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Utah Dispute Resolution

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     MARTZ LAW advances education through advocacy for children with disabilities.  Utah currently ranks 50th out of 51 states, including DC, for per pupil expenditures.  It would require an additional $5,375 of funding for every single K-12 student in Utah to merely reach the national average. The most significant impact of insufficient funding is failure to meet the educational needs of students who have disabilities. Students with disabilities should not suffer, because schools lack the necessary resources.  

Federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), provide protections for the rights of students with disabilities who must be offered a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.  The school and parents should work together to make a unique Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the student that includes ambitious goals with challenging learning objectives.  

The problem in Utah is that the systems set up to provide checks and balances for implementation of IDEA are not working.  Since 2008, Utah has been in “program improvement” for failing to comply with IDEA procedures to ensure that students with disabilities have meaningful academic and social outcomes. The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) has the responsibility to correct non-compliance.  

Supposedly, parents can seek help from USBE by filing a State Complaint (an investigation) or a Due Process Hearing (a mini trial).  During the 2021-2022 school year, however, only 23 students were able to find and use a State Complaint to report a school’s noncompliance.  Even worse, in seventeen (17) years, not one parent or student has won a Due Process Hearing in Utah.  The system is broken, and vulnerable children are paying the price.

            Resources for parents and students with disabilities are scarce.  The Utah State Bar Licensed Lawyer directory has no search category for education, special education, IDEA, or schools.  Attorneys who specialize in the area of education law almost exclusively serve school districts and charter schools.  The Disability Law Center focuses on advancing policy and law on issues of access.  The Utah Parent Center focuses on training parents new to disabilities and, by policy, takes a non-confrontational approach with districts, who contribute to funding their advocates.  The result is a void where parents have nowhere to turn for help.  

What is needed most in Utah is “advocacy with teeth.”  MARTZ LAW is working with attorneys, parents, and educators to establish a new non-profit organization (The IEP Student Center) to improve education for children with disabilities by protecting the rights of parents and students, providing expert, cutting edge ideas for helping students, identifying noncompliance under IDEA, and seeking increased resources for education in Utah.  

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