Know Your Right to Special-Needs Child School Placement

 Know Your Right  to Special-Needs Child School Placement

By Kami-Leigh Agard

Recently, on Rockaway Beach Autism Families Facebook page, a parent expressed frustration about her child’s NYC Department of Education (DOE) District 75 school proposed Fall 2024 kindergarten placement. Prior to receiving an email about potential placements in either Bellerose or Bayside, Queens, the parent visited numerous schools in Rockaway and was told that no schools here had room. Her anguish took me back to eight years ago—Wednesday, June 21, 2016—when it took three hours for my daughter to be bussed home from her District 75 school in Bellerose. Prior to her placement in Bellerose, I too visited many schools up and down the peninsula, inquiring if any in Rockaway had room. I was bluntly told, “none.” One particular rude rejection stands out from an administrator I visited at a school, which I won’t name.

Parents, I just want you to know that you have rights under the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can advocate for your child. After it took my daughter three hours to return home from school that frightful June day, the next day I phone the DOE’s D75 office, and within 24 hours, my daughter was transferred to a school in Rockaway.

Under IDEA, a parent may accept or reject a proposed school placement. If you want to reject the placement, explain why in writing, keep a copy and send the letter to the person who issued the School Location Letter.

According to veteran family advocate, Aurelia Mack, in regard to the parent’s query mentioned in this article: “She can flatly state: ‘Inappropriate placement with one of the reasons being time construct.’ Note, we have to watch our wording. Never say, ‘You’re not in agreement,’ but state that the placement is not appropriate due to the child’s sensory and reactionary behaviors,” Mack said.

Mack continued: “The parent doesn’t even have to visit any other school. However, the parent by law needs to then say/testify—why the DOE school placement is inappropriate due to amongst many stressors, including the long commute. That said, you have the right to visit any proposed placement, including any change of school. If you don’t think the placement is appropriate, explain to the DOE in writing why and request a new placement. If you disagree with a proposed change, you may request a new IEP meeting, mediation, or an impartial hearing.

“Regarding the bus commute for special needs, federal law specifies a limited amount of time, it should only be an hour. And then the parent can put in for limited time travel. Get the form and bring it to your pediatrician.”

As for what if a parent is interested in an alternative to the DOE’s District 75 program, such as a private school, but can’t afford an attorney, what should they do?

Mack shared, “That happened to me. I had to do three of my sons’ cases at the same time because they were all failing in the public school. I called every attorney and asked them for pro bono services. Six of them turned me down, but I kept calling, until one finally said yes. He handled one of my son’s cases, and I personally did the other two. A good resource is the Lawyers Alliance of NYC. One note of caution, don’t believe anyone who says you can’t fight for everything because you get can’t get everything. Not true. Your child is entitled to everything they need and deserve.”

For more info about your parental rights regarding school placement, visit: 

I’ll also be sharing info about private school placement.

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