State Looks to Curb Special Education Lawsuits This Fall

California has a plan to stem the tide of lawsuits expected over special education needs this fall.

As EdSource reports, the state hopes the initiative will lead to more matters being settled out of court. 

The state budget, signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, sets aside $100 million for resolving special education conflicts between parents and school districts, which escalated during remote learning.
The money will go toward outreach, such as brochures, meetings and presentations, to help parents and school staff understand the rights outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law that requires districts to educate students of all abilities. The goal is to improve communication and build trust between parents and schools, so conflicts can be resolved quickly and more easily.

None of the money can go to attorney fees.

Veronica Coates, director of Tehama County’s Special Education Local Plan Area, helped craft the legislation. The Governor’s signature, she told EdSource, brought her “tears of joy.”

Pandemic-related disputes have already cost school districts over $5.4 million in attorney fees.

“Compensatory education” — additional services meant to help students catch up on their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals — is a major driver of legal challenges. And this fall, there will be a lot of catching up to do.