Student & Special Education

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Student & Special Education Law

At Robbins Schwartz, we combine practical legal advice based upon extensive experience in the special education arena with the district’s special education expertise to ensure that the district is in a defensible position should parents challenge an IEP team’s decision. Several Robbins Schwartz attorneys practice almost exclusively in the area of special education and bring a solid base of legal knowledge and practical guidance to the IEP teams they counsel.

Our special education attorneys regularly advise our clients concerning special education problems such as due process rights, identification, evaluation, placement and discipline. We have assisted districts in responding to complaints from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) by preparing written responses and facilitating and participating in the interview process when necessary. We help school district teams prepare for IEP meetings by providing technical assistance and legal advice as they work to develop programs for disabled students. We also frequently advise districts regarding Section 504 eligibility and reasonable accommodations and work with districts to write and implement policies and procedures to comply with federal Section 504 requirements.

Our special education attorneys regularly participate in mediation sessions to seek acceptable resolutions of due process disputes without litigation. In addition when resolution cannot be achieved, we participate in and prevail at numerous due process hearings each year, involving issues which range from determination of eligibility, programs and services, to placement disputes and disciplinary matters. When proceeding to due process, we work extensively with the key players and witnesses to ensure a well prepared, professional presentation is made at the hearing. We strive to develop a close, collaborative relationship with the district’s administrators to provide support, both legal and practical, when a special education dispute arises.

In addition to special education, we regularly assist and advise districts regarding a broad range of student related matters. We help clients develop and implement legally sound strategies for discipline and, when necessary, exclusion of students who engage in misconduct in school settings. We have participated in hundreds of student suspension and expulsion hearings in the role of either prosecutor or legal advisor to boards of education and have successfully defended clients’ decisions in the courts. We also counsel clients regularly on First Amendment and Fourth Amendment search, “free speech” and religion issues which arise at their schools.

Each year, many of our client districts face the need to investigate the residency status of students seeking enrollment in or already attending local schools on a tuition-free basis, but who appear to be living outside the district. In these situations, our attorneys work with school administrators to gather and analyze the facts relevant to the student’s residency status, prepare preliminary notices of non-residency when appropriate, and assist in presenting the district’s case at School Code prescribed residency hearings when contested claims of residency cannot otherwise be resolved. We also counsel districts on procedures for evaluating and monitoring homeless students’ circumstances and regularly represent districts at homeless dispute meetings to contest a student’s homeless status or achieve equitable sharing of costs to meet the student’s transportation needs.

Areas of Specialty

  • IEP Meetings
  • Due Process Hearings
  • Special Education Mediations
  • ISBE Complaint Investigations
  • OCR Complaint Investigations
  • 504 Meetings and Hearings
  • Suspension and Expulsion Hearings
  • Residency Hearings
  • Homeless Dispute Meetings
  • Search and Seizure Issues
  • First Amendment Issues