A Right to Education for Isaiah

LAF’s Education Law team are a quiet group, but they are dedicated champions for the rights of children.  They work every day to demand that children in Chicago’s public schools – including charter schools – receive the quality education they deserve.  Members of the Ed Law team recently shared the story of Isaiah, a student for whom LAF’s services ensured he can succeed in a supportive school environment.

After his kindergarten year, Isaiah’s neighborhood public school was closed by the district.  His mother enrolled him in a charter school for the next year, and requested an evaluation for special education services to help with some emerging behavioral issues related to his diagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  She received no response.  In a new environment and with no support, six-year-old Isaiah’s behavior only got more disruptive and dangerous.  The school held multiple conferences with his mother, but never began an evaluation for special education services for the first grader.  The charter school ignored every warning sign that Isaiah had a disability and needed special education help.  Instead, the school repeatedly called emergency mental health support services from the State, which ended up sending him to three different psychiatric hospitals in four months, and they refused to let him return to school.

That’s when Isaiah’s family came to LAF for help.  LAF’s attorneys filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which sided with Isaiah on every count: the charter school had failed to identify Isaiah’s need for special education services, and failed to provide the special education services that Isaiah had every right to receive due to his disability.  OCR ordered a full independent evaluation that resulted in a robust individualized education program (IEP) for Isaiah and required that he attend a specialized special education school focused on emotional disabilities.  OCR also required the staff at his old charter school be educated on the laws surrounding special education..

Two years later, Isaiah is in third grade at his specialized school.  Just last week, Isaiah’s mom called LAF and shared that he made the honor roll.  He is doing well in school, his behavioral issues are under control, and he is thriving.  Hopefully, he will be able to transition to a neighborhood school soon.  LAF is proud of the progress Isaiah has made in the new supportive environment he is entitled to have.  We are committed to standing up for the rights of all students with disabilities in our education system, and to ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to succeed in school.

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