Area of Law:
The Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act, or IDEA, provides free appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children. The practical application of this statute is evidenced by ensuring that children who are mentally, behaviorally, and/or physically challenged have access to FAPE. Families raising children with disabilities may feel overwhelmed when it comes to figuring out how to give their children an appropriate education that also provides them with as much independence and self-confidence as possible. Fortunately, Alabama has several options for families of children with disabilities that can help them obtain free legal support concerning their children’s educational rights.
The Alabama Department of Education Office of Special Education Services'website offers free legal aid via a wealth of information and links for families of special needs children. According to the website, the Office of Special Education Services provides technical assistance for entities serving the state’s special needs children, along with its gifted children; ensures that those entities comply with laws and regulations; and processes requests for due process hearings and mediation when parents and educators disagree about a child’s special education program.
The website offers free legal assistance by providing links to online information as well as contact information for individuals working with the administrative code, occupational diploma, assessment, assistive technology, budget, gifted students, monitoring, preschool, programs, forms, and statistical information. An additional individual listed under “other” handles material requests, special education coordinators, and forms. The legal services department handles such issues as discipline, due process procedure, complaints, manifestation, and determination.
This website also includes free legal support through links to related state code sections governing special education, and informative publications. The section entitled "Mastering the Maze" provides information about the Individualized Education Program, or IEP, as well as the process of revoking consent for special education. The link to “Disability Areas” offers legal support by providing information about different disabilities and by offering various checklists to use when evaluating special needs students.
The Alabama Parent Education Center is a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to families of children with disabilities through training and information. This organization operates the Alabama Parent Training and Information Network for Children with Disabilities (AL PTI NCD) and the Alabama Statewide Parent Information and Resource Center (ALPIRC). Both organizations have on-going projects to assist special needs children and their families.
Though the basic rationale of provision of FAPE may seem straightforward, it can get complicated when those who care about the special needs child have differing views about how to best provide him or her with appropriate public education. Parents who find themselves needing either to request a due process hearing or to participate in mediation may necessitate the assistance of an attorney to lead them through the process. Alabama residents can find an attorney who provides legal services in the area of special education law through the Alabama Bar Association lawyer referral service. Click where indicated “to receive your referral online," then click the radio button to accept the service terms, then click “submit." On the next page, click “Education,” then “School Law-Special Education." Fill in the form and click “submit.” The bar association will then contact you with a referral.
Special education law may become adversarial at times, but it is important to keep in mind that everyone involved has the same goal, and that is doing what is best for the special needs child to ensure that he or she will have access to FAPE, or free appropriate public education. Fortunately, Alabama has several options for obtaining information to help achieve that goal.