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
Say Yes To Education
FREE Legal Assistance for Families in Say Yes Schools!
Say Yes legal services help families achieve safety, economic security and permanent housing so children can stay in school and thrive. Click here for a helpful bilingual info card.
Legal assistance is available to help with the following types of legal problems:
Choose the option that works best for you:
- Ask your family support specialist for a referral
- Call 216.861.5510 to request assistance
- Apply for help online by clicking here.
Need more guidance and info? CLICK HERE to learn more about Legal Aid’s robust Access to Education work. At this page you can read helpful FAQs, brochures and learn more to ensure help kids are successful in school.
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.
What Should I Know About Advance Child Tax Credit Payments?
What are advance Child Tax Credit payments?
Advance Child Tax Credit payments are early payments from the IRS of 50% of the estimated amount of the Child Tax Credit that you may claim on your 2021 tax return during the 2022 tax filing season.
For tax year 2021, the Child Tax Credit has increased from $2,000 per qualifying child to:
- $3,600 for children ages 5 and under at the end of 2021; and
- $3,000 for children ages 6 through 17 at the end of 2021.
Do I need income to be eligible for advance Child Tax Credit payments?
- Even if you have $0 in income, you can receive advance Child Tax Credit payments if you are eligible.
Who is to receive advance Child Tax Credit payments?
A parent qualifies to receive an advance Child Tax Credit if they have a qualifying child. You or your spouse, if married and filling a joint tax return, must have a main home in one of the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia and must live there for more than half a year.
You or your spouse, if married and filling a joint tax return, must have a Social Security number or an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Each qualifying child must have a Social Security number administered by the Social Security Administration before the due date of your 2021 tax return.
Who is a qualifying child for the 2021 Child Tax Credit?
Any individual that does not turn 18 before January 1, 2022 and who meets all of the following criteria:
- The individual is the taxpayer’s son, daughter, stepchild, or an eligible foster child, brother, sister, stepsibling, half-sibling, or a descendant of any of them (ex. grandchild, niece, or nephew);
- Individual does not provide more than half of their own support during 2021;
- Individual lives with taxpayer for more than half of the tax year of 2021;
- Individual is properly claimed as the taxpayer’s dependent;
- Individual does not file a joint return with the individual’s spouse for 2021 tax year. If filed, it is only for the purpose of claiming a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax paid; and
- Individual is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or a U.S. resident alien.
How will I know I am eligible?
You can visit the Advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant and find out if you are eligible.
If you and your child meet the above-mentioned criteria and you have filed your 2020 or 2019 tax returns or have completed the Non-Filer online form on IRS.gov, you will automatically become eligible for the Child Tax Credit and receive payment without further action.
If you have not filed your taxes for 2020 or 2019, you must visit the Non-Filer tool which allows you to file a simplified tax return for 2020. This form will allow you to register for advance Child Tax Credit.
When will I start receiving payments?
The IRS will begin sending advance Child Tax Credit payments on July 15, 2021, which will then continue monthly through December 2021.
How will I start receiving payments?
Your payments will be sent the same way you receive your tax refunds, by mail or direct deposit to your bank account. The IRS has created a Child Tax Credit Update Portal to help families receiving payments. You can update your bank information and set up direct deposit payments through that portal. You can also update other information on the portal like your address and check your eligibility.
Visit the Child Tax Credit Update Portal for more information.
If there is a problem with my payments, what can I do?
If a payment has been issued, but you have not received it, you can request a payment trace. A trace will track your payment if you have not received it within the timeframes below.
- 5 days since the deposit date and the bank says it hasn’t received the payment
- 4 weeks since the payment was mailed by check to a standard address
- 6 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
- 9 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a foreign address
To start a payment trace, mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund
If you are having other issues, you can call the IRS: www.irs.gov/help/telephone-assistance. Make sure that you have the identify verification information listed on that page.
Will getting the Child Tax Credit affect my eligibility for benefits like SNAP, Medicaid, cash assistance, or Social Security?
No. The Child Tax Credit will not count as income for the purposes of public benefits. If you still have those funds saved after more than 12 months, however, they could count as a resource.
Where can I learn more about Child Tax Credit?
The 2021 Child Tax and Advance Child Tax Credit page on IRS.gov provides additional answers to frequently asked questions. The IRS also provides a comprehensive list of resources and guidance for the 2021 Advance Child Tax Credit on this page. The information from the IRS is available in languages including English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Haitian-Creole, Russian, and Vietnamese. The IRS advises that all of the information about the Advance Child Tax credit available is online, and that phone assistors don’t have information beyond what’s available on IRS.gov.
This flyer from the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition also provides more helpful information.
For information about how the child tax credit impacts mixed-immigration status families, see the website for The Center for Law and Social Policy. The material is available in both English and Spanish.
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.
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 do I need to know about lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop. Visit www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland.
Who is at risk?
Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there. (For a list of high risk zip codes, click here.)
Where is this problem?
Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).
What are the signs?
Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.
When do I need to address this?
Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.
What can you do if you’re concerned?
In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high, try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.
My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
• Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
• Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
• Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
• Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
• Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.
Visit the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition website at www.leadsafecle.org for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland. You can also visit the Lead Safe Resource Center at 4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44103 or call the Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323. For additional information and resources, visit https://lasclev.org/leadpoisonresources.
By Lauren Roberts
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:
- Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition (http://leadsafecle.org or (833) 601-5323)
- Lead Safe Resource Center (4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44103)
- Help Me Grow (http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/)
- For a list of Help Me Grow providers in your area, click here.
For information on lead testing of your home, contact:
If you live in the city of Cleveland:
- Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Lead Safe Hotline: (833) 601-5323
- Click here for more information about the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition.
- City of Cleveland Lead Safe Living: Click here for more information.
- (216) 263-LEAD (5323)
- City of Cleveland’s Lead Hazard Control Program: Click here for more information.
- (216) 664-2045
If you live in Cuyahoga County but not in Cleveland:
- Cuyahoga County Board of Health: Click here for more information.
- (216) 201-2000
If you live in Lake, Lorain, Geauga, or Ashtabula Counties:
- Ohio Healthy Homes 1-877-LEADSAFE (532-3723)
If you live in Lake County:
- Lake County General Health District: Click here for more information.
- (440) 350-2554
For information about money available to eliminate a lead hazard in your home, contact:
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, contact the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323
- If you live in the City of Cleveland, contact the City’s Lead Hazard Control Program at (216) 664-2045
Click here for more information
- If you live anywhere else in Cuyahoga County, contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Health at (216) 201-2000
Click here for more information
- If you live in Lorain County, contact Lorain County public Health at (440) 892-7873. Click here for more information.
- If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga or Lake Counties, contact Ohio Department of Health at (614) 728-3105 or click here for more information.
How can I get my child extra support in school?
My child is not doing well in school. Does my student need a 504 Plan or an IEP?
If a student is not doing well in school due to a disability, the student may need accommodations through a 504 Plan or special education services through an IEP.
If a student has a physical or mental disability that affects their school day, that student may need accommodations documented in a 504 Plan. Accommodations could be a wheelchair ramp, a sign language interpreter, and extra breaks for a student with ADHD. These types of accommodations should be recorded in a 504 Plan, a legal document created by a team at the school that must include the parent. If a school does not follow the 504 Plan, a parent can file a complaint through the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. The Cleveland office of the U.S. Department of Education can be reached at 216-522-4970.
If you believe your child’s disability requires special education services at school, you can ask that your child be tested for special education. If the student qualifies, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be created for the student. An IEP records the plan for helping a child meet their individual goals. Examples of IEP goals are learning math facts, improving speech skills, and developing coping skills. The IEP will also include the services the school will provide to help the student meet their goals. The IEP is a legal document created by a team that includes the parent. If a school does not follow an IEP, a parent can file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children which can be reached at 877-644-6338.
How do I request a 504 plan or IEP?
A parent can request that a student be tested for a 504 Plan or IEP by asking the school. It is best to ask in writing so put your request in a letter to the school. Date the letter and state that the child has a disability which causes them to struggle in school so you would like them tested for a 504 Plan or an IEP. Give the letter to the school, but be sure to keep an additional copy of the letter.
If the school does not respond or denies the request for a 504 Plan, contact the Cleveland office of the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights at 216-522-4970.
If the school does not respond or denies the request for special education, 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/
What rights do college students with disabilities have?
If the student had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in high school, will it follow them to college?
College students with a disability have certain rights as they continue with their education after high school. However, your IEP does not go with you to college. Generally, colleges do not provide special education. Instead of providing special education to students with disabilities, colleges must make sure that students with disabilities are treated fairly including receiving accommodations.
What protects students with disabilities from being discriminated against?
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.
What must the college provide?
Once a student with a disability starts college, these schools must provide academic accommodations and supports 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.
How does the student request these services?
The steps depend 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
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. States, districts, and schools have obligations under federal law.
What kind of obligations does a school have for English Learners?
Schools have obligations to:
- identify English learner students in a timely, valid and reliable manner;
- offer all English learner students an educationally sound language assistance program;
- provide qualified staff and sufficient resources for instructing English learner students;
- ensure English learner students have equitable access to school programs and activities;
- avoid unnecessary segregation of English learner students from other students;
- monitor students’ progress in learning English and doing grade-level classwork;
- remedy any academic deficits English learner students incurred while in a language assistance program;
- move students out of language assistance programs when they are proficient in English and monitor those students to ensure they were not prematurely removed;
- evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs; and
- provide parents who have limited English proficiency with information about school programs, services, and activities in a language they understand.
What can I do if I think my child’s rights are being violated?
If you have questions, want additional information, or believe that a school is violating federal law, contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Cleveland OCR office can be reached at 216-522-4970 (TDD: 800-877-8339). Also see their website at www.ed.gov/ocr.
You can also file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights if you believe your child is being discriminated against. For more information about filing a complaint, visit www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html.
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 does the law decide which students are considered homeless or unhoused and what are their rights in school?
Is my student considered unhoused or experiencing homelessness?
Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homeless is defined as students who, “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” Examples include: students who live in a shelter, in a car, or on the street, are doubling up with family or friends or who couch surf, or students living in a home with problems like bugs, mold, leaks, etc.
Can an unhoused student without access to important papers still enroll in a public or charter school?
Yes, unhoused students in public or charter schools have the right to enroll even if they do not have all the documents normally required to enroll, like birth records, shot records, or utility bills.
My student attends school in one district, but is now staying at a shelter or with friends in another district, will the school provide transportation?
When staying at the same school is best for the student, public and charter schools must provide transportation to keep the student at their last school. The school districts must provide transportation even if the student no longer stays close to the last school or even if the student is outside the school district.
Is there a person at my student’s school responsible for helping unhoused students?
Every public and charter school must have a person in charge of finding and helping unhoused students. The person is often called a McKinney Vento homeless liaison and sometimes works in the pupil services office. If additional help is needed, call the Ohio Department of Education’s McKinney-Vento Coordinator at (614) 387-7725.
My child is over 18 but disabled. Can I still receive child support?
Usually a parent’s duty to support their child ends when the child turns 18. But parents must continue to support children who are disabled and cannot live alone. Parents must support these disabled children until either the parent or child dies or the child can live alone.
A child support order can continue past 18 if two statements are true. First, the child must be mentally or physically disabled before age 18. To decide if a child is disabled a court will consider all the child’s limits together. Examples of physical limits are loss of hearing or muscle control. Examples of mental limits are low IQ and learning problems. Second, disability must be the reason the child is unable to work or live alone. If the child has an IEP or gets SSI, that could be a sign the child may need continued support.
To get child support for a disabled child past 18, a parent must give the child support agency or judge proof of the disability. Medical documents and school records about the child’s limits show disability. Sworn statements about the child’s limits are also helpful. Parents may receive a letter saying support for a disabled child will stop at age 18. To keep support going, parents should provide the agency proof of the child’s disability right away.
In order to stop paying support for someone over 18, a parent must prove the child can live alone. Information on the child’s work history and life skills may show a child can live alone.
Only some courts will issue a new child support order for a disabled child after the child is 18. To get a new child support order, a parent must file a petition for support. The place to file depends on the county where the child lives and whether the parents were ever married. If you need help with a child support problem, call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance, or attend a free Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic. See our events calendar for a clinic near you.
This article was written by Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Works Fellow Danielle Gadomski-Littleton and Legal Aid Senior Attorney Susan Stauffer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
When is a child eligible for SSI?
A child under the age of 18 who has a physical or mental disability may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the family is financially eligible. SSI is a cash assistance program to help low income families with expenses that occur when providing for children with special needs. For example, such parents must pay for transportation to medical appointments, medications, and therapy. Additionally, parents with disabled children more commonly have to miss work to take their children to doctors, therapists, school conferences, and other care-giving activities. Children’s SSI provides additional income to families in order for children to receive quality health care while remaining in their own home.
When applying for SSI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at a child’s functioning in six areas or “domains.” The domains are (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for yourself; and (6) health and physical well-being. If a child has a severe problem in one domain or a “marked” problem in two domains (“marked” means less than severe and more than moderate), then the child’s condition should be considered disabling. A child with a disabling condition qualifies for SSI.
A person interested in filing an application for a child to receive SSI should call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit a local Social Security Office. They will help you fill out the appropriate forms. Applications for child SSI can also be completed online at www.ssa.gov. In addition to the application, SSA will ask for detailed information about the medical condition of the child. SSA will also ask permission to look at his or her school and medical records. Bring any records related to the child’s special needs to your appointment at SSA.
Legal Aid does not help file applications for SSI, but if you believe a child’s SSI benefits have been wrongfully denied or terminated, 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 Managing Attorney Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
I am an immigrant. Am I eligible for in-state tuition?
In-state tuition is a lower tuition rate charged to students at public colleges and universities in Ohio who qualify as Ohio residents.
Some immigrants, including permanent residents (“green card” holders), qualify as Ohio residents and are eligible for in-state tuition for public colleges and universities in Ohio. Starting in the Fall of 2013, a person with a U Visa (victim of serious crime or family member of victim), T Visa (victim of human trafficking or family member of victim), or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) may be eligible for in-state if she meets the other requirements set by the Ohio Board of Regents.
People with other types of immigration status may also qualify for in-state tuition. You may contact your school’s admissions office or the Ohio Board of Regents to find out if people with your immigration status qualify for in-state tuition in Ohio.
I owe child support and will be in prison for at least a year. Can my payments be reduced?
New Rules Could Help People Who Owe Child Support
Until recently, an incarcerated obligor (a person who owes child support) was required to pay the same amount while in jail or prison that he or she paid prior to incarceration. Now, obligors who will be incarcerated for 12 months or more can ask the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) to change the amount of support they owe. OCSS will recalculate the obligor’s support obligation based on actual earning potential while incarcerated. As a result, many incarcerated obligors might have to pay less than $5 per month.
Unfortunately, there is no process for the courts or the prisons to let OCSS know about obligors in this situation. Individuals may tell OCSS if they are sent to prison for 12 months or more and request a change. Also, defense attorneys should make their clients and the agency aware. This chance to lower the amount of child support owed while incarcerated can greatly reduce the amount of support owed by a person when released. If an obligor does not owe back support when released, they will get to actually take home their full paycheck.
Obligors now also may have the chance to get limited driving privileges. An obligor cannot ask for these privileges until actually in contempt for failure to pay support. Currently, an obligor can have his or her driver’s license suspended for failure to pay. This suspension lasts until support payments are made. The obligor also has to work with OCSS to pay the back amount owed. If the obligor still fails to pay child support, then he or she may be charged with contempt.
In order to get driving privileges, an obligor must have a copy of his driver’s abstract from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. He or she must also have a letter from his OCSS caseworker explaining the need for driving privileges. An OCSS caseworker, or other representative from OCSS, can also appear in person instead. OCSS will consider these requests for driving privileges on a case-by-case basis. Only obligors charged with contempt can request driving privileges.
This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Susan Stauffer and Family Law Summer Associate Emma Knoth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.
I have a juvenile criminal record. Which offenses can be sealed?
Changes to Juvenile Law from Senate Bill 337
In 2012, Ohio passed Senate Bill 337. This law changed some of the rules affecting juveniles involved in the criminal justice system. First, more offenses are eligible to be sealed. All juvenile offenses except for Aggravated Murder, Murder, and Rape may be sealed under the new law. “Sealing a record” means that Juvenile Court will separate the record of all delinquency proceedings and place them in a file only the Court can see. After a court seals a record, a person can request the Court expunge it. Expungement permanently destroys the record.
Another change in the law is that juveniles now only have to wait six months after completing their sentence to request that their record be sealed. You can locate the forms to apply for sealing/expungement at the Juvenile Clerk of Courts on the 2nd Floor of the Juvenile Justice Center, 9300 Quincy Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. You do not have to pay a filing fee for a sealing/expungement application.
Juvenile records are not public records and therefore cannot be viewed by the general public. Additionally, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (“BCI”) cannot release juvenile adjudications (convictions) as part of a criminal background check. This means that BCI cannot provide a person’s juvenile record to a potential employer. The only exceptions are for cases involving murder and sexually oriented offenses.
Lastly, under the new law, youth charged with delinquencies must stay in the juvenile detention center instead of being moved to the adult county jail. A youth can remain in juvenile detention until they are 21, even if the juvenile judge transfers their case to adult court. Only upon the request of the prosecutor or Juvenile Court can a youth be transferred to adult jail. If transferred to adult jail, a youth is entitled to a review hearing after 30 days and may be returned to the juvenile detention center.
This article was written by Brant DiChiera of the Cuyahoga County Public Defender – Juvenile Division and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.
How can I get my COVID-19 economic impact payments?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has passed three major pieces of legislation to provide financial relief to individuals and families. The American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) provides the most recent round of Economic Impact Payments, also referred to as stimulus payments, to millions of Americans.
While payments are currently being distributed through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to eligible recipients, there are still millions of people who haven’t received the first or second payments and may not receive the third because the IRS does not have their account information or address. If you haven’t received one or multiple payments, you still have an opportunity to claim the financial relief you’re eligible for, but you must take action by filing a tax return or filing for an extension by May 17, 2021.
Here’s our complete guide to the COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments (EIPs).
- How much could I receive?
- How do I know if I’m eligible?
- How will I receive my payments?
- What can I do if I haven’t received my payment or if I’m eligible to receive more?
- What do I do if my bank or credit union has charged my account fees when I got the EIP?
- How do I check the status of my payment?
- Beware of scammers pretending to be the IRS
How much could I receive?
The most recent stimulus payment, which began rolling out in March 2021, expands the amount you can receive to $1,400 per single individual or $2,800 for a married couple filing jointly. It also expands the payments and eligibility for dependents to include those over the age of 17, including college students and adults with disabilities.
The amount you’re eligible to receive is calculated based on your income on your 2019 tax return unless you had already filed your 2020 tax return before payments were sent. If your income dropped in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and you qualify for a larger stimulus payment, the IRS will issue a second adjusted payment once the 2020 tax returns are processed.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
In addition to the income limits, individuals must also meet certain citizenship and identification requirements. If you haven’t received prior payments, keep in mind that qualifications for each payment vary slightly.
For example, the latest round of EIPs allow households to claim payments for their qualifying dependents with a Social Security number (SSN), even if the head of the household or married couple doesn’t have a SSN.
How will I receive my payments?
If you file your taxes, you’ll likely receive your payments automatically and in the same way you received your 2020, 2019, or 2018 tax refunds. The majority of payments will be delivered through direct deposit, check, or through a pre-paid MetaBank debit card issued by the Department of Treasury.
If you don’t typically file your taxes
If you’re a recipient of certain federal benefits, you’ll receive the latest EIP in the same way you receive your benefit payments.
If you don’t typically file a tax return because your income is below tax-filing thresholds and you haven’t received an EIP, learn what steps you need to take.
The majority of payments will be issued in same way you received your 2020 or 2019 tax refund or your federal benefits. If you have direct deposit set up for your tax refunds, your stimulus payments will be delivered to the same banking or credit union account, or onto an existing pre-paid card.
Check or EIP Card
If you’re not set up with direct deposit, you’ll receive your payment by check or on a . If you received a card for one of your first stimulus payments, this card won’t be reloaded, so you’ll receive a new card.
The EIP Card will be sent in a white envelope from “Economic Impact Payment Card” and will display the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal.
Recipients of certain federal benefits, who don’t typically file their taxes, are likely to receive their stimulus payments in the same way they receive their benefits. This includes recipients of:
- Social Security retirement, survivor, or disability (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration
- Railroad Retirement and Survivors from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
- Veterans disability compensation, pension, or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs
What can I do if I haven’t received my payments or if I’m eligible to receive more?
There are several scenarios where individuals may not have received any or all of the payments they’re eligible for. Common situations include:
- You don’t normally file taxes and the IRS doesn’t have your recent information on file.
- You moved or changed bank accounts since the last time you received a tax refund or other benefit.
- You had a child in 2020 and are eligible to receive EIPs for your dependents.
- You were previously claimed as a dependent but became independent in 2020. For example, you turned 19 (non-student), 24 (student), graduated, or got married.
To receive your first and second EIP or an adjusted amount, you must file a 2020 tax return or file for an extension by May 17, 2021. The Recovery Rebate Credit – on – allows you to claim missed payments.
Get help if you need it
You don’t have to be an expert to file your taxes. If you meet certain income requirements, there may be free tax preparation options to help you get your refund and all the credits you’ve earned.
In addition, get support with free tax preparation or software to prepare your own taxes through MyFreeTaxes or .
If you do seek the help of a professional, ask them about choosing your 2019 or 2020 income in order to maximize your Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Changing your dependent tax status
If you’re thinking of changing your filing status from dependent to independent, this may have significant consequences for whomever has been claiming you as a dependent. For example, they may miss out on other tax credits worth more than the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Take time to consult with your family or tax professional before changing your dependent status.
What do I do if my bank or credit union has taken my EIP to cover fees or overdrafts?
If you think you didn’t receive your full payment because your bank took some of it to cover money owed to the bank, call them and ask for them to give you access to all of the funds. Your bank may be willing to give you access to your full EIP. Sometimes banks and credit unions do this by refunding fees or giving you a temporary credit if your account is overdrawn. If they give you a credit, make sure you find out when you must pay it back.
Use the following conversation points to help you ask your bank, credit union, or prepaid card provider for help:
Explain your financial situation is a result of COVID-19 and ask for a credit or other help for any fees or amount for which you are overdrawn.
Remember, when speaking with your bank or credit union, always be prepared. Have all your statements available and ask for them to explain any and all fees that were applied to your account.
How do I check the status of my payment?
Beware of scammers pretending to be the IRS
With the rollout of EIPs, there’s an increased risk of scams. It’s important to stay vigilant and aware of unsolicited communications asking for your personal or private information—through mail, email, phone call, text, social media or websites—that:
It’s important to remember that the IRS will never ask you for your personal information or threaten your benefits by phone call, email, text or social media. They also won’t threaten you with jail or lawsuits, or demand tax payments on gift cards.
If you receive an unsolicited email, text, or social media attempt that appears to be from the IRS or an organization associated with the IRS, like the Department of the Treasury Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, notify the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a victim of a COVID-19 scam, report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 866-720-5721 or . IRS-related scams, including fraud or theft of Economic Impact Payments, should also be .
Education: What Do I Need to Know About School During COVID-19?
If my child’s school is only remote or learning virtually, when will they go back in person?
Each School District will decide when it is safe to resume in person learning based on recommendations from the Department of Health. Contact your school district to find out what options are available.
Does my school district still need to educate my child?
Yes, but it may look different. There may be a combination of live virtual instruction, recorded sessions, and in-person instruction depending on your school district.
What educational services are the Cleveland Metropolitan School District providing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As of March 2021, CMSD is offering different school options to families. Students can continue to attend school virtually or could choose a hybrid option which includes some in-person school and some remote school. For more information about CMSD, see: Hybrid Learning / Hybrid Home (clevelandmetroschools.org)
Are schools still serving meals?
All schools may continue to serve meals to school age children even while remote because of COVID 19.
In The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, families can do daily meal pick-ups at all K-8 schools or weekly pick-ups at most high schools. For more information, visit, https://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/cms/lib/OH01915844/Centricity/domain/6622/other/CMSD_SN-GrabnGo_Flier.pdf
Where can I go for more information and for resources for my child?
The Ohio Department of Education is updating its Restart and Reset Education information here: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart
The Cleveland Metropolitan School district is posting updates here: https://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/BacktoSchool
Education: What Are Schools Doing for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19?
My student has a disability. What can I do to make sure my student is getting the right services while school is closed?
Contact the school district’s special education director, your child’s teacher, or building principal to ask for work at your child’s ability level and tips on how to help them with the work.
Write down the dates to track your requests for services, and the responses to such requests. Keep track of how you got the communication. Was it by telephone? Email? Letter? Did the school talk to you in a language you can understand?
Keep track how many minutes of services your child is receiving to help determine whether any services need to be made up when schools reopen.
My student has a 504 Plan or IEP. If a school provides educational services, what do they have to do to meet needs for students with disabilities?
If the school is providing education to students, it must include students with disabilities. The school has to do its best to give the same services to students with disabilities.
My child with an IEP is falling behind. Is there any extra help available?
You may qualify for funds to pay for in-person tutoring, or other learning supports with Learning Aid Ohio if your child is:
- learning remotely full time (not hybrid)
- has an IEP for the 2020-2021 school year, and
- your family is low-income or experiencing financial hardship.
Up to $1,500 per family per school quarter is available to pay for these additional supports for your child.
For more information, visit: https://www.learningohio.com/
What if a school can’t meet the needs of my student with a 504 Plan or IEP?
When schools reopen, the child’s IEP team should meet to consider what services the child missed out on and how they can be made up to the child. Parents should keep track of what their students are missing.
Can I request an IEP meeting during the school closure?
Yes. Many schools are holding IEP meetings on the phone or through video conferences. Some schools have not yet set up ways to hold meetings by phone or video. However, parents or guardians still have the right to request a meeting.
Can I request an evaluation for special education services during the school closure?
Yes. The school has 30 days to respond to your request. They can either tell you in writing why they don’t think there is a disability, or they can get your permission to evaluate. Many evaluations require in person testing, so the evaluation may be delayed until in person testing is safe.
Where can I find more information about special education services during COVID-19?
The Ohio Department of Education has released a document to help school districts provide special education services to students with disabilities. The document addresses specific requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and speaks to the most frequently asked questions that have emerged during the state’s ordered school-building closure. The document can be found here.
For more information about the service for students with disabilities see the FAQs on the Disability Rights Ohio webpage: https://www.disabilityrightsohio.org/covid-education
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.