helpful, the coverage provided to autistic dependents through ECHO and the Autism Demonstration is lacking in the amount of services each provides. But, I believe that a large part of the problem exists within the current IEP process for service members. We follow a different career path than the civilian family who typically resides in the same school district for a multitude of years, and only may move several times in their lives. Service members are nomadic. You can count on every 2-4 years picking everything up and moving as the needs of your particular military branch require. That really leaves EFMP families in a lurch – ESPECIALLY those who are not getting the appropriate and necessary treatments afforded them under FAPE and IDEA. The IEP process as is currently mandated puts the burden of proof on the family when the parents do not agree with the service offering of their school district. That means if a resolution cannot be compromised on, then it only leaves a state complaint or due process hearing as options to resolve the differences. For purposes of this discussion I won’t even venture into the cost, length of time and stress this provides to the family, so I will stick to a variation that needs to be address specifically for service members. I believe that the burden of proof should fall on the school district, not the parents, in cases of disagreement. There already tends to be a bias toward nomadic military families as the school district does not want to provide the funding for a family that will only be in-district for a few years at most. Why should they go the extra mile financially to provide proper services (namely ABA) or create an appropriate program for your child when you won’t be around in a few years anyway. Perhaps you’ll bite on just a morsel of what they legally should be providing in hopes it will satiate you enough to provide some “babysitting” (the derogatory term my wife and I call a program offering that is not appropriate which doesn’t provide adequate service to your child) until you PCS to the next duty assignment. With the school district having to provide the burden of proof it will require them to defend the shoddy program offering they are trying to sell to you and justify their lack of service offering. Also, I believe that service members should be afforded a speedier timeline to settle the matter. Due process can drag on for YEARS. By the time a parent files for due process (bearing the burden of proof), has the hearings and perhaps extends into appeals to fight for appropriate services, they will have PCS’d by then and {POOF} … the fight is more or less over. You can’t receive compensatory education from a district in a state in which you no longer reside. And reimbursement for your out-of-pocket investment of services into your child? Fuggedabout it! Fat chance. With a speedier due process timeline, the matters can resolved so if there is, in fact, a legitimate complaint to hear it can be resolved in a timely fashion before the move occurs and a wasted battle occurs.
Since I am in the middle of second campaign to fight for my child’s right to a FAPE with our local district , I guess I am just moved to discuss some of the challenges we have enjoyed personally, or vicariously experienced through other military families. Something has to change at the top in legislation, and it’s organization’s like the MOAA that have a voice in Washington to help make change happen. To this end I would like to thank dedicated members and families who experience the same challenges we do from individuals like LTC Scott Campbell, Jeremy Hilton, and many others whose tireless efforts to effect change for the benefit of all should not go unnoticed.

Please share with me what you think and perhaps experiences that you have had. I’d love to learn and glean from your experience as well!

Let’s begin!

Well, my intention was to have a good handful of postings by now, but when you live with autistic kids you have to make sure to remain flexible – in life, with goals, ambitions, and timing! One thing I always remind myself of as I set a new, firm goal and am committed to it is: “The goal is in stone, but the plan is written in sand.” So, this blog will advance, even if delayed!
The reason for my delay you ask? Well, we’ve been busy for the past few days developing our rebuttal to the response from our Colorado state complaint against our local school district from their attorney. You see, one of the many hats you will HAVE to wear to be a successful advocate for your child (even if you have enough financial wherewithal to hire legal representation to do the work for you) is a thorough understanding of the IEP process, IDEA, FAPE, No Child Left Behind, and your child’s legal rights. Over the years and in multiple states and school districts, my wife and I (more Lisa than I actually) have gained years of valuable experience in the development of IEPs. We also have experience with Due Process having had to take one of the school districts we lived in to court (in which we prevailed, but that is another story for another post). It just so happens that our school district is, in our opinion, in many violations of IDEA and FAPE and so we filed a lengthy and thorough state complaint – the last step in the state of Colorado before heading to due process. The Colorado Department of Education accepted our complaint and virtually all of our points of contention and required the district to respond promptly to our allegations. The district’s expensive legal firm responded and now we have 10 days to file our rebuttal to their response. So goes the legal process when advocating for your child’s right to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE)!
I’ll certainly discuss more of this in detail in due time, but for now please pray for us and/or wish us a continued good fight. As soon as I read through our final draft and we submit it, I’ll be able to launch into the first round of thoughts I have to share!

In advocacy,

Mike