How Schools Can Avoid Special Education Lawsuits






A few months ago I interviewed Eric Mar, one of the Commissioners of the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District.  While chatting about some of the issues facing the school board we discussed the expenditure of Board of Education funds to defend lawsuits brought against the SFUSD by parents of children with extra needs, Eric said “there must be a better way”.  That statement haunted me the past few months as I learned what parents and children were experiencing as they tried to cope with their children’s needs while dealing with the frustrations of dealing with the San Francisco School system.  The Winkelman case, just decided by the Supreme Court, establishes a parent’s right to represent their children without an attorney in a special education matter.  This one case changes the playing field from the parents going uphill to level for the first time in history.  Last week we recorded a parent panel that analyzed some of the implications of Winkelman, but more importantly we discussed the issues that cause parents to file suit, and as well as ideas for sensible ways to update the process so that both the parents and the professionals in the schools can work in harmony. An important step in moving towards change is for everyone to hear about the impact that our own school system is having on our community. Parent Panel Stan Goldberg, Rachel Powell Norton, Katy Franklin