Parenting, raising and caring for children often presents unanticipated challenges. Problems related to school, custody, child support and more are not easy to solve. Kids and caregivers have legal rights and responsibilities that can help.
- Child Support
Healthy Mommies, Healthy Babies
Are you pregnant or do you have a child? This brochure explains how pregnancy or having a child might affect your public benefits and other legal issues.
More information can be found in both English and Spanish at: Healthy Mommies, Healthy Babies/Mamás y bebés sanos
Language Access for Parents
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has agreed to provide interpretation and translation services to students and parents with material related to schooling. This flyer explains what services the Cleveland School district has agreed to provide.
This flyer is available in both English and Spanish at: Language Access for Parents/Acceso lingüístico para los padres.
Bullying in Schools: Know Your Rights and Your Public School’s Obligations
This brochure explains Ohio’s anti-bullying laws, which apply to all public school and charter schools. Bullying is defined broadly as mental harm, physical harm, harm within a dating relationship or harm by an act done through an electronic device. Schools are required to make a safe, bully-free learning environment. Parents can protect their child by knowing their rights, reporting abuse, and communicating with their child. This brochure also explains how parents can seek legal advice if a school has failed to protect their child or comply with state laws.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Bullying in Ohio Schools
This brochure is also available in Spanish: Intimidación en las Escuelas de Ohio
Access to Education for Homeless Students and Students Living in Temporary Housing
This brochure explains the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which is a federal law that requires school districts to provide an education to homeless students. This law protects students rights to enroll in school or continue attending school despite lacking necessary documents, and to transfer and be transported to a school that is convenient to them. Public school has a liaison who assists homeless students and their families. This brochure also explains how families can seek legal help if a child’s school is not fulfilling these obligations.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Access to Education for Homeless Students Living in Temporary Housing
This information is also available in Spanish: Acceso a la Educación por Alumnos Sin Casa y Alumnos que Están Viviendo en Viviendas Temporales
School Discipline: Know Your Rights
If your child has been suspended or expelled, you should be aware of your rights. This flyer outlines some of them. They include your right to receive written notice of a school’s intention to suspend or expel your child, your child’s right to have a lawyer at an expulsion hearing, your right to get copies of all documents that will be used at an expulsion hearing, and your right to appeal an expulsion decision.
More information is available in English and Spanish at: School Discipline: Know Your Rights/Disciplina Escolar: Conozca sus Derechos – Expulsiones Escolares
Special Education: Know Your Rights
If you think your child has learning problems, you may ask the school to test your child for special education. This flyer outlines some of the rights you and your child have. They include the right to request an individualized education plan (IEP) meeting at any time, extra rights and protections for suspensions and expulsions, and your right to request a re-evaluation of your child once a year.
More information is available in English and Spanish at: Special Education: Know Your Rights/Educación Especial: Conozca sus Derechos.
Is Your Child having Problems at School?
Is your school not responding to your concerns? Does your child need special education? Has your child been suspended or expelled? Legal Aid may be able to help.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Is Your Child having Problems at School?
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Tiene su Niño(a) Problemas en la Escuela?
Paying Child Support? Here’s How To Apply for a Change.
Has your income dropped since you were first ordered to pay child support? You may be able to change the amount of child support you pay. The change is called “modification.” This brochure outlines the steps you should take in applying for modification and describes the advantages, disadvantages, and requirements of applying through either your local Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) or through the courts. Also included is information on what to do if the child is no longer a minor, what may happen after you request a change, and a list of addresses and phone numbers of where to go to request a child support modification.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Paying for Child Support? Here’s How to Apply for a Change
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: ¿Esta pagando manutención de menores? Aquí es como puede solicitar un cambio.
How are free meals being provided to students during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Each school district has its own plan for the provision of free breakfast and lunch for students. Contact your local district to find out what is offered in your area. Additional information is available here: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/Coronavirus
What’s Changed with Ohio’s New Child Support Law?
Earlier this year, Ohio updated its child support laws for the first time since 1992. The new law took effect on March 28th, 2019, with the approval of House Bill 366. Among other changes, the bill altered how the amount of child support is calculated and adjusted the minimum amount a parent must pay. Some highlights include:
- Child support calculations are now based on both gross income and imputed income. Imputed income is the value of any services or benefits employers give employees.
- A new “self-sufficiency reserve” allows for some people whose income is below 116% of the federal poverty level to pay less in child support.
- The standard minimum monthly payment increased from $50 to $80 a month.
- The court will reduce an annual child support obligation by 10% if the person ordered to pay child support has the child for over 90 nights (about every other weekend and one night per week). The 10% decrease can be eliminated if the parent does not actually care for the child at least 90 nights.
- Orders for multiple children will no longer be designed so that the first support order is automatically higher than subsequent orders.
- Child support guidelines will be reviewed at least once every four years for needed changes, but can be reviewed more often.
The new law also states that obligors (people obliged to pay child support) can ask the Office of Child Support Services to start the process of modifying the amount he or she must pay on debts owed for a child who is now an adult. Additionally, obligors who receive both SSI and SSDI should ask OCSS for a modification.
The changes do not automatically apply to existing orders. However, the changes will apply to all cases filed after March 28th, 2019.
This article was written by Jenna Bird and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 2.
What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a new education law. It replaces the No Child Left Behind Act. President Obama signed this new law on December 10, 2015. ESSA gives state and local governments more control over education in their communities. The goal of ESSA is to create more opportunities for all students, close achievement gaps, improve teaching quality, and reach better outcomes for students.
The U.S. Department of Education and Ohio are working together to create a plan for how ESSA will work here. Ohio’s plan must address help for struggling schools, standards and testing, and school and district accountability. Ohio has the 2016-2017 school year to create this plan. Ohio’s plan is set to start in the 2017-2018 school year.
ESSA requires states to continue to follow the McKinney-Vento Act. This helps students stay in school if their family loses housing. Students who become homeless may either stay in their home school or attend the school closest to where they are temporarily living. Students who are homeless can also receive transportation to help them stay in school. ESSA increases the duties of the school district liaison. This person helps families that become homeless access services.
ESSA also protects children in foster care from having to move schools when they enter foster care or change foster homes. If it is in the child’s best interest to stay in his or her home school, the child has a right to transportation to that school. If it is not in the child’s best interest to stay in the same school, ESSA requires the child to be enrolled immediately in a new school.
Ohio is working to develop its plan. The Ohio Department of Education expects to have a draft plan open for public comments by the end of 2016. More information about ESSA in Ohio can be found at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Every-Student-Succeeds-Act-ESSA.
By Jessica Baaklini
I’m on Medicaid/Child Health Insurance Program – How Do I Apply for Federal Student Aid?
Resources are available to help Medicaid / Child Health Insurance Program recipients apply for federal student aid.
To access the $180 billion in Federal student aid available, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at FAFSA.gov. Beginning October 1st, students will be able to access the FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year. Given Medicaid/CHIP eligibility requirements, it is expected that most beneficiaries and their families would qualify for student financial aid.
- To find a program that fits specific needs, see the new College Scorecard with data on college costs, graduation rates, earnings, and student debt at colleges and universities across the United States. This video shows how the College Scorecard can help with finding a good-value school.
- To access step-by-step support and additional information, the First Lady’s Up Next texting tool provides advising for FAFSA completion, the college search, and student debt repayment. Text COLLEGE to 44044 to get started.
- For additional information and support, the Financial Aid Toolkit has ready-made materials for counselors, students, and families to answer the most common questions.
What Resources are there for Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning in children is a serious condition with long term negative consequences. The following resources may help families in northeast Ohio trying to cope with lead poisoning:
For medical advice for a child with an elevated blood level, contact:
- Your child’s pediatrician
- MetroHealth Pediatric Lead Clinic
Referral by pediatrician or call (216) 778-2222
For education resources and support, contact:
- Help Me Grow (http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/)
- For a list of Help Me Grow providers in your area, go to http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/aboutus/Finding%20Help%20Me%20Grow/Find%20Help%20Me%20Grow.aspx
For information on lead testing of your home, contact:
- If you live in the city of Cleveland:
City of Cleveland Lead Safe: (216) 664-2175
Lead Hazard Control Program: 216.651.0077
- If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:
Cuyahoga County Board of Health: (216) 201-2000
- If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:
Ohio Healthy Homes 1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)
For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, 216-651-0077
- If you live in the City of Cleveland or anywhere else in Cuyahoga County, 216-263-5323
- If you live in Lorain County, 440-892-7873
- If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga or Lake Counties, 614-728-3105 http://www.odh.ohio.gov/odhprograms/eh/lead_ch/lhcgp.aspx
How can I get my child extra support in school?
A pre-school, elementary or high school student with a disability may need extra support in school. Some disabilities keep students from participating in school in the same way as other students, like deafness or being unable to walk. Other disabilities, like dyslexia or low IQ, may keep a child from learning in the same way as other students. Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiance Disorder may keep a child from controlling their behaviors. Children with disruptive behaviors may miss a lot of class time or have trouble paying attention in class.
If a student can learn the same way as other students, but is not succeeding in school, that student may need accommodations. Examples of accommodations are a wheelchair ramp, a sign language interpreter, and extra breaks for a student with ADHD. Accommodations should be recorded in a 504 Plan.
If a student is not learning in school, the school should try interventions. Interventions may include tutoring or a special reading group. If interventions do not help, a student with a disability may need an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP records the plan for helping a child meet goals specific to that student. Examples of IEP goals are learning math facts, improving speech skills, and developing coping skills.
Both a 504 Plan and IEP are legal documents created by a team at the school that must include the parent. If a school does not follow a 504 Plan or IEP, a parent can file a complaint.
A parent can request that a 504 Plan or IEP be created for a child by writing a letter to the school. Date the letter and state that the child has a disability which contributes to struggles in school. Give the letter to the school district office but be sure to keep an additional copy of the letter. If the school does not respond or denies the request, contact the Ohio Department of Education at 1-877-644-6338. For more information about requesting special education, see https://lasclev.org/i-think-my-child-needs-special-education-classes-what-is-the-process/
This article was written by Danielle Gadomski Littleton and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What rights do college students with disabilities have?
College students with a disability have certain rights as they continue with their education after high school. It is important to know that if you had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in high school, your IEP does not go with you to college. Instead of providing special education to students with disabilities, colleges must make sure that students with disabilities are treated fairly.
Colleges cannot discriminate against students with disabilities. There are federal and state laws that stop schools from doing this. These laws protect students with disabilities from being denied admission to a school because of a disability or being discriminated against by the school they attend.
Once a student with a disability starts college, these schools must provide academic accommodations and support based on the student’s needs. Some examples of this help may include books on tape, note takers, readers, extra time for tests, or special computer tools. However, these schools do not have to provide students with personal equipment such as wheelchairs.
The steps a student must take to get these services depends on the school. First, a student must tell the school about the disability if requesting services. Contact the school’s office for students with disabilities, or ask an adviser where to start.
Students who experience discrimination because of a disability should contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The phone number in Ohio is 216-522-4970. Complaints can also be filled out online at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
This article was written by Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How can domestic violence affect children?
Domestic violence affects everyone in a household including children. Children may suffer physical injury or threats, but also experience emotional distress when they witness violence between their parents or other adults in the home.
If a child is not safe at home because of domestic violence, the adult victim should be supported. Victims of violence may be able to leave the abuser and remove the children from danger, if they are able to secure emergency shelter, financial assistance, food and other basic necessities. When a child is injured, some victims need help getting the child to a doctor, hospital, or prescribed medical treatment. In any life threatening situation, always call 9-1-1 for help.
Many children who witness violence experience immediate and long term effects on their well- being. Young children may experience problems sleeping, nightmares, and bedwetting. Older children may be aggressive toward other children or the parent they live with. Some children don’t feel hopeful about the future while other children experience learning and behavior problems. Parents and caregivers should let others involved in the child’s life know about the violence – if it’s safe to do so. Then, teachers, coaches, and friends will understand the negative changes in behavior.
Long-term effects of domestic violence may cause children to experience shock, fear, guilt and anger. These are normal feelings for children under the circumstances. But, the feelings can be difficult to cope with, both for the child and the adult. Often professional support and counseling is needed to manage a child’s normal reactions to witnessing violence.
Sometimes it is necessary to engage the legal system to assist children who experience domestic violence. Parents may file a complaint to determine custody in Juvenile Court (if the parties are not married) or the Domestic Relations Court (if the parties were or are married). Additionally, parents may file a motion to obtain a Civil Protection Order that also covers the children in order to stop future violence. These petitions, complaints, or motions should be supported by an affidavit (a written statement that a person signs, swearing it’s the truth) to explain why a court order is needed to protect the children. Forms to make these filings to protect children are available online at here and here.
Domestic violence affects the well being of children. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the resources listed in this newsletter for immediate help. Legal Aid provides representation in some cases. Call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
My child is learning English – what are his/her rights under federal law?
English learner students have a right to equal access to high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve full academic potential. New guidance issued in January by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice remind states, districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law. Fact Sheets published in English and other languages help inform the community about these rights and responsibilities. Follow the links below for more information and please share widely.
US Department of Education press release
“Dear Colleague Letter” providing joint guidance to states, districts and schools in meeting their obligation to ensure English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs and services.
- A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
- A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
- A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.
Do Children Have a Right to Enroll in School?
All children in the United States have a right to enroll in school regardless of the child’s or parents’ citizenship or immigration status. School districts that prohibit or discourage children from enrolling in school because they or their parents are not US citizens or are undocumented immigrants are in violation of Federal law. For example, school districts may NOT require:
- a state ID or driver’s license as proof of residency,
- a birth certificate as proof of age, or
- social security number for child or parent
Alternative documents may be provided to establish residency and age. Please read more on the rights of children to enroll in school from the US Department of Justice at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/edu/documents/plyler.php where you can find a fact sheet, dear colleague letter, and Q and A for states, school districts, parents and community members.
How do I request a change in child support?
The Administrative Process
If you pay child support or receive child support, you may ask that the amount be reviewed and adjusted. Generally you must wait 36 months since the support order was established or was last reviewed before requesting review.
If you start this “administrative adjustment and review process,” the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) or Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) (these are the same agency, just different names in different counties), is required to consider your case. The agency recommends upward or downward adjustment to the court. However, the amount could stay the same, if neither parent’s financial or household situation has changed.
If you want your child support order adjusted, contact the child support worker assigned to your case at the agency in the county where the order was issued and request an administrative modification or review. See contact info below.
When the agency receives your request, first the caseworker will determine if your case is eligible for an administrative review and adjustment. Second, the agency will tell you if your request was approved or denied. Sometimes the caseworker will ask you for more information. You must provide documents or other verification requested from you, otherwise your request will be denied. If the agency decides your child support should be modified, it will file an order with the appropriate Court.
The Court Process
You can ask that your child support order be reviewed sooner than 36 months under certain circumstances. You will have to apply to the court for such review. Common reasons for requesting a review include:
- Either party has become employed or is earning more money
- Loss of employment for at least 30 days in a row
- Verified disability of either party
- Institutionalization or incarceration of either party (unless the crime was for child abuse or child neglect, or domestic violence against the child or other party to the support order)
- 30% change in gross income of either party for a period of six months
- One or more children emancipated
- To access availability of health insurance
- The reasons that supported an increase or reduction in the previous child support order have changed or no longer apply
- The obligor (person required to pay support) is departing for active armed service duty or is coming home from service in the armed forces
The document you will have to file with the court when requesting a modification of your child support order is called a “motion to modify.” Some courts have their own forms available on their websites. You may visit the Ohio Supreme Court website at www.supremecourt.ohio.gov for standardized forms. An affidavit is also required and must be signed in front of a notary; do not sign it until you are before a notary public.
Once the documents have been completed, signed and notarized, they must be filed with the Clerk of Court of the court that issued or enforced the support order (Domestic Relations or Juvenile). You should bring multiple copies of the documents with you, as the clerk will need copies to serve on the other party and to the CSEA or OCSS.
A filing fee is charged by the court. If you are eligible, you may want to file a poverty affidavit so that you won’t have to pay the filing fee up front. The court will determine who should pay the filing fee at the conclusion of the case.
You will also want to retain a date and time-stamped copy of the documents for your records. The originals will remain with the clerk. The clerk may provide you with additional instructions about filing and obtaining a hearing date. Be sure to follow the clerk’s instructions.
After your documents have been filed, the case is assigned to a judge or magistrate. Then, you will be notified about a hearing. You must attend all scheduled court proceedings and keep the court informed of your current address and telephone number. Otherwise, your motion will be
Keep in mind that the agency will continue to enforce the previous child support order until a decision is made on your motion to modify child support.
If you have questions about this process or need help with your forms, you may attend a free Brief Advice Clinic to talk to an attorney. The schedule and location for the Brief Advice Clinics can be found here.
Ashtabula County Child Support Enforcement Agency
2924 Donahoe Drive
Ashtabula, Ohio 44004
Cuyahoga Job and Family Services
Office of Child Support Services
1640 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Department of Job and Family Services
Geauga County Child Support Enforcement Division
12480 Ravenwood Drive
P.O. Box 309
Chardon, Ohio 44024
The Lake County Department of Job and Family Services
Child Support Enforcement Agency
177 Main Street
Painesville, Ohio 44077
440.918.4000, Option #5
Lorain County Job and Family Services
Child Support Enforcement Agency
42485 N. Ridge Road
P.O. Box 4004
Elyria, Ohio 44036
This article was written by Tracy Ferron and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
My child has an IEP but I do not get regular reports. What can I do?
A child getting special education at a public or charter school has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This IEP is written at least once a year and lists goals for the child in their areas of need. An IEP Progress Report, talking about the child’s progress on each goal, must be mailed to the child’s caregiver regularly. The child’s IEP will say how often the IEP Progress Reports must be mailed.
Legal Aid recently filed a complaint against the Cleveland Metropolitan School District because caregivers of children with IEPs were not getting IEP Progress Reports as often as they should. The Ohio Department of Education told the school district it must regularly send IEP Progress Reports to caregivers of students getting special education.
If your child has an IEP and you are not getting regular IEP Progress Reports, you should talk to your child’s teacher and/or principal. If that does not help, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education. You may get the complaint form at their website, www.education.ohio.gov, or by calling Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
I think my child needs special education classes. What is the process?
Getting special education for a child requires a team effort by parents or guardians (“caregivers”), teachers and the school district. Both public and charter schools must provide special education to students with disabilities who need help learning in school. A caregiver should take the following steps when seeking special education services:
1. Ask for an Evaluation
If you think a child needs special education, write a letter to the principal asking to figure out if the child has a disability. Write the date and explain the child’s problems in school with learning, paying attention or acting out. Keep a copy of the letter. If the child has a medical condition, think about including a letter or document from the child’s doctor. The school has 30 days to answer a caregiver’s letter in writing and say whether or not it will test the child.
2. School Agrees to Test Your Child
If the school district agrees a child may have a disability, they will ask the caregiver to sign a consent form. The evaluation may only start after the school receives the signed forms and permission to test. The school must finish the testing within 60 days of consent. After the evaluation is done, the school must meet with the caregiver to talk about the testing and decide if the child needs special education.
3. School Will Note Test Your Child
If the school tells a caregiver that the child will not be tested, and the caregiver disagrees with the decision, s/he has options to appeal. It is a good idea to ask for help with an appeal. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is able to help in some of these cases.
4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
Children found to need special education services will have an IEP with the school. The IEP services can include things like help with math or reading, plans for addressing behavior problems, speech, language, or occupational therapy, and other services to help children learn. The services are free to families, and can be provided in school or in the home.
5. Signing Forms
If at any time the school asks a caregiver to sign a document and the person does not agree with the document, either (1) do not sign it or (2) write on the document to indicate disagreement.
Additional information about special education is available from the Ohio Department of Education at: 614-466-2650 or 877-644-6338 (toll free). If you need help with a special education problem, please call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
How do I teach my child about internet safety?
Children young and old now use computers and other electronic devices almost daily. They are often more aware of how to use the internet than adults. The risks children and youth face when online are serious. It is important to talk to them about how to safely use cellphones, mobile devices, and computers. Adults can also set parental controls to limit what kids can do. Here are some guidelines:
- Living Online. Kids should post only what they’re comfortable with adults seeing. Remind them that, once they’ve posted something, it can’t be taken back. They should never pretend to be someone else, and should ignore or block messages from people they don’t know.
- Video and Mobile Games. Many games allow players to talk and play with other people, or buy things. Check for controls to let you block games with certain ratings, disable internet access, and restrict purchases.
- Phishing. Kids and adults alike should never reply to text, email, or pop-up messages that ask for personal and financial information. Never follow links in these kinds of messages, or download attachments from emails.
- Computer Safety. Kids – like all of us – should keep Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords private. Kids can help beat hackers by using long passwords with upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers. Remind kids to watch out for free stuff, which might infect their computer with malware. If they share music, games, or software online, tell kids to use security software to scan any files before downloading them.
- Sexting and Photo-Sharing. Tell kids not to send or forward sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages. It’s often illegal. And with any kind of photo, it’s best to ask for permission before posting pictures of other people online.
- Cyberbullying. Let kids know that they can’t hide behind the words they type and the images they post. If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, block the bully’s username or email address. Contact the website if profiles were posted or changed without your child’s consent, and ask to have them taken down.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone. She does not express the views of the FTC or of any individual commissioner.
This article was written by Federal Trade Commission Attorney Maria Del Monaco and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
What should I do if my child is being bullied at school?
Too often, the news reports stories about kids being bullied at school. In Ohio, there is a law that tells schools what they must do to protect their students from bullying. “Bullying” refers to any written, spoken, or physical acts that are threatening or abusive to another student and happens more than once. Parents and caregivers need to know what schools should be doing and what they can do to help their children.
Every school district in Ohio must have an anti-bullying policy. A copy of the district’s policy should be available from the school. The anti-bullying policy covers any acts of bullying at school, on the school bus, or at any school event. It also includes acts of electronic bullying such as bullying through the internet or by cell phone.
The policy will tell parents and students how to report bullying. Reports should be made in writing to the school. This letter should include enough information about the problem so the school can investigate. Put the date on the letter and make a copy to keep before giving it to the school. On your copy, write down the name of the person you gave the letter to at the school. School staff must also report any bullying they know about at school.
Once the school learns about a bullying problem, the school must investigate the bullying. When the investigation is complete, the school should make a plan to keep the student safe who is being bullied.
If the school does not adequately respond to the bullying report, you can contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, to decide if a complaint against the school should be made. Their phone number is 216-522-4970. In order to make a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, the bullying must be related to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. For more information, see also the Legal Aid brochure “Bullying in Ohio Schools” at https://lasclev.org/bullyinginschoolsbrochure/.
This article was written by Legal Aid Staff Attorney Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
How do I handle a meeting with my child’s school?
Every child has a right to attend school. You have an important role as an advocate for your child’s success in school and in life. You have information to share about your child. You are an equal partner with the school in supporting your child’s success.
This worksheet can help you plan and prepare for meetings with your child’s school:
My child has an IEP, but she is still having problems in school. Do I need to have the IEP changed?
If your child is still having problems in school, the school may not be following the IEP or your child’s needs may have changed.
- You can request an IEP meeting at any time.
- Your child must be re-evaluated every three years.
- IEP’s must be reviewed by the IEP team once every year.
*If your child is on an IEP he or she has extra rights and protections for suspensions and expulsions.
**If your son or daughter is on an IEP and has been removed from school for more than 10 days total in any school year, the school must hold a Manifestation Determination Review hearing before that child can be removed from school. If a child on an IEP is removed from school then he or she is still entitled to receive an education, usually in the form of home instruction.
School Discipline: Know your Rights – School Expulsions
Pro se Forms
Glossary of Education Terms
You may be able to find an attorney who can help you by contacting:
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
I believe my child needs Special Education Services, such as an IEP, what should I do?
If you believe your child needs special services in school because of a physical, learning or emotional disability, you can request the school evaluate your child. Schools are obligated by law to identify and provide services to students who have disabilities that affect their learning in school. Be sure to:
- Put the request in writing. Put the date on the letter and keep a copy for your records.
- Keep all letters from the school.
- Attach any letters or evaluations to the request from your child’s doctor regarding a medical diagnosis.
- Keep copies of all important documents such as disciplinary notices and report cards.
- Write down a summary of all telephone calls you make, voice mail messages you leave and meetings you have.
- Do not sign anything you do not understand or do not agree with.
If your school will not test your child, talk to a lawyer about it.
You may be able to find an attorney who can help you by contacting:
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
ACT 2 volunteer helps young adoptive parents eliminate tax debt
Elyria residents Kody and Tina had not anticipated becoming foster parents to pre-teens.
“We went from being a young couple in our early 20s with no roommates, to all of a sudden having to be responsible,” Tina said as she remembered what it was like to take in her husband’s nephews.
Though their hearts expanded with their household, the couple found life to be busy and finances tight. With permission from the boys’ parent, Kody claimed them on his tax return for two years without incident.
But when the IRS decided to audit, the family struggled to provide proof that the boys were under their care. Facing $10,000 in back taxes, Kody reached out to Legal Aid, where ACT 2 in-house volunteer John Kirn helped the couple identify and obtain the documents they needed.
“It was a mess, but our attorney was awesome. He really helped us a lot, calling us each week to update us,” Tina said. “And now we know what documents we need in the future.”
As an adoptive father himself, Kirn holds his pro bono clients in high esteem. “They’re such admirable people,” Kirn said. “The problem was that at least until the court granted custody, they had to establish that they really had them in their care, and we guided them through the process.”
Over the next several months, Kirn helped the couple obtain and submit the documentation they needed for the IRS. They also acquired another bright spot in their life. “Along came number three, the youngest nephew,” Kirn said.
With Legal Aid’s representation and guidance, the family received the news that they no longer owed the staggering debt. And while Kody’s oldest nephews have been reunited with their biological parent, the couple is in the final stages of becoming forever parents and a safe, stable home to Kody’s youngest nephew.
Special thanks to The Cleveland Foundation’s Encore Prize and the Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Innovation Fund for supporting Legal Aid’s ACT 2 volunteer program for retired and late-career attorneys.