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Special Education/Accomodations in Catholic School


Hi, my daughter is a junior in high school.  She has a progressive hearing loss.  Until this year she was in public schools with an IEP.  Last year we decided to look for an alternative to the huge public high school she was in.  Due to other challenges, both emotional and learning, we felt a smaller school with a supportive atmosphere would be a better fit.  Since she was still able to access a lot of spoken language, we purchased ourselves an FM system and enrolled her in a local Catholic school.

In late December her hearing levels took a tumble, for the first time in several years. She is now profoundly deaf, and except for lip reading (which helps only a little), she has no access to spoken language.  The school and the Archdiocese special ed people are being supportive, but they are balking at the expense of providing an interprter all day.  We can't think of any other accomodation that would work for her.  She could benefit from a CART transcription service, but that is at least as expensive as interpreting and it doesn't provide for two-way communications.

Is the school and Archdiocese (in Washington DC area) required to provide the level of accomodations she needs?  Or would that be considered outsidet the "reasonable" standard in Section 504?

Any suggestions how to proceed?

Hi Bob, Thank you very much for writing to me. I can only imagine your concern, especially recently, due to your daughter's decline in her hearing.

I don't know the answer to your question. I think the answer is 'maybe' the Catholic School would be required to provide an interpreter for your daughter.  But I am not sure under what law and believe you would be very well served to consult with a special education attorney who specializes in ADA, the Rehabilitation Act #section 504#, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  

There are some awesome attorneys in the DC area.  Could you email me so I can provide you the list I would recommend?

In my non attorney experience, the answer to your question would consider:
-Whether the Catholic School is receiving federal funding.  Here is an informative article for you.
-Whether there is an evaluation recommending the interpreter
-Whether your daughter will need instruction in ASL or other instruction that will allow her to use transcription or other devices
-Whether the school advertises its ability to provide such services
-Whether the school knew that the level of decline was likely when it accepted her

But I don't know if these are legally binding, which I feel is the main question.  I say this because, if you were to attempt to hold the school accountable and a legal action were needed,  you will have to determine if a legal action is the right way to go.  Or, whether it would be better all around for you to find a different and more specialized school for her at this time.  

Of course, I would like you to consider my services for such a school change.  We know the DC area very well, including public, private and nonpublic options.

I think your daughter is entitled to a free appropriate public education, based on her disability and how it affects her, but the question is what entity is responsible for that FAPE.  It may be a good idea, when you do the consult with the attorney, to inquire about the pros and cons of going back to the public school system to either request evaluation, or to engage the IEP team again for the upcoming year.  You may not have to send her to the placement recommended in the IEP at that point, but going back through an IEP process may open options for her, both public and private.  Engaging the school district in the right way may help you determine her needs and proper placement.  After the IEP is re-developed #hopefully with the help of the Catholic School staff's input#, you can either reject the IEP and keep her in a private setting, or you can accept the IEP.

Also, I would be sure you have audiology and any other evaluations complete which include specific recommendations for what your daughter now needs, including any need for assistive technology, communication systems or services such as an interpreter, and detailing the type and intensity of accommodation or specialized instruction needed.  It may be possible that your daughter will need accommodation in college or her post secondary planning, and even in a job setting, where the Section 504 of the Rehab Act will continue to be relevant to her.  In the IEP, of course, this should be addressed in her transition plan.  

I think you are asking a legal question and it would be well worth a few hours of time gathering your documentation and consulting with an attorney who is highly specialized in this area.  

I am happy to take a follow up question from you, and don't hesitate to contact me via email.  I hope my answer has helped you, and I am sorry I don't have an exact answer.  But I hope you feel that your time in writing to me was not wasted.  I wish you all the best as you continue to advocate for your daughter!

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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