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“How Does a Diagnosis of Disability Affect My Child’s Eligibility For Special Education?”

Many parents are aware of their child’s diagnosis (or the symptoms of the diagnosis), but perhaps have never formally received a diagnosis for their child from a physician. Why is a diagnosis important? A child must have a diagnosis that fits within 13 categories of disability in order for that child to be eligible for special education services.

I’ve created a handy chart that links a diagnosis to the category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which is the first step in determining eligibility for special education.

You can download the chart here:

IDEA Disability Categories

Please also feel free to share this information with parents of kids with disabilities.

How Common Core is Misguided!

Since the U.S. Department of Education more or less mandated implementation of the ‘Common Core‘ education standards on a state level, I have seen numerous examples of how such suggested teaching method fails. As a small example, several states have opted out of the Common Core or backed away from some of the assessments associated with the standard.

There is a simple explanation of why Common Core is misguided: Methodology. Neither the federal or state departments of education should be concerned with teaching methods or even content. They aren’t competent to do so. It is acceptable to set minimum standards for what students should know by a certain level of education (e.g. basic algebra by graduation from high school) in order to be able to access higher learning (college) or obtain employment after high school, but it is not useful or productive to suggest how teachers should get their students to achieve those levels.

Why? There are a multiplicity of answers to the question why government should not dictate teaching methodology.

(1) Those in the teaching profession have received their degrees and certifications in teaching methodology, so we should just let teachers do what they do best – teach. They are ‘on the ground’ (so to speak) and are in the best position to know what works and what doesn’t with their students. Someone sitting in Washington DC or a state capitol has no concept of individual student needs in a classroom. Further on this point, each state – nay, each locality – will vary on what teaching method is best and bureaucracies are too inflexible to adapt to these variances.

(2) Enforcement is expensive. First, consider that virtually all textbooks and materials had to be changed or purchased anew to conform with the Common Core. Second, teachers had to learn the new methodology, so there is training expense. Third, parents and the public also needed to be informed, so there are marketing and public information resources that are expended. This is not a cheap proposition.

(3) Standardizing methodology disregards the needs of the disabled and those who learn differently. While emphasis and resources are spent on the Common Core, it is at the expense of those who truly need the support of government to ensure their access to education. For example, special education has taken a backseat to Common Core implementation and school districts are taking advantage of that by pushing back against parents who are trying to help their disabled children. The U.S. Department of Education, which as direct Congressional authority to enforce special education law, has essentially ignored the setbacks relating to education of the disabled. If resources were not dedicated to Common Core, they could be focused on enforcing special education law.

There are numerous other reasons why Common Core is an effort in futility, but as with other social experiments by government, we won’t see those effects until we have a population of young adults who aren’t able to function in the workplace or in institutions of higher learning. That is not a social experiment worth the risk.

I encourage all of you to contact your state legislators and governors and tell them to opt out of Common Core and let schools get back to the job of teaching kids rather than complying with nonsensical federal mandates.

Ethics Rules You Might Not Know . . .

I think many, too many, lawyers have forgotten what the ethics rules (“Rules of Professional Conduct”) really say. I encourage every lawyer (especially school district counsel) to go back and read their ethics rules (each state has their own, based on the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct) periodically. This will help them understand that the role of lawyer is not just to make money.

Here are some ethics rules you might not have known, excerpted from the Preamble to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

• A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

• A lawyer who commits fraud in the conduct of a business is subject to discipline for engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

• In all professional functions a lawyer should be competent, prompt and diligent. A lawyer should maintain communication with a client concerning the representation.

• A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials.

• As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.

• In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority.

• A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance.

• A lawyer is also guided by personal conscience and the approbation of professional peers. A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.

• These principles include the lawyer’s obligation zealously to protect and pursue a client’s legitimate interests, within the bounds of the law, while maintaining a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.

• The legal profession has a responsibility to assure that its regulations are conceived in the public interest and not in furtherance of parochial or self-interested concerns of the bar.

• Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship to our legal system. The Rules of Professional Conduct, when properly applied, serve to define that relationship.

Excerpted from ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct

My favorite of these is that “A lawyer is also guided by personal conscience”; in other words, lawyers should not be guided simply by the pursuit of money, but rather should be guided by a set of morals. I think this is the one that lawyers most often forget. That being an attorney is not just a job; what makes it a “profession” is that we act as professionals and use good, sound, moral judgment in using our license to practice law in any capacity.

Please always keep this in mind.

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