I am told my child is behaviorally disturbed but not disabled. He is constantly getting in trouble in school, and I have to take off work to take him home. Can a special education attorney help me?

All too often, children with behavioral issues are labeled “bad kids” without any real inquiry into what is actually causing their behavior. This is deeply problematic because, in many cases, poor behavior can be explained by a disability, such as an anxiety disorder, a trauma-related disability, or a mood disorder. When this is the case but a school fails to dig deeper and identify such a disability, school officials do not have the information needed to effectively address the child’s behavior.

A special education attorney can help you make your child’s school dig deeper. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), a federal law that requires schools to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, includes a provision called “Child Find.” Child Find requires schools to evaluate children that have a suspected disability. Oftentimes, courts will find that a school has an obligation, under Child Find, to perform a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) of a child with severe behavioral issues because such behaviors may indicate that the child has a disability.

For example, in one case, a student was harassing other students, was suspended multiple times for disciplinary reasons, and was referred by his school to a behavioral program. However, the school did not perform an evaluation on the student to see if he had a disability. The child’s parents sued the school and won, with the court finding that the school failed to meet its Child Find duties.

A special education attorney can use the Child Find provision and other tools to put pressure on your child’s school to perform an evaluation and find out what is the cause of her or his poor behavior. We have had many cases involving children with behavioral issues. Typically, a parent comes to our office for a consultation and we review her or his child’s school and medical records to identify whether there is evidence that the child has a suspected disability. If we think the parent has a strong case, we also have one of our medical experts review the child’s records. With an expert opinion and our understanding of Child Find and other parts of the IDEA, we are able to fight for your child and push the school to dig deeper.