Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.
Nadia: Fighting for the least restrictive classroom
Federal law has required for more than 40 years that public schools provide special education services in general education classrooms, the least restrictive settings, as much as it is appropriate for each child. In Nadia’s case, that almost did not happen.
Nadia thrives academically, has big dreams, and works hard in school, but also battles emotional and mental health disabilities. She was improperly expelled from school for an incident caused by her disabilities. The expulsion followed several informal removals of Nadia from the classroom and calls to her guardian a few times each month to pick Nadia up from school. During that time, Nadia’s mental well-being declined, and her grades began to drop when the school forced her into a separate classroom away from other students.
An ABLE attorney challenged the expulsion and argued that Nadia’s behavior was caused by the disability identified in her Individualized Education Program. The attorney asserted that the school district’s newly adopted Student Code of Conduct called for expulsion only in the most extreme cases. The code also specifically required administrators to consider a student’s disability, individual needs, the root cause of the behavior, and the circumstances surrounding the incident when pondering a student’s removal from the school.
Upon review, the district overturned Nadia’s expulsion. Together with the guardian, the attorney pushed the school to provide the legally-required appropriate services and supports to Nadia to enable her success. Nadia made excellent progress, and by the end of the school year, she was in the general education classroom. Her grades improved, and she was no longer exhibiting extreme behaviors. The ABLE advocate also got the school to pay for an independent evaluation of Nadia’s behavior to develop a new behavior intervention plan. The school followed the outside expert’s recommendations, and Nadia is now set up for success in the coming year.
*This client’s name was changed to protect their privacy.