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What services must public schools provide for disabled students?

New York City’s department of education is under scrutiny for alleged information mismanagement issues, particularly regarding specialized educational services.

Specifically, a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires school districts to provide a comparable education to disabled students. That standard is called a free and appropriate public education, or FAPE. If the normal classroom environment is insufficient, the school district is obligated to provide the comparable amount of specialized educational services needed to bridge the gap. Services may include speech or physical therapy, individualized instruction, or other services.

Federal law also requires a school district to track the respective services it provides to disabled students. In New York City, a computer system is designed for that purpose. Yet a recent article claims that failures in the tracking process resulted in over 800,000 errors per day.

Without proper tracking, a disabled student might not be receiving all of the services that he or she needs. As if that weren’t bad enough, the failure of the system may be impacting more than just individual students with special needs. Inaccurate reporting may also mean that school districts lose out on Medicaid reimbursements.

When a school provides inadequate services, a parent may need to turn to a law firm that focuses on special education law. The complexities of IDEA require an experienced advocate. Best of all, a parent who prevails in a lawsuit under the IDEA may be able to recover reasonable attorney’s fees. Although a school district may believe that it is providing a FAPE to a student, only a parent has the kind of relationship to truly understand his or her child's needs.

Source: Chalkbeat, “New York City’s special ed tracking system malfunctioned more than 800,000 times per day, but changes are underway,” Alex Zimmerman, May 9, 2017

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