Books, Buses and the Unexpected – Tips for the new school year

By Tonya Sams

August is here and we will soon hear the ringing of school bells. But preparing for the new year is more than just buying clothes and supplies – it is also about preparing for new situations and challenges students may face at school.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland provides legal help that ensures kids’ school success, and wants to offer a few helpful tips:

SPECIAL EDUCATION
If you are concerned that your child is not keeping up with peers, you can ask your school to test your child for special education needs. Make the request in writing and keep a dated copy for yourself. It doesn’t matter if the school year is well underway; you can request a special education evaluation at any time.

If it is determined that your child qualifies for special education services, they will receive what is called an individualized education program or IEP. IEPs outline goals and accommodations that can help your child succeed.

If you and the school disagree regarding your child’s placement in special education, you can contact the Ohio Department of Education to file a complaint or request a mediation to resolve the issue.

TROUBLE IN SCHOOL
If your child is constantly getting into trouble in school, find out if they are having problems with a teacher or other students. Talk to your child about the trauma that may be causing them to act out. You may find that the school can provide resources such as a mental health counselor for your child. You can also request that your child is tested for special education or a functional behavior assessment (FBA). Talk to school officials about these issues.

If your child has been disciplined by suspension, expulsion, or other measures, request documentation from the school.

BULLYING
According to Ohio law, bullying is any repeated, intentional act (either physical, verbal, electronic, or written) that causes a student physical or mental harm and creates a hostile, threatening environment.

Schools are required to allow people to report bullying anonymously. Schools also must protect students from bullying and discipline those students that are bullying others.

You have the right to report bullying to the school and to request an investigation. If an investigation is conducted, you have a right to see the results of that investigation. You can also obtain a lawyer or contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.

HOUSING INSECURITY
If you and your child are homeless, federal law states that your child can not be denied their education. Your child has the right to continue to attend the same school before they became homeless and to receive transportation. They also have the right to transfer to a school that may be closer, enroll in school even if they do not have the proper documentation such as a birth certificate, and the right to continue to receive special education if needed.

If you have issues in any of these areas, Legal Aid may be able to help. Call 888-817-3777 or visit lasclev.org/contact for more information. Legal Aid also offers free legal clinics in neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio. Check Legal Aid’s website for an event calendar and visit a clinic with your questions!

Tonya Sams is the Development and Communications Assistant at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.