The Special Education Legal Fund can help you navigate the complex puzzle that is the special education system. Their organization provides essential services to help you advocate for your child!
This guide will explain what the Special Education Legal Fund is, how their grant programs can help you, and what you need to do to apply.
What is the Special Education Legal Fund?
The Special Education Legal Fund is an organization that was founded by parents. The goal was to create an organization and a fund that could help support parents who are trying to navigate the special education system.
After all, the special education system can be very difficult to figure out. There are a lot of new acronyms and sometimes it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. It’s important for parents to have the tools and the knowledge to support their children through this process.
That’s why the Special Education Legal Fund exists. They help mentor families and provide them with the financial resources to advocate for their children. They do this by providing information, mentoring, support and specialized grants.
What grants are available?
The Special Education Legal Fund offers two types of grants: one for legal assistance and one for advocacy. You’ll need to apply for the one that best suits your needs.
Special Education Attorneys are legal professionals well-versed in education laws, especially those related to students with disabilities. They can represent families in legal disputes, assist in due process hearings, and ensure that a child’s legal rights are upheld. If a school isn’t providing appropriate services or there’s a disagreement that seems headed to a legal showdown, an attorney becomes vital.
On the other hand, Special Education Advocates guide and support families throughout the special education process without the legal lens. They attend IEP or 504 Plan meetings, help parents understand these plans, and ensure the child receives the correct accommodations. Advocates often have a deep understanding of available resources, interventions, and educational strategies.
So, how can you choose which one you need? It often boils down to the nature of the challenge. If you’re looking for guidance, understanding, and someone to stand with you during school meetings, an advocate can do that. But if legal rights are potentially being violated or there’s a significant dispute with the school district, an attorney’s expertise becomes crucial. In essence, consider the advocate as the supportive guide and the attorney as the legal shield.
Remember that both of these grants are one-time only per child.
Legal Assistance Program
The Legal Assistance Program Grant can provide up to $6,000 to help you retain a special education attorney. You may need assistance from an attorney if you’re dealing with an inadequate IEP, placement disagreements, disciplinary issues, limited access to necessary services or other disputes with the school.
Although SELF will not recommend an attorney to you, they do have a list of professional guidelines that must be followed. Any attorney that you work with must meet these guidelines:
- They must have practiced law with an emphasis on special education or disability rights for at least seven years. These topics must represent a majority of their legal practice.
- They must be affiliated with the American Bar Association, Connecticut Bar Association or New York Bar Association
- The must be licensed to practice law in either Connecticut or New York.
Some of the attorneys that have worked with clients who received a Legal Assistance Program grant from the Special Education Legal Fund include:
- Barger & Gaines (Paul Barger)
- Feinstein Education Law Group (Andrew Feinstein, Jillian Griswold)
- Forte Law Group
- Michael Gilberg, Esq
- Piper Paul Law
- Special Education MAP (Melanie Dunn)
- The Law Offices of Courtney Spencer
- The Law Offices of Dana Jonson
- The Law Offices of Jennifer Laviano and Melissa Gagne
- The Law Offices of John Flanders
- The Law Offices of Lawrence Berliner
- The Law Offices of Meredith Braxton
- The Law Offices of Penelope Petzold
- The Law Offices of Robin Keller
- The Law Offices of Terry Bedard
You can select a different attorney as long as they meet the guidelines outlined above.
Advocacy Support Program
Special education can be a maze. From understanding IEPs to ensuring your child’s rights are upheld, the challenges are many. A special education advocate can be a game-changer, guiding families through processes, attending meetings, and ensuring children receive the appropriate services and accommodations.
With this $1,000 grant, the Special Education Legal Fund aims to connect families with these expert advocates, removing financial barriers. An advocate can be the difference between confusion and clarity, between missed opportunities and maximized potential. Secure this grant and ensure your child gets the educational support they deserve.
Am I eligible?
In order to be eligible for a grant from The Special Education Legal Fund, you need to meet specific criteria. Some of the rules depend on which grant that you want to apply for, while others are universal to all of their programs.
Regardless of which grant you want to apply for, you’ll need to meet these requirements:
- You must live in Connecticut or Westchester County, New York.
- Your child must have a current IEP or 504 Plan.
- You must meet income limits. The limits are around $60,000 for a household of two or $90,000 for a household of four. The income limits scale by household size.
If you have a 504 plan, you’ll only be eligible for the Advocacy Grant. Your child must have an IEP in order to apply for the Attorney Grant.
How can I apply?
Once you decide which grant you want to apply for, you’ll need to click the corresponding button on the Apply for Grant page of the Special Education Legal Fund website. There are different buttons for each program.
After you click the button, you’ll be guided through four questions. This is the eligibility screening. As long as you are eligible, the organization will reach out to you with an actual application within 72 hours.
Once you receive the application, you’ll need to complete it. You have to submit a completed application and all of the required documentation in order to get help. The documentation includes a copy of your IEP or 504 plan, as well as proof of income and other documents.
The grants are evaluated every month. You have to apply by the 15th of the month in order to be considered for that month’s grant program.
What happens next?
After the application period closes, the Special Education Legal Fund starts conducting phone interviews. This takes around an hour and must be completed by the 22nd of the month. If you miss their call, make sure to call them back before the deadline so you don’t miss your chance!
Decisions are made before the end of the month. The organization notifies all applicants of the decision, so you will know whether or not you were approved for the grant.
If you are approved, you will need to find an attorney within 30 days. If you don’t, the Special Education Legal Fund will withdraw your approval and you’ll lose the grant.
If you are not approved, you may be invited to apply again the next month. You can also look toward other resources like Legal Aid for assistance.
Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis during the school year (October through June).
The Special Education Legal Fund (SELF) offers crucial support for families navigating the special education system. By providing grants for legal assistance and advocacy, it helps parents understand and fight for their child’s educational rights. With opportunities to apply monthly, SELF ensures that every child can receive the best possible education, regardless of challenges. Whether you need advice or legal expertise, SELF is here to help.