I am a special educator with a child who is in her second ear of preschool right now. She has a language delay and struggles socially (due in large part to the language delay.) She is doing extremely well academically, but she is not ready for the fast paced kindergarten program they have in her district. I have poured over all of her testing results, observations, and more. I will spare you the extensive details but she is not ready. Another year of pre-k will make a big difference. She will be 5 in June but so far through therapy she has only managed to reach a 3-4 age speech level.

I live in NJ in a district that is no longer friendly to holding kids back because a lot of families years ago began holding back their kids to make them higher achievers in later grades. It put a strain on the schools and they put a stop to it.

As a special educator I know all the things they will say to reassure and pressure me to send her into kindergarten. I don't care. My decision to hold her back isn't a vain one and it wasn't made lightly. I don't care if she's not the best student. I just don't want her to fall through the cracks in our test obsessed school district.

The first step is our meeting. They will recommend her to move on. I will make my case. They will say NO. After that it will go to mediation. Then--- court.

I am trying to plan ahead. I don't know how costly it will be if we make it to that point. (The school MIGHT back down, they avoid court at all costs from what I observed when I worked for the same district).

I have been unable to find information on taking a school to court over such a matter. Any advice? Would I be stupid to even try? Why kind of cost range am I looking at? What kind of lawyer would I need for this situation?

  • 1
    Please add a jurisdiction tag ("new jersey", or "united states") - it makes a big difference. Jan 15 '18 at 15:43
  • I think you'd be "stupid to try" without a lawyer (I mean that non-prejudicially, your words). But you should consult with an attorney, and listen closely to what they say, even if its not what you want to hear. If they are willing to back you up, great! If they say something like, "unlikely to produce desired effects", I'd take that seriously.
    – abelenky
    Jan 15 '18 at 16:39
  • Abelenky, is there a specific kind of attorney that deals with these types of cases?
    – JakMak
    Jan 15 '18 at 17:34
  • There are. I will not recommend any one, but a search for "special education attorney" will produce lots of results.
    – abelenky
    Jan 15 '18 at 17:37
  • 3
    There are extensive laws, regulations, and systems governing special education accommodation in the public schools, as well as mandatory processes for appealing decisions. You can do your own preliminary research online. IIRC, there are advocates and advocacy groups that provide education and support on these processes.
    – feetwet
    Jan 15 '18 at 21:21

I can't give you a lot of advice specific to your case, but here's some general advice...

While I encourage parents to fight for their children, it's also important to remember the maxim "choose your battles wisely."

Public education is far more corrupt than most people realize; it's essentially run by corporate interests, and school districts can be extremely authoritarian. While it might be true that school districts try to avoid lawsuits, they are also pros at exploiting the legal system.

How much can you afford to pay an attorney? Your school district likely has an attorney(s) on its staff. In addition, they can use tax dollars to hire additional legal representation, and they will pay whatever they think is needed to win.

Just to give you some idea of what might lie ahead, I shared notes with a teacher who fought a legal battle with the Seattle School District. His main adversary was a notoriously corrupt (and politically connected) principal. When I asked if he sought help from the ACLU, he replied that her husband worked for the ACLU. He hired an attorney from outside Seattle because he was smart enough to know that most Seattle law firms are probably in bed with the school district.

Then there was the teacher who filed a landmark discrimination lawsuit against the school district. He had a top-notch attorney. In fact, she was so good, we discovered that she also worked for...the school district. She was also very closely associated with the state superintendent of public instruction, even serving as her campaign treasurer during elections.

Whether or not your school district is as sleazy as Seattle is something I can't guess. But one word of advice is to try to get some information on other lawsuits filed against your school district - not just special education. If possible, try to get the names of some parents who have sued the school district and ask them about their experiences.

It can be hard. Teachers and parents tend to be very tight-lipped, and when a school district does lose a case, it generally settles out of court. So just doing your basic homework can be difficult.

Asking questions on forums is a good idea, but you also need to research your local political/education scene.

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