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Education Law

Charlotte Special Education Attorneys

Legal guidance and support for students, parents, and teachers in North Carolina

Epperson Law Group is dedicated to assisting families and children in navigating the complexities of special education. If you find yourself unsure of how to proceed when you discover that an educational institution is failing to meet your child's needs for necessary services and accommodations, our consultations can provide clarity and guidance.

At Epperson Law Group, we help parents and students take back control when it feels like the system is failing them. Attorney Kathryn Smith leads our team of special education advocates and works directly with parents and students, ensuring that their voices are heard. If you need a special education lawyer who can fight for you and your child, get in touch with our law firm today.

If you have questions, we have answers

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What does a Charlotte education lawyer do exactly?

If the words “you should get a lawyer” seem a little frightening, we understand. But we also understand what federal and state laws say about education, and that as parents, you are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure your child gets the tools he or she needs. After all, we’re parents ourselves.

Epperson Law Group focuses on special education advocacy and offers consultations to provide valuable information and support to parents and guardians. We understand the unique needs of families and children in the realm of special education. If you find yourself uncertain about the next steps to take when an educational institution fails to fulfill its obligation in providing your child with the necessary services and accommodations, our consultations can provide guidance. Here is what you can expect during a special education consultation:

  • Review of relevant educational and medical information to better understand your child's unique circumstances and goals, facilitating effective advocacy.
  • Discussion of the specific types of accommodations your child may need – as well as those which can reasonably be provided by the school and/or district – in accordance with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Development of a plan of action for your child based on assessments and testing, to ensure that all accommodations are provided in a timely manner, as well as alternative options if additional accommodations are needed or circumstances change.
  • Development of a transition plan for your child if you need to relocate, and/or if your child will attend a different school in an upcoming semester (re: transition to middle school, high school, or college).
  • Review of any and all ongoing assessments made by teachers, counselors, administrators, and other educational professionals involved in your child’s success.

Through these consultations, we aim to empower parents and guardians with the knowledge and strategies needed to advocate for their child's special education rights. Our goal is to help your child receive the services and accommodations they require to succeed academically and reach their full potential.

What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?

Per the US Department of Education, IDEA is:

…a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 7.5 million (as of school year 2020-21) eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

IDEA also authorizes:

  • Formula grants to states to support special education and related services and early intervention services.
  • Discretionary grants to state educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other nonprofit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology development, personnel preparation and development, and parent-training and -information centers.

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

An IEP provides special education and related services to a child with a qualifying disability. These are governed by the IDEA:

  • The IEP is designed to address the unique needs of each student and ensure they receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. An IEP is developed through a collaborative process involving parents, educators, and other relevant professionals.
  • The IEP outlines the student's current level of academic and functional performance, as well as their specific goals and objectives. It also includes details about the specialized services, accommodations, and modifications that will be provided to support the student's learning and participation in the educational setting. The IEP serves as a roadmap for delivering tailored instruction and support to help a student succeed academically and make progress toward their goals.
  • Regular review meetings are held to assess the student's progress, make any necessary adjustments to the IEP, and ensure that the student's needs are being met effectively. The IEP is a crucial tool in promoting inclusive education and ensuring that students with disabilities receive the support they require to thrive in the educational environment.

Epperson Law Group is well-equipped to assist you in overcoming any obstacles by offering guidance in the development of your child's Individualized Education Program. Additionally, we will actively advocate for your child's rights within the special education system, working tirelessly to secure the support and accommodations they deserve. With our assistance, you can navigate the complexities of the special education process with confidence and peace of mind.

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What is Alternative Placement?

The goal of alternative placement is considered when the student's needs cannot be adequately met through the general education setting, even with the provision of supplementary aids and services.

The decision for alternative placement is typically made by the student's IEP team, which includes parents, educators, and other professionals. The team reviews the student's individual needs, their progress, and the effectiveness of the current educational placement. If it is determined that the student requires more specialized instruction or a different learning environment, alternative placement may be recommended.

Examples of alternative placements can include:

  • Specialized classrooms within a regular school
  • Separate special education schools
  • Therapeutic day schools
  • Residential facilities that provide intensive support

The specific alternative placement is determined based on the individual needs of the student and the available options within the educational system.

The goal of alternative placement is to provide students with disabilities with an educational setting that better meets their unique needs, supports their academic and social development, and ensures they receive appropriate individualized instruction and services. The decision to pursue alternative placement is made in the best interest of the student's education and overall well-being.

Epperson Law Group offers professional services of Special Education Attorneys to help navigate the process and ensure that the student's rights and needs are being met in their alternative placement.

What is a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)?

The concept of "least restrictive environment" (LRE) in special education refers to the principle that students with disabilities should be educated to the greatest extent possible alongside their non-disabled peers, while still receiving appropriate support and services. This, too, is a fundamental component of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States.

The LRE requirement aims to promote inclusion and ensure that students with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum and the same educational opportunities as their peers without disabilities. Under the LRE mandate, schools must provide students with disabilities an education in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate for their unique needs.

This means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities should be educated in regular classrooms alongside their non-disabled peers. This can be achieved through various means, such as providing supplementary aids and services, making accommodations or modifications, and offering specialized instruction within the general education setting.

Epperson Law Group is dedicated to providing guidance on the concept of the least restrictive environment (LRE) in special education. We are committed to fostering inclusive experiences for your child and advocating for their rights. Together, we will ensure that your child receives an education that honors their individual needs while promoting their full participation and inclusion alongside their peers.

What is a Section 504?

A 504 plan, also known as a Section 504 plan, is a legal document that outlines specific accommodations and supports for students with disabilities in the United States. It derives its name from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs receiving federal funding.

Unlike an IEP, which is specifically for students with disabilities who require specialized instruction, a 504 plan is designed for students who have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities but do not necessarily require special education services.

A 504 plan is developed by a team of individuals, including the student's parents or guardians, educators, and other relevant school staff. The plan identifies the student's specific needs and outlines accommodations, modifications, and other supports that will be provided to ensure equal access to education and opportunity. These accommodations can include:

  • Adjustments in the learning environment
  • Curriculum modifications
  • Assistive technology
  • Extra time for assignments or tests
  • Other reasonable accommodations that address the student's individual needs

Epperson Law Group can help resolve challenges related to Section 504 plans, ensuring appropriate accommodations, and advocating for your child's rights.

What is a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

A Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is a legal term in the United States that refers to the right of students with disabilities to receive an education that is tailored to their individual needs at no cost to their parents or guardians. FAPE is guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that ensures special education services and protections for eligible students.

FAPE requires that schools provide students with disabilities an educational program that is designed to meet their unique needs and enables them to make meaningful educational progress. It encompasses both academic and non-academic aspects of education, such as social and emotional development, communication skills, and functional abilities.

Under FAPE, students with disabilities are entitled to receive appropriate special education and related services that are provided by an IEP or, for students who do not require special education services, through a Section 504 plan. The education and services provided must be based on the individual student's identified needs and must be delivered in the least restrictive environment (LRE) to the maximum extent appropriate.

Students with disabilities may face inadequate assessment, limited resources, and insufficient support. Epperson Law Group offers guidance on FAPE, helping families navigate eligibility and secure appropriate services.

What is a Manifestation Determination Review?

A Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is a process conducted to determine whether a student's disciplinary action is related to their disability. The MDR is a requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and applies when a student with a disability is facing disciplinary measures that may result in a significant change in placement.

During the MDR, a team – including the student's parents or guardians, educators, and other relevant individuals – gathers to review the student's behavior and disability-related factors. The purpose is to determine whether the behavior that led to the disciplinary action was a manifestation or direct result of the student's disability.

The MDR process involves a careful examination of relevant information, such as:

  • The student's Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Behavioral records
  • Evaluations
  • Input from the student's teachers and other professionals

The team considers whether the student's disability substantially impaired their ability to understand the impact and consequences of their behavior, or if the incident occurred due to a failure to implement the student's IEP appropriately.

If the team determines that the behavior was a manifestation of the student's disability, disciplinary actions that result in a change of placement are typically modified. The student's IEP team, in consultation with the parents or guardians, may consider appropriate interventions, supports, or adjustments to address the behavior and provide the necessary support to ensure the student's educational progress.

On the other hand, if the behavior is determined not to be a manifestation of the disability, the disciplinary measures may proceed as outlined by the school's disciplinary policies, while still adhering to other applicable laws and regulations.

Special needs students may face challenges in this review, such as a lack of understanding of the process and difficulties in communicating their needs. Epperson Law Group offers professional services to help navigate the MDR process and ensure that the student's rights and needs are being met.

What is the Office of Civil Rights (OCR)?

Per the US Department of Education, “The Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.”

Its primary responsibility is to ensure equal access to education and protect the civil rights of students and individuals participating in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

The OCR's mission is to address discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in educational institutions. It implements and enforces various federal laws and regulations, including:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Epperson Law Group offers professional services to help students and their families understand the OCR process and ensure that their rights are protected and upheld.

Do I have to file a lawsuit on my child’s behalf?

Not necessarily. Sometimes a consultation and the presence of an attorney is all you need. But if discussions break down, or if the school or district violates your child’s rights, a lawsuit may be required. We can discuss your options if such a need arises.

Do you have a special education attorney near me?

Epperson Law Group maintains four office locations throughout North Carolina:

NC 28277 
NC 28607
NC 28025
NC 28104

We also schedule phone and video consultations, as we understand that traveling can be difficult for parents whose children have specific needs.

Compassionate special education lawyers serving Charlotte

With Attorney Kathryn Smith and Epperson Law Group by your side, you are never alone. Let's advocate for your child's educational rights, shape their future, and create a world where every child has an equal opportunity to succeed. Simply call our Charlotte offices or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation.