Barb's Blog

Be a Bellyacher

Parents, are you satisfied with your child’s educational program?  Is your child receiving the right services in the appropriate setting?  How about direct communication with peers and personnel in his language and communication mode?  Is your child meeting applicable grade level benchmarks?  If so, pour yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and relax. 

If not, read on.

Unfortunately, many parents observe that their deaf or hard of hearing children are not doing well in school.  They cite evidence of their child’s performance on standardized tests as well as anecdotal evidence about how much they know and can do in school and at home. Sadly, research bears this out.  It is documented that that deaf and hard of hearing students do not achieve to the same level as hearing peers. 

But the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires schools to make sure that children have access to his or her grade-level curriculum.  And our nation’s education system requires schools, school districts, and states to be accountable for the achievement of all students. 

So what’s a parent to do?

Of course, any concern about what is going on with your child in school should be brought to the teacher first, and to the other members of the Individualized Education Program team.  If you can’t find agreement there you can contact other personnel in the school such as the school psychologist, the special education director, the principal, and even the district special education director or superintendent.  All of these individuals care about children succeeding – that’s why they go to work every day – and may be able to assist you in getting the issue resolved.          

Sometimes that is not enough.  IDEA provides a process for parents to file a complaint if they believe their child’s educational program is not up to par.  School districts must provide parents with the information necessary to file a complaint.  State disability advocacy offices, the National Association of the Deaf, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates have special education attorneys that may be able to assist you with filing a complaint.

Two other laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), protect students’ rights in education.  Both are designed to ensure that students have equal access to school programs.  For example, Title II of the ADA requires schools to provide  “effective communication” in school.  Section 504 and the ADA are important to consider if there are communication barriers in the classroom.  The organizations listed above may be able to assist you in filing a Section 504 or ADA complaint.

It is often thought that if a requirement is written into the law then, automatically, it will happen.  After all, not following the law means someone is breaking the law, right?  And that’s not allowed, is it?  But IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA depend on people to file complaints when they are violated.  When complaints are filed, they are investigated.  If nobody complains, the powers-that-be assume everything is fine.

So, speak up.  Whether you complain within the school or district, or take the step of filing a formal complaint, your highlighting a problem can lead to its solution.    

© Barbara Raimondo 2015