Coparenting Special Education and the School System

Many children are struggling in school because of learning or behavior problems. Sometimes, these issues go undiagnosed and unnoticed for years, which could put the children behind. Parents want to be sure their children are treated well, have a good education, and are given the best chance at success in life. However, when it comes to understanding and becoming involved in the special education legal system, it can be difficult.

Even when parents are on the same side and agree about the help their children need, it can sometimes involve arguing and fighting with the school. Sometimes, the school doesn’t believe that the children need an individualized education program (IEP). Other times, the school may tell the parents that the child needs to be in special education and the parents may not agree. When there are divorced parents who do not agree on what is best for their child, it can become even more complex.

Signs that a Child May Need Special Education Classes

Trying to determine whether there is a need for a child to be in special education can be complex from an emotional and logical standpoint. Parents often don’t want to believe that their child might need to be in a special education program, and they could miss some of the potential signs. On the other hand, the signs that could qualify a child for IEP may not be signs that they need special education.

Sometimes, children are disciplined in school because of bad behaviors. In some cases, this could be due to behavioral issues that have not been diagnosed and treated. Other times, it could simply be that they are acting out for other reasons that would not necessarily mean they need to be in a special education class.

Parents might notice that there are problems with slipping grades, or that the child doesn’t know how to complete homework. Parents could be getting letters at home or in the email saying that the children aren’t turning in their homework or that they have other issues. The child might try to stay home from school, or they might seem unhappy when they come home because of something that happened at school.

These could be indicators that the child might benefit from special education classes. However, it is important that parents—and the school—do not jump to conclusions. Sometimes, it could be an indication that the child is bored with what they are learning and are advanced. It could be because they are experiencing bullying at school. There are many issues that it could be, and both parents and teachers need to be proactive and communicate to understand the heart of the matter.

If a parent is worried that there may be an issue, they should contact the school. Send an email to the teacher, principal, and assistant principal. When parents believe that their child should be examined for special education needs, the school will have to evaluate the child. This can provide a better sense of what might be needed and what would be best for the child. The evaluation will generally need to be completed within 15 days.

In addition to checking for learning behaviors, parents may also want to see if there are behavioral issues. Functional behavioral tests can provide deeper insight into behavior issues with the child and what is triggering those behaviors. A deeper understanding by parents and teachers can help to determine what the best course of action will be for the child and whether they should be in a special education class.

Divorced Parents Can Present a Challenge

Ideally, both parents will be on the same page when it comes to the wellbeing and education of their child. However, this is not always the case. In some instances, one parent may believe the school is correct in putting the child into a special education class. The other parent may not agree and may be upset about it. Both parents may believe they have their child’s best interests in mind, but both can’t be correct.

Often, a parent will have a special education attorney working for them to help them better deal with the school. The attorney will usually want to be sure that the child is getting the help they need, even though they are advocating for the wishes of the parent, their client. Getting the child tested by an independent third-party can be a good way to get a better sense of whether the child should be in a special education class.

However, things can start to get tricky. Even though the schools in Arizona don’t need to have permission to put the child in a special education class, they may require one parent’s signature for certain actions. However, most of the family law cases in Arizona will provide joint legal decision-making for the parents. Each of the parents has the right to make legal decisions for their children.

Schools will usually follow the desires of the first parent that comes to them. So, if one parent requests testing for their child and want them to be put into a special education class, they may do this. They don’t require the permission of the other parent, and they don’t look into the specifics of the divorce to see whether it includes joint decision-making. There is the potential that this could be a violation of the joint legal decision-making approved by the court, which could cause more problems.

Working with an Attorney

The special education legal system can be complicated. Parents want to do what’s best for their children, and sometimes this means getting in touch with an attorney to help pick up the battle with the school to ensure a proper education is provided. Typically, parents should strive to work with the school first to get what they need. When they run into walls and can’t go further, they can then talk with a special education attorney for the help they need.