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"The playing field needs to be leveled so that lower-income families have access to pro bono and sliding-scale attorneys who can help them file, if that’s something that they need to do," noted University of Illinois' Meghan Burke, one of the study's authors.
While the results of this study, are not surprising to me, it breaks my heart in affirming what I already knew to be true. Parents who are not successfully working out educational strategies with their school are only able to press the point if they have the money to hire an attorney. Due to the constant added costs of caring for a child with chronic illness or disability, very few families have the additional funds to pay for that needed legal help.
Conversely, we have also served affluent parents who were taken great advantage of because advocates saw an easy opportunity to pad their pockets. Theses families were left with lighter wallets and no positive resolutions with their schools. It is beyond tragic.
In my mind, I have to wonder why no one has yet brought people together to assure uniform quality standards for advocacy and mediation. Is this an elephant in the room that people fear to confront?
When special education is working well, everyone wins -- the child, the educators, the parents, and the wider society. The recipe for success plays out as persevering teachers lovingly believe in their students, connecting and working with the parents of these students as a team, and the student blossoms to share their full potential with the world around them.
It is clear that until we get the mediation gap between the haves and have-nots resolved, the educational system will be more inclined to mistreat and neglect our less financially secure students. We would do well as a society to stop foolishly leaving so much tremendous potential behind because monetary obstacles leave parents with no recourse.
~ Barb Dittrich