Education lawyers work with clients who have been harmed in an educational setting — from preschool to postgraduate school, both public and private. An education lawyer handles a wide variety of issues, from Civil Rights cases, to Title IX offenses, to special education issues and personal injury lawsuits.
Individualized Education Plans (IEP)
Parents of special needs children face enough unique challenges at home, and they shouldn’t have to face more at school. To not make accommodations for a special needs child is a form of discrimination — all students are entitled to a quality public education, even if some may learn differently than others. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides nationwide protections and standards that schools must abide by to provide for special needs learners. If your child has certain types of disabilities, they may be entitled to an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. If your child’s school is not holding IEP meetings, your child has been wrongfully denied an IEP or an evaluation for one, the school is not providing you with progress reports, or is failing to implement any aspect of an established IEP, consult an education attorney who can help guide you through the complaint-filing process. We receive an especially high number of IEP complaints from parents of children with more severe forms of autism.
Like an IEP, a 504 Plan ensures that all public school activities are available to all students, and that adjustments must be made for special needs. A 504 Plan is a bit broader than an IEP in terms of the types of student disabilities it encompasses. To receive a 504 Plan, a child may have any disability at all that interferes with their ability to learn in the context of a general education curriculum. If your child’s school is refusing to evaluate your child for a 504 plan, wrongfully rejecting your child for a 504 plan, disallowing your child from trying out for extracurriculars, failing to provide progress reports, or failing to comply with any element of an existing 504 plan, consult an education attorney to guide you through the complaint-filing process. We receive an especially high number of 504 Plan complaints from parents of children with Aspberger’s.
Physical abuse has absolutely no place in the classroom. To hear that your child has been touched or handled in an inappropriate, sexual, or aggressive manner is among the most maddening feelings a parent can possibly endure. Nobody has the right to touch your child without their consent — even special needs teachers should be trained in de-escalation tactics that avoid physical restraint methods as much as possible. Gentle, friendly touching may be appropriate as agreed-upon by parent and teacher to soothe and encourage a special needs student, but any unwanted physical engagement by a teacher should absolutely be discussed with an education lawyer as soon as possible to put a stop to it immediately.
Neglect or Gross Neglect
Neglect or gross neglect may give rise to a lawsuit against a school if harm or injury was sustained by a student as a direct or contributing result of an educator’s extreme neglect. While accidents do happen, especially where young children are concerned, it becomes a different story if school staff are entirely absent from the playground or classroom, habitually providing inadequate supervision, failing to administer medications as instructed, or subjecting students to hazardous conditions which a reasonable person would have noticed and attended to. If your child has sustained a physical or psychological injury at school because of a staff member’s neglect, consult an education attorney to explore your legal options.
Child abuse is one of the most heinous offenses imaginable for good reason — whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual, child abuse leaves lasting scars on an innocent victim lacking the power to defend themselves. When we send our children to school, we place a sacred amount of trust in school personnel to care for our children while we are not. When our children are abused, that trust is abused as well; often shaking parents to the core. Depending on the type and extent of the abuse your child has suffered, the offender may face criminal charges. But the school or district may also be responsible for paying civil monetary damages, as they have a duty of care to oversee and thoroughly vet all staff members under their employ. It is a sad fact that many schools fail to do their due diligence in this regard, and until someone brings a formal lawsuit against an abusive educator, they may be free to continue hurting other children. If your child has been abused in school, in any way, talk to an education lawyer right away.
Over 25% of all students report having been bullied at some point in their educational career. The most common time for bullying is during middle school, but it can and does happen at any and every age. Both schools and courts are taking a more proactive approach to bullying prevention in recent years, as social media continues to worsen the problem and even drive some students to attempt or commit suicide. Keep in mind that, in California, all schools are required to develop and enforce an anti-bullying policy. If they fail to do either, they may be legally liable if your child is bullied on their watch. All staff members at a school are required to intervene if they observe a student being bullied, and if other people witnessed a teacher or staff member failing to do so, you may have a case against your child’s school or district. And especially if your child is being bullied by other students as a direct result of a teacher’s efforts to hurt or humiliate them in front of the class, you may have legal grounds to sue the school.
Sadly, discrimination claims are a very common complaint in both public and private schools, though they must be attacked from different legal angles. Students in public schools enjoy Constitutional protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, color, creed, national origin, religion, or genetic information. In California, children are also protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If your child has been the victim of discrimination, you may literally have to “make a federal case out of it,” and are encouraged and entitled to do so. Chances are, if this has happened to your child, it has happened to other students in the same protected class, and you may be able to join forces with other parents to file a class action suit.
For private school students who are the victims of discrimination, the process can be a bit more tricky, as discrimination tends to be the very point and allure of private schools. Ostensibly, private schools can select and instruct their students however they want. But this may not be the case if a private school, charter school, or otherwise independent school receives federal funding and/or government subsidies. If they do, they may be liable for exactly the same kinds of discrimination lawsuits as public schools. But even if not, discrimination lawsuits can still be brought against private schools for breach of contract, fraud, or negligence.
Class Action Lawsuits
In recent years, especially in California, class action education lawsuits have been a supremely influential and powerful way for wronged students to band together and effect justice and rightful compensation, often without having to pay attorney’s fees unless and until the case is won. While class actions may take quite a bit longer than individual lawsuits to get resolved, and the monetary damages awarded are generally split evenly between plaintiffs, it is often the case that the losing party will be ordered to pay your attorney’s fees , so that your share of compensation isn’t reduced by them. Joining a class action lawsuit can be an excellent solution for students and parents belonging to a protected or discriminated-against class, or those able to rally a larger group of similarly-aggrieved parties at the institution they are challenging.