Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Martie, Oct 10, 2007.

  1. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    I do not have a link yet, but I just heard on CNN that the Supreme Court found in favor of the parents in the NYC Board of Education case. I am SOOO happy to be wrong. It split 4 to 4 however.

    by the way, the School Board was appealing, not the parents. I thought this would go the other way because of the Supreme Court's "due deference" to professional expertise of the school district. However, it appears that either humanity (!) or deference to stare decisis has prevailed.

    I really want to read the decision to see what the reasoning is.

  2. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Any case that sides with the parents is good news! I hope this is a sign of things to come.
  3. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator


    That's so "fresh off the press," it's not even on cnn's web site yet.
  4. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Unfortunately, the decision is not precedent-setting for future litigation.
  5. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    That is a good outcome. Can't read it yet on-line (Mrs. S's link is blocked at my office computer) so not sure why it's not a precedent, but for all those who can use it, it's great news.
  6. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    It's not a precedent because it is a 4-4 decision. I'm surprised it happened at all. The Supreme Court, even as it has gotten more conservative has strictly interpreted congress' intent that school district should not shirk their duty to ANY disabled child. We all know it happens, but as I said on another thread, only the very rich and the very poor get their day in court.

    I am really glad this came out as it did--for now.

  7. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Here is the text of the Blog--it is very interesting to me. Justice Kennedy recused himself and the comments are enlightening.


    UPDATE: The Court’s brief order can now be found here.

    Dividing 4-4 , the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld an appeals court ruling that parents of a disabled child are entitled to reimbursement of private school tuition even if the child has not previously received any public special education services. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy took no part, and the remaining eight Justices split. The case had been granted in February; Kennedy announced his recusal from the case only on Sept. 19, not long before the case was to be heard, on Oct. 1, opening day of the Term.

    The order in New York City Board of Education v. Tom F. (06-637) has the effect of upholding a Second Circuit Court ruling, but does not set a precedent for other cases, even on the same issue.

    If the Court wishes to take up the question again fairly soon, it has pending on its docket another Second Circuit case that is available for review — assuming that there are no complications that would require any Justice to stay out of it. The case is Board of Education, Hyde Parke Central School District v. Frank G., et al. (06-580). The Court had considered both that and the New York City case at Conferences last February, before choosing the New York case as the one it would review. There was, of course, no explanation why they chose that one as the vehicle. The Hyde Park case thus has been on hold.



    I’m having problems reconciling the per curiam order with the question, “Why did SCOTUS take this case?” Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but it seems like the decision (specifically, its lack of opinion) neither solves nor clarifies any issues related to this case. Is it reasonable to conclude that by virtue of the per curiam decision, NYC Bd of Ed. v Tom F turned out to be a “bad vehicle” for the issues at hand, and as Lyle alludes to, SCOTUS has to go to a “do over”?

    Comment by David Huberman — October 10, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

    how can you say that the PUBLIC SYSTEM is inadequate when you never used it. Seems They just wanted a Private education paid for.

    Comment by Lawrence sheehy — October 10, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

    A second, unrelated point to my first comment. I have seen recent allusions to the SCOTUS processes as exemplar of the Judiciary being “the most transparent” branch of government. In NYC Bd. of Ed. v Tom F., SCOTUS saw fit to grant cert, accept merit briefs and amici filings, and have arguments presented orally by counsels. In the end, however, there is no illumination — there is only a terse order sheet with no indications of “why” or “how”. There’s no view into the decision making. There is no transparency, only opaqueness.

    It seems to me a per curiam order on a case granted cert and proceeding accordingly could be viewed as either a disservice to the community, a cop-out, or both. (Again, if I’m missing something obvious, someone please hit me over the head with a clue bat.)

    Comment by David Huberman — October 10, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

    As a parent similarly affected as the plaintiffs in this case, I am extremely frustrated that the Supreme Court has rendered itself completely ineffective to providing clarity on this issue and setting important legal precedent for other circuits.

    The CENTRAL issue to this case was to enable parents, rich or poor, to seize the limited window of opportunity for children with autism to derive the essential benefits of appropriate early intervention. The child in this case in now 18 years old. I can only imagine how disheartened the family is that their valiant efforts on behalf of similarly situated families cannot gain anything from their marathon. The SCOTUS has done nothing more than waste the precious little time children with autism have.

    Comment by Emily Hill — October 10, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

    You are missing something obvious. The Court split 4-4 and therefore did not make a decision. It is the court’s practice not to release opinions explaining the views of the Justices on each side of the 4-4 split when these opinions will have no effect whatsoever.

    Comment by Adam Smith — October 10, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

    Ok, thank you Adam Smith.

    Comment by David Huberman — October 10, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

    In response to Mr. Sheehy, this split decision does exactly that - merely reimburses a family without financial need for a private education they were forced to seek due to the inadequacies of their local public school sytem. You don’t have to test drive a two-seater convertible to know it’s not going to meet the needs of your family of four. The family made an informed decision based on the needs of their child. To “try out” an inadequate placement would have resulted in irreparable harm to a child who has a critical need to get things right from the start. There is no window for trial and error with autism.

    A thoughtful and thorough decision, however, regarding the unique circumstances of autism would have enabled the millions of disabled children afflicted with this devastatingly progressive disease to make an informed choice in a timely manner. Forcing them to fail first in order to pursue their federal right is an abomination.

    The public schools are already paid for with tax dollars. Give those whose public schools cannot meet their obligation to provide a free and appropriate education to our children their taxes back to put towards a private education. If they did this, there would be no need for these kinds of cases. Until then, this is about much more than getting a private education “paid for.”

    Comment by Emily Hill — October 10, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

    Does anyone have a guess why Kennedy didn’t participate?

    Comment by Michael Colasanti — October 10, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    My guess is as the typical “swing” vote, he sat it out so that they would not have a binding ruling on this issue. This is a hot topic that tends to go straight down party lines. He wasn’t willing to step out on a limb. I’d prefer to think his recusal was based on something more solid, but with him giving no reason, that leaves it open to unfortunate speculation.

    Comment by Emily Hill — October 10, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

    Emily Hill said:

    “Give those whose public schools cannot meet their obligation to provide a free and appropriate education to our children their taxes back to put towards a private education.”

    I think this is a great idea, and it would apply to lots of students who aren’t disabled. Sadly, many children are trapped in lousy public schools.

    Comment by Stephen Jaros — October 10, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

    No Justice recuses him or herself from a case simply because they don’t feel like ruling on it. To even insinuate otherwise is appalling. Justice Kennedy had a conflict of interest, either with one of the parties or counsel thereof. He need not disclose the exact nature of it. It’s that simple.

    Comment by James N. Markels — October 10, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

    Unfortunately, nothing is simple in the world of politics. Hidden agendas abound. I’m not saying that is the case there, but let’s not oversimplify. Besides, there could be any number of conflicts. Perhaps he has a child, grandchild, relative or close friend affected by autism. Doesn’t everyone these days?

    Comment by Emily Hill — October 10, 2007 @ 5:20 pm
  8. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Couple of articles. Access the urls for internal links.
    Schools Stymie Justices
    Deadlock Over New York Case

    Staff Reporter of the Sun
    October 11, 2007

    Parents who want to send a disabled child to a private school at government expense no longer face as high a hurdle, at least in New York City.

    A split decision by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday will have the effect of forbidding the city's Department of Education from demanding that children with special needs first try out the public schools before they seek reimbursement for a private education.

    The eight justices who heard the case — Justice Kennedy recused himself — split 4–4. The divided decision leaves standing a ruling against the education department that a federal appellate court in Manhattan handed down last year.

    That lower court ruling carries no weight beyond three states. In the rest of the country, the vast majority of school districts are under little, if any, court guidance on the issue. The precise question that the Supreme Court's split decision did not answer was whether disabled children are entitled to reimbursement for a private education only after they have been enrolled in a public program and found it to be inadequate. That requirement has been criticized by some parents who say it forces children to waste time at programs that are a poor fit for their special needs.

    Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which covers children with disabilities ranging from dyslexia to autism to severe physical handicaps, a school district is responsible for paying to send a child to a private school if the district is unable to provide an "appropriate" public education. During the last school year, the city received 3,675 such requests. In about half, the child had never before tried a public special needs program, according to figures provided by the education department. When the city does pay to send a child to a private school, the average cost is $27,000 a year, although the costs can approach $300,000 for some intensive programs.

    One school official said the decision yesterday ensures that the rising number of reimbursement claims the city has faced in the past five years "will only increase."

    Staff Reporter of the Sun
    October 11, 2007
    [Continued from page 1 of 2]

    The lawyer who argued the case against the city, Paul Gardephe of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP said he predicted the ruling would encourage more tuition reimbursement claims by focusing the attention of parents on the benefits provided under IDEA.
    "Just the publicity may spark more of this," he said.

    Yesterday's brief order gives no indication of how each justice voted. It is unclear whether Justice Kennedy is recusing himself from all cases involving this issue. It is unlikely the court would agree to take a similar case anytime soon without a full panel of nine justices available to decide it.

    The case, Board of Education v. Tom F., was brought by a former executive at Viacom, Thomas Freston, on behalf of his son, Gilbert, who is now a high school senior. The city had at first agreed to send Gilbert, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to the private Stephen Gaynor School on the Upper West Side without demanding that he first try a public program. But after two years of paying Gilbert's tuition, the city told Mr. Freston that Gilbert would need to see if a public program was an appropriate fit.

    A statement yesterday sent on behalf of the plaintiff stated that he brought the case "to ensure that our government, as a matter of public policy, fulfills its obligations to families by ensuring they have access to suitable special education programs."

    Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg defended the city's decision to demand that the Frestons enroll their son in a public school before putting in a claim with the city.

    "They just decided their kid needed private schools and never sent their child to public schools and just sent us a bill," Mr. Bloomberg said. "We thought that that was not appropriate, that the city can't afford to send every child to private school."

    A federal appellate court with jurisdiction over three southern states, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, has ruled that parents need not first send their children to public schools to be eligible for reimbursement. The same holding by New York's 2nd Circuit, which was allowed to stand in yesterday's decision, is binding over New York, Connecticut and Vermont. But the 1st Circuit Court, which covers Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire, reached the opposite result in a 2004 decision.


    By David B. Caruso, Associated Press Writer | October 10, 2007

    NEW YORK --A multimillionaire who sued New York City over its refusal to pay for his learning-disabled son's private school education won by default Wednesday when the Supreme Court couldn't agree which side was right.

    The justices split 4-4, leaving intact a lower court's ruling in favor of former Viacom and MTV executive Tom Freston.

    The potential tiebreaker, Justice Anthony Kennedy, did not participate in the case. The court gave no explanation for his absence.

    On its face, the outcome means that New York City's Education Department will have to pay Freston a little less than $22,000 to cover a year's tuition at the Manhattan private school his son attended after he was diagnosed with mild learning disabilities in the late 1990s.

    But the court didn't address the case's key question: Do the parents of special education students have a right to demand a private school education for their kids without giving public schools a try first?

    The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that parents who can prove that their child couldn't get an appropriate education in the public schools may sue for private-school tuition reimbursement, even if they never tried the public system.

    Freston said in a news release that he believed the Supreme Court had affirmed that "children with learning challenges have a right, without jumping through hoops, to attend schools capable of providing them with an education that truly accommodates their individual requirements."

    New York City officials had agreed that some students do need private placements, but argued that federal law barred payments to pupils who do not enroll in public schools for at least a brief period of time. The city's chief appeals lawyer, Leonard Koerner, said letting students skip the public school system entirely will make it tougher for parents and teachers to collectively evaluate where a child would do best.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city also deserved a chance to "protect the taxpayer" from having to pay for private school placements that aren't necessary.

    "The city can't afford to send every child to private school," he said.

    After his son was diagnosed with learning disabilities, Freston approached the city about a possible placement in a public special education program, but he was unhappy with their recommendations and sent the boy instead to the Stephen Gaynor School, a well-regarded academy for children with learning problems.

    The city initially paid $50,000 in tuition over two years before deciding to stop the payments and insist that the boy attend a city-run program.

    Freston filed a legal challenge, and a hearing officer initially sided with the family, saying the city's education plan was inappropriate. A judge's subsequent ruling in favor of the city was overturned on appeal.

    The boy, meanwhile, improved his school performance significantly and transferred back into regular classes.

    Nationwide, the number of special education students placed in private schools at public expense has risen from about 52,012 pupils in 1996 to 71,082 in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

    Gary Mayerson, a lawyer who works with the group Autism Speaks, said the people who would benefit most from the case are poor and middle-income families who couldn't afford a private school placement for their children without city help.

    Freston said all tuition reimbursements he has received from the city have been donated to special education programs for public school students.


    Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.
  9. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I am still not clear about the type of disability the boy has as the articles above say autism, mild learning disabilities and the like. I am also not sure if he enrolled in public school after the 2 years in Stephan Gaynor because one note said that he improved and was able to return to regular classes.

    That is my goal with my son. We went from K-5 in the public school system, middle school can't handle gifted Learning Disability (LD) so he is in private school at district expense. Our goal is to bring him back to district for HS.

    I was glad to see that Freston donated all reimbursements he received to public school use for sped kids.

    I wonder why Kennedy recused himself. Either he owned a lot of stock in Viacom or he has a child or relative with autism or Learning Disability (LD), is my guess.
  10. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    In an email from wrightslaw

    Supreme Court Issues Decision
    in NYC v. Tom F.

    "On Monday, October 1, the Court heard Oral argument in New York Bd of Ed v. Tom F.

    On Wednesday, October 10, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in this case. Justice Kennedy, author of the pro-parent decision in Winkelman v. Parma, recused himself. The decision was split, 4-4.

    What does this decision mean to you?

    The favorable decision on behalf of the parents and child stands for families who live in the Second Circuit - Connecticut, New York, and Vermont.

    However, the failure of the Supreme Court to issue a definitive ruling on this issue means that the case has no precedential value beyond the 2nd Circuit. The decision is, in essence, a nullity, i.e., the case never went beyond the 2nd Circuit.

    You can read the decision in Tom F. at:

    "First Bite of Failure Not Required by the IDEA" - Frank G. v. Hyde Park Central School District

    However, the story may not end here. Tom F. is intertwined with another case from the 2nd Circuit, Frank G. v. Hyde Park Central School District.

    In Frank G., the parents prevailed in a tuition reimbursement case before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The school district's argument was essentially the same as in Tom F.- that parents are not entitled to tuition reimbursement unless their child was previously enrolled in the public school's special education program.

    The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit described the "absurd results" this argument would cause:

    "It would, for instance, prevent children who are provided with inadequate IEPs from receiving a free appropriate public education if their disabilities were detected before they reached school age."

    "It would also place the parents of children with disabilities in the untenable position of acquiescing to an inappropriate placement in order to preserve their right to seek reimbursement from the public agency that devised the inappropriate placement."

    After the parents prevailed in Frank G., the school district appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Briefs have been filed regarding whether the Court should or should not hear the school district's appeal. After briefs were filed, they were distributed for a conference of the Justices that was scheduled for February 16, 2007. No rulings or orders were issued. The briefs were distributed again to the Justices on February 20 for a conference scheduled for February 23, 2007.

    On Monday, October 10, briefs were again distributed to the Justices for a conference on Friday, October 12.

    The Supreme Court has taken no action in deciding whether to grant or deny certiorari. The Supreme Court has left the door open to re-visit the legal issue that was the focus of the Tom F case.

    Question - If Justice Kennedy has to recuse himself again, will the Court grant cert in Frank G.? If Justice Kennedy does not recuse himself, the Court may grant cert on Frank G. tomorrow, October 12. This will give the Court another shot at resolving this legal issue.

    To follow the Frank G. case, check the Supreme Court docket sheet.

    More Memorable Quotes from Frank G.

    "The plain language of 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) does not say that tuition reimbursement is only available to parents whose child had previously received special education and related services from a public agency, nor does it say that tuition reimbursement is not available to parents whose child had not previously received special education and related services."

    "This brings us to the last rule of statutory construction applicable here. This rule, as we previously observed, is that ambiguous statutes are to be construed so as to avoid absurd results. It would, for instance, prevent children who are provided with inadequate IEPs from receiving a free appropriate public education if their disabilities were detected before they reached school age. It would also place the parents of children with disabilities in the untenable position of acquiescing to an inappropriate placement in order to preserve their right to seek reimbursement from the public agency that devised the inappropriate placement."

    "Such a result, it has been suggested, 'ensures that a parent's rejection of a public school placement is not based on mere speculation as to whether the recommended school placement would have been appropriate.' This suggestion turns on the erroneous assumption that parents would have to keep their child in a public school placement until it was clear that their 'speculation' was borne out by a wasted year of actual failure. Such a "first bite" at failure is not required by the IDEA. (emphasis added)

    "We believe that it is unreasonable to suggest that Anthony's parents were legally required to engage in such a useless and potentially counterproductive exercise, given Anthony's 'need for constant and consistent care, even brief periods of inappropriate schooling could lead to tremendous educational, social, emotional, and psychological deterioration.'"

    "We decline to interpret 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) to require parents to jeopardize their child's health and education in this manner in order to qualify for the right to seek tuition reimbursement."

    There are some internal links that do not show up, but I can't find the email alert on wrightslaw website. It may take a few days to get their email alerts online.
  11. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    In this article, there's more opinion on this ruling. It also includes a few state stats about school district's payment for private placements.


    Texas parents, schools spar over special needs
    Getting public funds for private help is rare in the state

    Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

    At age 9, Jodie threw tantrums so violent his elementary school threatened to call the police. The next year, the special education student tried to strangle an aide on the school bus, his mom said.

    Diagnosed first with bipolar disorder and more recently as having Asperger syndrome, the bespectacled Kingwood boy has a history of biting, kicking, swearing and soiling himself to get attention.

    Since he was in third grade, Humble Independent School District administrators have moved Jodie to at least three different schools. At one of the latest, the district's center for children with emotional disturbances, Carol Allred found her son in a timeout room covered in his own waste.

    She pushed then, as before, for taxpayer-funded private schooling.

    But only this year, after Jodie had fallen behind two grades in reading and spent countless hours isolated from other students because of his outbursts, did school officials agree.

    Jodie now spends every day and night at Bayes Achievement Center, a Huntsville facility that treats children with emotional or behavioral problems — at a cost of about $170,000 a year for Humble ISD.

    The district hopes the boy will improve there and return to school next year. Allred, a single mother working rotating shifts as a dialysis nurse, just wishes he'd been sent sooner.

    "It shouldn't be like that," she said. "It should be: We see a problem, let's nip it in the bud now and get it fixed. If we had done this two years ago, we would be in a much better place."

    Education guaranteed
    Under the groundbreaking Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, special education students are guaranteed an education equivalent to their non-special-needs peers. Included in IDEA is a clause: If a district can't educate a special education student, it must fork over the funds to teach that child at a private school or residential center.

    But the ease with which parents get public funding for private education may vary depending on where, and by what means, they live.

    In New York, where schools forced a Supreme Court ruling on the issue last week, districts funded private schooling for more than 3 percent of all special education students in 2005. In New Jersey, that figure was 5.5 percent; in Washington, D.C., 15 percent.

    Texas, by contrast, paid for private education for 215 — or 0.05 percent — of the 467,169 special education students that year, ranking it near the bottom in the nation.

    That's a record that makes state education officials proud. It shows schools have successfully found ways to keep and teach special education students within the public school system, said Debbie Radcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

    But some special education advocates see the opposite: stingy school districts that would rather litigate than get children the specialized help they need.

    "It's near impossible," said Jimmy Kilpatrick, a special education consultant based in Sugar Land. "A kid has to go through three to four years of hell. Only once a kid is real aggressive, throwing chairs all the time, will they agree (to private placement)."

    Tamala Irish, whose Hear Me Foundation teaches parents to negotiate for special education services, knows of many who just give up — and withdraw their children from public school. According to state education data, Texas students with disabilities withdraw for private or home schooling at a higher rate than the general student population.

    "A lot more parents now are taking out educational loans early on to be able to pay for it," Irish said. "That way they don't have to deal with (the public schools) anymore."

    That's what she did last school year with her emotionally disturbed son. When his school district wouldn't pay for a special boarding school in Utah, Irish sent her son there anyway. Now she's trying to get the district to pay her back.

    Irish thinks conservative courts are a big reason for the low private placement numbers in Texas. Judges here just don't side with parents, she said.

    Other reasons seen
    But experts say other factors may also play a roll.

    Texas likely has fewer private options or less of a tradition for using these schools to help special education students, said Tom Parrish, who studied the issue in Washington, D.C.

    Wealth could also be a factor. In the District of Columbia, at least, families from richer ZIP codes disproportionately took advantage of taxpayer-funded private special education schooling, said Parrish, director of the California-based Center for Special Education Finance.

    Lawyers arguing on the side of New York City schools in the Supreme Court case this month noted a similar trend.

    In that case, media mogul Thomas Freston sued for public reimbursement after he enrolled his learning-disabled child in a special private school. Freston, a former Viacom executive, said the district couldn't educate his son. Split 4-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy absent, the justices on Wednesday upheld a lower court decision, essentially ruling in Freston's favor.

    But the city's education department argued that Freston never gave their schools a try. Siding with him, lawyers said, could lead to a spike in lawsuits for tuition reimbursement, predominantly from well-heeled parents who have the resources to wage a court battle.

    "Private tuition reimbursement is typically sought by parents who are familiar with the intricacies of IDEA and who have the resources to pay private school tuition out-of-pocket while they are seeking reimbursement," wrote lawyers siding with the schools.

    $922 million a year
    At last count, some 88,000 of the nearly 6 million special education students in the nation attended private schools on the public dime, according to an Education Next article co-written in the spring by Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank.

    Of these, nearly half are classified as emotionally disturbed.

    Greene estimates the cost of schooling these children at close to $922 million a year, or around 0.24 percent of all public school spending, although others argue the real number may be higher.

    It is this price tag that drives many school district complaints about private placements. In briefs filed in the Freston lawsuit, lawyers warned of "overwhelming" and "exorbitant" costs if cases like Freston's or Allred's increase in the future.

    In Humble, Jodie's schooling this year will cost nearly 18 times what the district spends on the average student, according to state data. That's one reason the district developed its Behavior Training Center in 2000, said Sally LaRue, director of educational support services. Before that, the district had several children in private placement. This year, there is only Jodie.

    Allred pulled her son out of that special center, saying teachers there exacerbated his bad behavior. But LaRue believes the facility has "stabilized" many students with behavioral problems.

    She and other district officials declined to comment specifically on Jodie's case, citing confidentiality issues. But LaRue defends the time her district takes in deciding the right placement for a child. Many times, she said, parents want to rush the process, but their children need time to adjust.

    Allred still thinks the school lost valuable time helping Jodie. And in the weeks since he's been gone, she's started reaching out to other parents involved in similar fights. Last week she went to a special education meeting with one couple and next month she plans to attend another.

    Meanwhile, she talks to Jodie when he's allowed phone calls and recently visited him in Huntsville. Although still struggling, he seems more relaxed, she said. By next August, Allred hopes her son will be home again — a happier and healthier boy.

    "Other parents who don't have special needs kids think we just cause trouble," she said. "But we are only trying to get what our kids are entitled to."