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Special education law office opens in Georgetown

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Attorneys focus on advocacy at no cost to parents

McAndrews Law Offices, the nation's largest special education legal practice, has opened a new office in Georgetown. The firm provides free legal counsel for students who say they have not received a fair and appropriate public education.

Attorneys at the practice recently hosted a roundtable discussion with nearly a dozen education advocates in southern Delaware. Associate Caitlin McAndrews, Esq., a former teacher herself, opened the panel and offered limited legal advice.

"It's OK to disagree; you just have to do it in the right way," McAndrews said. "Be firm and professional; in schools it's not just what's best for the child, it's what's appropriate."

The advocates who attended ranged from new Delaware residents who were not able to transfer teaching and special education credentials to representatives from Autism Delaware, social workers, teachers and parents.

They addressed annual meetings held to establish an individual education plan for each special needs student, parents' rights and a vocabulary of educational acronyms that leaves many parents and others unsure what they are agreeing to. Laura Rimmer, a representative from Children & Families First, said she hopes to see laws enacted that put parents on the same level as educators.

"We need legislation that advocates for parents," Rimmer said. "The vast majority of parents don't have the same knowledge base as educators, and they are just being snowballed at these IEP meetings."

She said that as a parent who knows how to navigate the system, she can ensure her son receives an appropriate education, but many parents are overwhelmed. Parent advocate Diane Eastburn said she often faces these circumstances and tries to help other parents.

"I try to help them negotiate their way through," Eastburn said. "That's my goal."

As a former special education teacher, McAndrews said she sees the courtroom as the last, but sometimes necessary, line of defense. "Students have the right to a free, appropriate public education," McAndrews said. "One thing we don't want is people running to court to solve things that can be solved in a more appropriate manner."

However, when advocates or parents believe a student is not receiving an appropriate education, she advised immediate action.

"The bottom line is, if you think a school is not serving a student appropriately, give us a call, because you have two years from that date to receive compensatory education."

The new McAndrews Law Offices are located in Georgetown Professional Park. For more information, call 302-380-4975 or go to www.McAndrewsLaw.com.



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Original Publication Date: February 26, 2016



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