Research shines light on families' legal disputes over autistic kids in classroom

by Sharita Forrest  /   Jan 12, 2015

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Department of Special Education Professor Meghan M. Burke examined parents’ use of procedural safeguards in resolving disputes with schools about the education provided to their children with autism. She and co-researcher Samantha E. Goldman found that families whose children with autism spectrum disorders spend less than 20 percent of their time in mainstream classrooms are nearly twice as likely to resort to litigation.

Families with incomes above $100,000 were significantly more likely to take legal recourse compared with families who earned half as much, a disparity that Burke called “very worrisome.”

“Due process and mediation are definitely last resorts for parents and schools to resolve differences,” Burke said, “but you want it to be an equitable resort. 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.”

While legal proceedings can be effective in helping parents and schools resolve disagreements, the average cost of a due process hearing is estimated to be $60,000.

Read the full article by Sharita Forrest of the Illinois News Bureau.