Education

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: A lawyer for children with special needs, and low income, moderate income parents

education lawyer in washington dc Parents of children with special needs face significant challenges to receiving a free and appropriate education in school. As a former District of Columbia Public Schools teacher and adjunct professor of education, Nigel M. Atwell is uniquely qualified to be advocate for your child, whether she is struggling academically or with behavioral issues, and whether she attends a traditional public school or a public charter school.

The Legal Rights That Are Available Under IDEA

IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) is a federal law that establishes the legal obligations of schools to educate children with special needs and a process for enforcing those obligations through due process hearings and monitoring. Under IDEA, an eligible child is one with a disability that includes:

  •      Intellectual or learning disabilities
  •      Hearing, speech, or language impairments
  •      Visual impairment or blindness
  •      Emotional disturbances
  •      Autism or traumatic brain injuries

For your eligible child, public schools are required to create an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to meet the child’s specific educational needs. The IEP will describe your child’s current performance levels, measurable performance goals, the specialized instructional services that will be provided, and any accommodations your child may require. The law requires that the IEP be implemented within the least restrictive environment.

As parents, you have the right to be involved in the evaluation of your child and in the creation and monitoring of the IEP. You have the right to initiate a due process hearing when your child is not making meaningful progress, if the IEP is inadequate or if the IEP is not being implemented. There are several remedies that hearing officers may award in order to ensure that your child receives the appropriate education to which he is entitled.

The IEP Process

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell is intimately familiar with the IEP process. Disagreements can arise over the evaluation process, the adequacy of IEP goals, or whether your child has made meaningful educational progress. We are prepared to communicate with your child’s school administrators, teachers, other members of the school’s multi-disciplinary team, and independent psychologists and service providers to ensure that you are a fully informed, active participant in the creation of the IEP, that you can monitor its implementation and that you can advocate for your child when she is not making meaningful academic or social progress.

Whom we represent and services we provide

We represent children enrolled in traditional public schools and public charter schools. We have a particular interest in representing low income and moderate income parents of children with disabilities and children who have not been evaluated or identified as having a disability but who are struggling with reading.  Our services include:

  •      Explaining your rights and the school’s obligations under IDEA
  •      Advocating for appropriate learning goals in the IEP
  •      Ensuring the use of research based teaching practices and qualified teachers
  •      Monitoring academic progress and educational goals
  •      Attending IEP and other meetings concerning your child
  •      Initiating due process hearings
  •      Settle due process complaints
  •      Appearing at discipline hearings and manifestation determination reviews

It can be difficult for parents to understand the complexities of the IEP process, as well as the terminology used in IEPs, psychoeducational evaluations, and in teaching assessments.  Our perspective, based on years of relevant experience teaching in public schools and advocating on behalf of children with disabilities uniquely positions The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell to advocate for you and your child.

School Discipline

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  prohibits schools from discriminating when they discipline students who have physical or other impairments that prevent them from conducting major life activities by imposing discipline that is different from what they apply to kids who do not have such impairments.   Also, IDEA requires a review of school discipline when a child with disabilities who violates the school conduct code is punished in a way –such as suspending him from school or coercing parents to remove him from school without documentation— that results in a change in his placement, when the child’s behavior is a manifestation of his disability.  IDEA and the Department of Education’s regulations encourage schools to use functional behavior assessments and positive behavior interventions to address the behavioral challenges of students with disabilities.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: Your Education Lawyer in Washington D.C.

Our practice is focused on protecting the rights of children with special needs.  Please contact us for a free consultation to evaluate your case.