Public, Private, Charter, OH MY!

I have always worked in public schools and I grew up attending many public schools. Even now, my child goes to a public school. Fortunately, the school Killian goes to is a fantastic school and one of the best IEP schools in his district. But, I wonder what it would be like if that weren’t the case. What if his school was awful or didn’t follow through with their obligations and IEP guidelines? Would he be allowed to switch schools? What if we wanted him to attend a Christian based private school, or even home-school? (Okay okay, you can stop laughing at the idea of me home schooling. We all know THAT will never happen.)

So, what exactly are the differences in procedure and regulations for each school category? Are there any differences or all they all held to the same expectations? Would I even be eligible for in-home services had I opted to home-school?

First, let’s go over the differences between a public, private, and charter school.

PUBLIC

Public schools are free to attend and are run by local school districts. They are funded by the public and must follow all federal and state education laws. Most do not require applications to attend, only information and registration packets. No child will be denied access to attend based on having a disability. Public schools are also mandated by law to evaluate students for special education as well as legally obligated to provide classroom accommodations. Public schools are also required by law to provide special education services, IEPs, and 504 Plans . Every teacher must be state-certified. Students will be expected to meet all state academic standards and every school is accountable for student achievement under federal law. Formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act, it is now called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

PRIVATE

Private schools are funded privately and are much smaller than public schools due to the lack of excessive funding. There is little to no government oversight so they are not eligible for the same grants that public schools can access. Applications are required and not every child applying will be able to get in since there is limited space. Private schools also require tuition which is why not many parents opt for the private school route. The national average private school tuition is approximately $10,676 per year according to the 2019/20 school year. While they are not allowed to discriminate against those with disabilities, they can can reject applicants for almost any reason. While they are not required by law to evaluate children for special needs, the local public school districts must find and evaluate kids in private school that they believe may have disabilities. They are also not regulated to provide 504 Plans and do not have to offer special education services and IEPs, however, a local school district may provide services to a child in a private school through a service plan.  Talk to your local education agency for more information. Though some private schools specialize in ADHD, Dyslexia, and other challenges. And depending on your state, teachers are not required to be state-certified.  The schools do not have to participate in state academic standards and ESSA.

CHARTER

Charter schools are a public independent school. These can either be run as a home-school program, an on-site campus, or a mix of both where kids do some classes at home and some classes on school grounds.  Charters are funded by public and/or private donors. While they must follow education law, they are allowed exemption from some of the rules. Just like private schools, charters are generally smaller and therefore require applications but some of them are free to attend. They are not allowed to discriminate against students with disabilities and can’t “counsel out” or discourage kids from attending. While they are required by law to evaluate for special needs and provide services, IEPs, 504 Plans, and classroom accommodations, please note that they may not be as well equipped with the specialists and services that your child may need to succeed like traditional public schools are. Some schools, however, are specialized in teaching kids with ADHD, Dyslexia, and other challenges. Depending on the state, teachers may not be required to be state-certified. Students are also apart of the ESSA and state academic standards.

TRADITIONAL HOME-SCHOOL

For exclusively home-school children (where parents are solely responsible for their child’s education) there are very few states that place much emphasis on providing IEP services to home-schooled children. Specialized education programs are offered to those home-school only kids. Such programs are offered by a variety of home-school organizations, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association and other large home-school support groups. However, these programs are not compulsory, nor does state or federal law require these programs. Always talk to your child’s doctor(s) and therapist(s) for assistance in creating their education plan, getting adaptive equipment, and/or assisted learning needs.

Though this is just a brief overview of the differences between these 3 school classifications, there are are many hyperlinks to lead you to more detailed information to help you choose the right school for your son/daughter.

-The Lazy Mama

IEP Parental Rights

Recently I was asked by another mom what she is allowed to ask for  and what her son is allowed to get. As a mom with a child on the spectrum, Killian has an Individualized Education Plan, otherwise known as an IEP. This is extremely important because Killian works differently than a neurotypical child and needs special breaks and assistance maintaining his focus and behavior.

First, I want to state that the legal aspects may change by state (and obviously country) so make sure you look into the benefits of your area. I am in Oregon, USA so I will be referencing what is accurate for our circumstance.

Before every IEP meeting, you will be offered a thick packet that includes procedural safeguards and parental rights. If you are not offered this, then this is your first red flag warning that the school is not following their legal responsibility and may try to get away with not abiding by the IEP.

Another helpful thing that I highly recommend if you are new to the process is to bring an experienced friend, colleague, or relative to help you with your meetings. You are advocating for your child. They are advocating for you. You are always legally allowed to have a parent advocate who can help you stand your ground if the staff tries to bulldoze you. They can also help you remember things that you may have forgotten about or not even thought about asking for.

Every parent has the right to participate in all decision-making meetings held in order to create an IEP for their child. These meetings are backed by  FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and include the child’s eligibility, evaluation, educational placement, and anything else pertaining to their education. In the case there isn’t a parent available for these meetings, a surrogate parent should be appointed by the district to help represent the child adequately. It is very important that you or the child’s other parent be at every meeting but we understand that life can get in the way. In the case of needing to find a parent replacement, you need to let the IEP staff know at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. There is a sign-in sheet that everyone needs to sign prior to the meeting’s start.

In the case of any changes in identification, evaluation, and educational placement initiated by the school district, the parent has the right to receive prior written notice. You should also receive a written notice of the date, time, and location of the meeting either in the mail or sent home in your child’s backpack.

Parents also have the right to provide an informed, written consent for the special education IEP before the assessment process or the provision of special education and related services. This consent is also necessary before any changes are done to the program already in place. Parents should only supply their consent once they have a clear understanding of the IEP team proceedings. NEVER SIGN BEFORE READING AND UNDERSTANDING EVERYTHING FULLY! Also, parents should be provided with an interpreter if their native language is different from English or in case they are deaf. Keep in mind; parents also reserve the right to refuse the evaluation or educational placement of their child. Parents have the right to disagree with any proposals presented to change their child’s placement. When a disagreement surfaces, the child should remain in their current program until resolved. If a disagreement arises, parents are free to seek voluntary and impartial mediation to help find a mutually agreed-upon solution regarding the child’s special education IEP.

Every parent reserves the right to audit the school’s educational records regarding their child’s IEP records. If at any time you need or would like another copy, they must provide every paper in the IEP file. In the case of any complaints concerning the provision of FAPE, to the child, parents have the right to a hearing. During the hearing, the parent can request that an advocate, attorney, or if appropriate, their child be present. Furthermore, parents have the choice to make the hearing public. Making the hearing public could aide in your case by drawing the attention of the media and fellow parents to push back at the school and fight for your legal rights, holding the district and officials accountable. It would also let other IEP parents know that something may be up and should look into their child’s plan to make sure everything is being honored.

Children enrolled in special education have specific rules regarding their suspension or expulsion. If these instances extend for more than ten days, an IEP meeting should be called to assess how their disability could be contributing to the child’s misconduct. Additionally, the participants should discuss the potential for an alternative placement as an alternative. The parent is an essential member of the IEP team and therefore, should actively participate in the progress of their child’s education and performance. IDEA guarantees the rights of parents formulating the necessary educational programs and decisions that will benefit their child. It is, therefore, important for parents to exercise their rights responsibly to guarantee the success of their child. The world of special education is a big one. This means there’s a lot of information parents should be aware of describing the intricacies of service, schools, behaviors, and tips and tricks to gaining proper opportunity. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make future decisions for your child with special needs to ensure their success. Special Education Resource was explicitly created to help parents of children with special needs find the information and assistance necessary to help their child reach their excellence.

IEP COMPLIANT OPTIONS FOR PARENTS

  1. School District Complaints: Search your district’s website and look for whatever formal grievance procedure they have, and file one. Ask to present it at the next school board meeting if you are comfortable public speaking. Take some folks with you for moral support. Again, having a parent advocate is super important.
  2. If you live in an area where the county oversees education, I would look and see if there is a county-level complaint above the school district level complaint.
  3. State Compliance Complaints: Each state should have a State Department of Education website where this information will be available. However, a compliance complaint is just that–about compliance. Most often it means that you did not receive the IEP Meeting Invitation 10 days before the meeting. Or that they did not complete the evaluations within the mandated 60 days. If you have great data and documentation that the team is not following the IEP as written, you can try filing a compliance complaint. But do not be surprised if they bump you back to using your Procedural Safeguards.
  4. State Complaints-Professional Boards: Again, this will vary from state to state. But there are state licensing boards for nurses, OTs, PTs and certifications for teachers. You should know that if you file a complaint against a professional and that person belongs to a union, that union will defend them. That is why people pay union dues. Again, just letting you know what you are up against. You also will have to demonstrate that the offender actually violated state laws regarding their profession, their state’s practice act, or similar.
  5. FERPA complaints– A friendly reminder that educational records are governed by FERPA, not HIPAA. And of course, you’re going to have to read through FERPA and discern which portions were violated. According to the USDOE website: A parent of a student under the age of 18 at an elementary or secondary school or a student who is at least 18 years of age or attending a postsecondary institution at any age (“eligible student”) may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) regarding an alleged violation of a school’s failure to comply with his or her rights under FERPA.  A parent of an eligible student generally may not file a complaint under FERPA, as the rights afforded to parents are transferred to the student when he or she becomes an eligible student. Here is FERPA information for Parents, and FERPA information for Students. How to file a complaint is linked at the beginning of this bullet point.
  6. Office of Civil Rights Complaint– OCR is a federal office, therefore federal laws apply. That link will explain how to file a complaint. OCR complaints must be completed within 180 days of the last event.

One large incentive for schools to follow through with IEP procedures and guidelines and well as proving the services that were agreed upon in the meeting is to keep their funding. Schools are given grants and support through educational foundations and government means. If they are found guilty of not following these rules then their grants and funding gets pulled.

At any time during the school year, you may request an additional IEP meeting to follow up on your child’s progress or make changes to the plan. If revisions are made, then they have 60 days to implement those changes (30 days for preschools) and 30 days to respond to your revision requests.

You are your child’s biggest tool in their tool belt.  You are going to be the one who makes the biggest impact in their life. Never stop fighting for them and for yourself. And most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help.

-The Lazy Mama

Is Sleep On The Horizon?

Today’s story is about me and my inability to sleep functionally. It has been a loooong time since I have been able to get a full nigh’t sleep. And not because of kids. This started well into my adolescence. I loved having sleep-overs with friends but whenever I would wake up, they would tease me about how much I snore and how loud I can get.

When I was 15, my parents took me in to get a sleep study done. It was then that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and a heart condition. I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and had to see a cardiologist to get yearly EKGs and wear a portable heart monitor, called a holter, every 6 months to monitor and track any progress in my heart that likes to stop and skip beats.

As I got older my sleep apnea got worse but my heart got better. It still skips but not as often as it did before. By the time I was married and pregnant (24 yrs), my sleep apnea was so bad. We were newly married and I didn’t really have an established doctor so I just went without. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Oliver (27 yrs) that I had a fantastic doctor and my husband told me that I should talk to him about getting a sleep study. I was able to do an in-home sleep study and from the results they found that I had sever obstructed sleep apnea and my oxygen levels dropped so low that they were concerned for baby Oliver who was about 8 months into fetal development.

I then had to get a CPAP to help keep me breathing at night. Man was that hard to get used to wearing.

So, with that problem now solved, we can talk about the reason I am writing this story today.

Insomnia

Have you ever dealt with insomnia before? If you have, I am so sorry.

I have been struggling with bouts of insomnia since I was a freshman in high school. However, as of late (I am now the dreaded old age of 30 lol) it has gotten much much worse. Staying asleep is no problem. It’s the falling asleep that is. As many of you know, my days are VERY busy and exhausting. I drive an average of 142 miles, just MEDICAL miles, Monday-Friday. We are constantly on the go. You would think that by the end of the day I would be so tired that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, right?

Wrong!

As soon as the sun goes down, my internal clock decides it’s time to wake up and I can not get my brain to shut off. At one point I was taking 5 over-the-counter sleep aides every night and I still wasn’t able to fall asleep. Once that started happening I called and made an appointment with my doctor.

I tried Trazodone, Ambien, Doxepin, Gabapentin, Nortriptyline, and Mirtazapine. Most of them did not work, one of them I found out I am allergic to, and 2 of them would work for a week or two before not working at all. I even purchased CBD gummies and not even taking 2 at a time would work.

Currently, I am taking 2 CBD gummies and 1 or 2 Mirtazapine pills every night and hoping that the 50/50 chance of it working are in my favor. So, my doctor referred me to another sleep specialist who I met with yesterday.

She told me that medication just isn’t going to work for me and that it is all in my head. Not in a mean way though. She told me that because of how busy and stressful my life is, the only time that my brain has to stop focusing on what I am doing and focus on everything else in my life is when my body physically stops and slows down. Which is when I go to bed.

She wants me to see a psychologist for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They will be able to help me do a deep dive into how I should start behaving so that I can reprogram my way of thinking and sleep habits. She gave me a list of things that I am now supposed to do before bed and said that this new bedtime routine is vital for me to start falling asleep before 2:30am.

  1. Exercise at some point during the day. Everyone should already be doing this but let’s be honest, most of us don’t. I being one of those lazy bums who doesn’t want to put the extra effort into being healthy. So, now I have to make an effort to do some form of work out each day, even if it is just a walk around the block.
  2. I am not allowed to go to bed until I start feeling tired. Whether that is at 9pm or midnight or later. I am absolutely not allowed in my bed if I am just going to lay there and not sleep.
  3. Take a hot shower or bath in the quiet dark from 10-15 minutes to relax my body.
  4. Get a notebook and write down every single thought that pops up in my mind. Whether it is a memory, a reminder to do something, a random nonsensical thought, whatever. I write it down and after  5 minutes I close the book and I am done. I have already spent my time on those and now we are done thinking about it.
  5. Meditate. I have the free version of Headspace. A guided meditation app. Spend 10-20 minutes meditating in a dark and quiet room. Center myself and get ready to sleep. I am choosing to do this in bed so that I am creating a calm and relaxing feeling to associate with my bed. Perfect for sleeping.
  6. Read a super boring book. Like mind-numbingly boring. Something that you have absolutely ZERO interest in. Like the manual for your BBQ or TV remote. Your brain is hardwired to fall asleep when it is bored. So I have to bore it.

So, last night I followed her directions. I started meditating in the living room but right at the end my husband walked in the door from work (he worked late last night and was not home until after 9pm) and started talking loudly and rustling papers. We chatted a little bit but I started realizing that I was getting out of my high of relaxation and “zen” so I decided to go lay in bed and meditate. I opted to do a 5 minute guided meditation and felt much better afterwards. Then I got out the super boring book.

I hate history so I downloaded a free History of the United States book and I got to page 2 before I passed out! It was amazing! Just starting that routine on day 1 and being able to fall asleep long before 2am was so wonderful and encouraging. I definitely underestimated the power of a boring book.

I am hopeful that with my new healthy habits I will be able to attain a restful night’s sleep every night and I REALLY hope that you are able to as well.

-The Lazy Mama