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New Jersey lawyer focusing on special education law and employment law

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Preparing For Your First Meeting With A Special Education Attorney

When parents of children with special needs contact me for an initial consultation, I always ask them to bring copies of every document that pertains to their special needs children. No matter how “thick” the file might be, I tell parents that I want to see it. During the initial consultation, I will scan through the documents to get some idea of what I am dealing with and what the potential issues may be.

Some parents, however, do not seem to realize how important it is to share the entire file with their special education attorney at the initial consultation.

In the mind of every special education attorney, every single document is important, no matter how old it might be and no matter how irrelevant a particular document may appear. So, when a special education attorney asks, “Please bring every document that you have in your file,” they really do mean that. Even if you think that a document is irrelevant or “too old,” show it to your attorney anyway. Let your attorney make the decision whether it is relevant or not. You will not waste the attorney’s time by sharing too many documents.

By and large, many of these IEPs, evaluation reports, waiver forms, and correspondences between you and the school are very, very important. In fact, they are among the most important pieces of evidence. Without having had the opportunity to carefully review these documents, it is impossible for any special education attorney to make an educated guess what can be done from here on in.

Thus, if you have a child in the 9th grade who had his first IEP in the 4th grade, I want to see that 4th grade IEP; it is most likely very relevant to your case. If you signed a form waiving reevaluation, I want to see the form; it is most likely very relevant to your case. If you have an evaluation report that was done “ages ago,” I want to see that report; it is most likely very relevant to your case.

Sadly, I’ve had a meeting or two where parents neglected to furnish copies of a medical report, an audiology report, or the first IEP report, because the parents didn’t think it was important. When this happens, it can be particularly frustrating for the parents because they will need to find the documents and then return for another meeting. To save time and money, locate every document that exists, and then organize it either by date or by topic (e.g., IEPs / evaluation reports / progress reports / etc), and bring it to the consultation meeting.

To sum up, if you have any of the following documents (or if you know that the school district has copies of these documents), make a copy and show them to your special education attorney at the initial consultation:

  • all of the evaluations (whether done by the school district or privately);
  • all of the IEPs;
  • any and all forms that you signed (including forms that you signed waiving your right to reevaluation);
  • all report cards;
  • all progress reports;
  • all suspension and disciplinary reports (if any); and
  • all written correspondences between the school district to you (including any letters/emails suggesting that your son drop out of school).

By organizing your entire file in a systematic way, your special education attorney will appreciate knowing how well prepared you are and will be able to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

For more information about locating and organizing your child’s file, see Wrightslaw’s Organizing Your Child’s Special Education File: Do It Right!

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