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“For me, the practice of law, more than anything else, is a helping profession. And I can’t think of a better way to use a law degree than by using it to help children get the special education they deserve. As a father of two children, I understand the great responsibility I have when parents entrust me with their child’s future—even if I only play a small role for a short period of time. The gravity of what’s at stake is never lost on me.”

~ Paul A. Hefley, Jr.

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Can I recover attorneys’ fees in a special education case?

Yes, it’s possible for parents to recover attorneys’ fees incurred in a successful special education case. The U.S. Congress recognized that parents might forego seeking the assistance of legal counsel to help their child if parents would be financially responsible for attorneys’ fees even when they ultimately proved the merits of their case. For more information about recovering attorneys’ fees, please contact my office.

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An experienced Attorney On Your Side

The Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr. gives each new case the attention it deserves. The Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr. works closely with you so that you can make the right decisions about your legal needs.

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Can special education disputes be resolved during the summer break?

Yes, they can. There's no need to wait until the 2024-2025 school year to get your child's educational program back on track. Contact IEP Law Firm PC today to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Special Education Attorney

IEP Law Firm PC (formerly Law Office of Paul A. Hefley, Jr.), led by Attorney Paul Hefley, Jr., focuses exclusively on helping parents successfully navigate the special education system in the counties of San Diego, Riverside, Imperial, Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Kern.

Mr. Hefley has helped countless families obtain additional supports, services, and placements for their children. As a special education attorney, Mr. Hefley is dedicated to providing you help in plain language so you fully understand the school district's legal obligations to your child and your available options. His aim is to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision regarding the best course of action for your child moving forward.

Successfully navigating the special education system requires two things. First, parents must know what the school district's legal obligations are. Second, parents must know what options are available to them if the school district isn't fulfilling its obligations. This is where Mr. Hefley can help. 

IEP Law Firm PC provides free consultations so you can discuss your concerns, ask questions, and get answers. 

Not every special education concern requires an attorney. In fact, many concerns can be resolved without the involvement of an attorney. With this in mind, here's my promise to you: If my office can help you, I'll tell you. If your situation doesn't require, or isn't quite ready for, an attorney, I'll be forthright in telling you that too. But, rest assured, I will use all the resources available to me to help you move forward in a positive direction.

Just remember, when it comes to your child's education, every day counts. So, if you have any questions or concerns about your child's educational program, please schedule a free consultation today. 

Common Types of Special Education Disputes

Special education disputes can take many forms. However, there are common types of disputes that can result in an impasse and stifle your child's educational progress. I have years of experience helping parents successfully resolve these types of disputes, and more. If you're having these issues with a school district or issues that aren't quite addressed in the list below, free feel to call or email to schedule a free consultation.

IEP Eligibility

An eligibility determination is the first step in getting a child special education services. To qualify for special education, a child must meet the eligibility criteria for at least one of the 13 qualifying disabilities and the disability must adversely impact the child's educational performance.

Sometimes school district staff believe a child doesn't meet the criteria for special education services under any qualifying condition while parents believe their child should qualify under one or more categories. Conversely, there are times when school staff agree that a child has a qualifying disability but they believe the disability doesn't impact his or her educational performance such that he or she requires special education. 

Disputes regarding eligibility are not easy to resolve through the Individualized Education Program ("IEP") process. And resolving these disputes through due process requires an understanding of the relevant law. Don't go it alone—give my office a call.

For more information on special education eligibility in San Diego, click here.

IEP Disputes

Sometimes, IEP Teams disagree on what a child's IEP should contain. This might mean there is a disagreement regarding the child's present levels of performance, IEP goals, service levels or something else altogether.

School districts must act reasonably. But, determining whether the school district has acted reasonably in its IEP offer is often not an easy task for parents.

Typically, both sides—parents and school district staff—have good reasons for why they're making their recommendations or decisions. Understanding what the law requires of school districts and what is reasonable in light of these requirements is essential to resolving disputes of this kind.

My office can help you understand whether the school district is acting reasonably, in accordance with the law, or not. If the school district is acting unreasonably, sometimes reframing the request using language and rationales that school district staff are accustomed to hearing can make all the difference. Other times, resolving the dispute may require filing a request for due process hearing to get the school district to do what is reasonable under the circumstances. If you find yourself in a dispute regarding the content of your child's IEP, feel free to reach out to my office for a free consultation to discuss your specific concerns.

For more information on IEP disputes in San Diego, click here.

Special Education Assessments

Assessments play a crucial role in special education. In fact, a child cannot receive special education until he or she is assessed. And once a child has been found eligible for special education, school districts must re-assess the child at least every three years unless his or her parents and the school district agree that re-assessment is not necessary.

Given the importance of assessments, it is unsurprising that many educational disputes involve assessments. These disputes come in many forms, but some disputes are more common than others. These include:

  • Failure to assess;
  • Failure to conduct appropriate assessments; and
  • Failure to provide public-funded assessments at parents' request.

If you have questions about whether the school district should have assessed or whether the assessments it conducted were done in accordance with the law, give my office a call.

For more information on special education assessments in San Diego, click here.

Educational Placements

Placement disputes are a heavily litigated area of special education law in San Diego. There is a myriad of placement options for a child ranging from general education to in-home hospital. Given all the options, disagreements between parents and school districts frequently arise. And once these disagreements have arisen, it is challenging to resolve them.

If you have a placement dispute with a school district, do yourself a favor and get a free consultation from an experienced special education attorney—whether it's me or someone else. Placement disputes require strong knowledge of the relevant law and a fluency in the type of persuasive evidence and arguments needed to successfully resolve the dispute and move your child's educational program forward in a positive direction.

For more information on special education placements in San Diego, click here.

Inadequate Related Services

Special education students frequently receive related services. "Related services" are transportation and other developmental, corrective and supportive services that are required to assist the child in benefiting from special education. (20 U.S.C. § 1401(26); 34 C.F.R. § 300.34; Ed. Code, § 56363, subd. (a).

In California, related services are also called designated instruction and services ("DIS").

Put simply, related services supplement a student's educational program so he or she can better access the educational curriculum and make educational progress academically, socially, and behaviorally.

Common related services include, but are not limited to, speech and language services, occupational therapy, and adapted physical education.

Disputes regarding related services can arise in many ways. However, there are common IEP Team disagreements, including:

  • whether a specific related service is necessary;
  • what the appropriate service times should be;
  • what method should be used to deliver the service, such as an individual basis or in a group setting; and
  • whether the related service should be terminated.

For more information on special education related services in San Diego, click here.

Lack of Appropriate Behavioral Support(s)

Some students exhibit behaviors in school that adversely impact their education and sometimes the education of their classmates. But no matter how challenging a student's behaviors may be, the school district still has a legal obligation to provide him or her with an appropriate education.

However, it's not uncommon for school district staff to frequently call parents to pick up these children due to their behaviors rather than taking appropriate steps to address the behaviors in school. In some instances, a school district that is frequently calling parents to pick up a child early from school due to behaviors may show that the school district is not appropriately handling the child's educational needs. After all, sending a child home when he or she has behaviors is not a long-term solution that will enable him or her to learn, either behaviorally, socially, or academically.

There are several ways for school districts to address a student's behavioral needs. But, again, when there are multiple options available, it is not uncommon for disagreements to arise regarding what the reasonable course of action is.

Give my office a call if you find yourself in a similar situation and want to discuss your options.

For more information on special education behavioral supports in San Diego, click here.

IEP Transportation

In San Diego, special education transportation is not always provided by school districts. Transportation is a related service, which can be offered or not based on a child's specific needs.

Disputes regarding transportation tend to arise when there is a disagreement among the IEP Team about whether a child needs transportation and, if transportation is offered, what additional supports should be provided for the child while riding the bus, such as adult behavioral aides for safety reasons.

Resolving transportation issues can be tricky to resolve because there are many factors that must be considered by the IEP Team. Some of these factors are:

  • The duration of transport;
  • Type of vehicle;
  • Timing of pick up and drop off;
  • Physical, emotional, or behavioral limitations; and
  • Special factors, such as medical concerns.

If you believe that your child's transportation services are inappropriate – whether because the school district has denied transportation entirely or because your child is having problems with the transportation service that the school district has not addressed – give my office a call. I would be happy to hear more about your concerns and help you craft a plan to move things forward. 

For more information on special education transportation in San Diego, click here.

Manifestation Determination

School districts can suspend or expel special education students just like general education students. However, when a special education student is suspended or expelled for more than 10 days, either consecutively or in aggregate in a single school year, the IEP Team must hold a special meeting called a manifestation determination.

During the manifestation determination, the IEP Team is required to ask and answer two questions:

  1. Was the child's conduct caused by, or did it have a direct and substantial relationship to, the student's disability?
  2. Was the child's conduct a direct result of the school district's failure to implement the child's IEP?

To answer these questions, the IEP Team must consider all relevant information in the child's educational file, including the IEP, any observations by teachers, and relevant information that parents provide.

Many disputes result from either a school district failing to hold, or timely hold, a manifestation determination or when a school district reaches a determination on either question 1 or 2 that parents disagree with.

If you have a question about this nuanced area of special education law, give my office a call.

For more information on manifestation determinations in San Diego, click here.


Acts of bullying include physical, verbal, emotional, or social behavior ranging from subtle and covert behaviors to blatant aggression. The bullying of a student with a disability that results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit may constitute a denial of a child's rights under the IDEA and California law.

No child should ever be bullied at school, or anywhere else for that matter. If your child is being bullied at school, give my office a call to discuss available options.

For more information on bullying in San Diego, click here.

Call a San Diego Special Education Attorney Today for a Free Consultation

Whether you're looking to hire an experienced special education attorney or just looking to have a few questions answered, call today to schedule a free consultation. During the consultation, Paul will listen to your unique situation, review documents (e.g., IEPs, assessment reports, etc.) if you have them available, and thoroughly discuss all the legal options available to you.


IEP Law Firm PC is committed to answering your questions about California special education law and helping you address any issues you may be facing.

We offer a free consultation and will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.