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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ISSUES OPINION LETTER ON NEW INDIANA LAW

(Fishers, Indiana) – This spring, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring anyone with a claim against a public school district to jump through certain hoops, which include providing written notice to the school corporation before filing a lawsuit or administrative complaint. When special education attorney Tom Blessing heard about the new law, he immediately saw the problems which it poses for parents with disabled children: “Even though in theory the statute applies to anyone with a claim against a public school district, the reality is that this new law targets my special needs clients who are disputing the services which their children should be receiving at school,” said Massillamany Jeter & Carson LLP partner Tom Blessing. “It was clearly passed as the result of a well-funded, orchestrated lobbying effort by Indiana school corporations and their lawyers. Since parents of children with special needs don’t have an army of paid lobbyists roaming the halls of the statehouse, the bill sailed through both houses unopposed, landed on the governor’s desk, and now it’s the law.”

Blessing said the new law is fraught with legal problems: “Essentially, the new statute requires people to fire a legal ‘warning shot’ before taking legal action against a school. There’s not enough room to list all of the deficiencies in this law. For starters, in the case of my clients with disabilities, the Indiana law conflicts with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and would have had a major negative impact on parents of students with disabilities. Indiana statute is preempted by federal law.”

“Since many parents aren’t familiar with the new law, their cases could be dismissed if they don’t comply with it. Schools are already filing motions to dismiss parents’ Due Process Hearing Requests based on the new law, but so far the only Hearing Officer to rule on such a motion ruled in our client’s favor,” Blessing explained. Because parents risk having their case thrown out, Blessing asked the U.S. Department of Education to address the impact of the new Indiana law under the IDEA. In a major victory for parents, this month the Department issued an opinion letter on the law. The Department is of the opinion that the new Indiana statute conflicts with federal law. Click here to read the letter.

Massillamany Jeter & Carson LLP is a full-service law firm serving the State of Indiana. Tom Blessing, a partner at Massillamany Jeter & Carson LLP, practices education law, representing parents and students with claims arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Article 7, Section 504, Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). His primary focus is on helping children with special needs and their parents in disputes with public school districts over their Individualized Education Programs (IEP) by prosecuting Due Process Hearing Requests. He also represents students who have been suspended or expelled from school, are victims of bullying or disability discrimination or who have been injured at school as the result of negligence or abuse.

/documents/OSEP-response-to-Blessing-12-5-18.pdf

If you have questions regarding the new Indiana law, contact Tom Blessing for a free consultation at [email protected]

or by phone at 317-417-0809.

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