I’m A Bay Area Mom Who Challenged My Child’s School in Court Over His Individual Education Plan and Won

When my daughter and son began preschool, I felt my first hurdle to being involved at their school was communication with teachers due to language barriers because my English level was basic. I was often left with many lingering questions about my children’s education. It was then when I decided to get involved at their school. Becoming involved allowed me to build trust and communication with school staff and teachers. This is how I began to learn how I could could help my children at home.

When it was time for my children to start Transitional Kinder and Kindergarten, I enrolled them at a local elementary public school in San Lorenzo Unified School District. It was great to know the staff, and most of teachers were bilingual. At this school, I had no communication issues with my children’s teachers.

In those early years, I continued to be classroom volunteer parent and kept myself engaged, and that is when I began to notice my son would get quite distracted with so many students in the classroom. I also noticed that he would do well working one-on- one. After asking the teachers and staff questions, I learned my son needed an individualized education plan (IEP) to help him succeed in school.

Constant worries of mine were knowing my son was emotionally affected, he didn’t understand why it was difficult for him to focus and learn. He would become frustrated in the classroom and although he gave his best effort, he didn’t feel that it was good enough. He lacked support and understanding from teachers and staff. To make matters worse, he as also also a victim of bullying, and no one did nothing at the school.

The school chose to ignore my requests and concerns about my child’s academic progress and emotional development, which I knew was interconnected. I lacked information, assistance, and programs that could help my children in and out of school. This is when I made it my full time job to get help. I began to seek information from friends, teachers, and community centers. I asked questions everywhere I could, and sought help from community groups that advocate for students and parents such as Ashland Group, Padres Unidos and the Sheriff’s department.

After talking about our situation to a friend who is a psychologist, she guided me to an association of lawyers who made me see my child’s rights as a student and mine as a parent. That’s when I realized the school’s negligence and lack of responsibility, which had been affecting my son and our entire family.

The association of lawyers advised me sue because I had been requesting the school to help my son for an extended amount of time and the school did nothing about it. At that time I was more concerned about the wellbeing of my child, as he continued being bullied. I wanted this nightmare to end, but I didn’t know how to hold this school accountable.

The lawyers advised me there was possibility that I would not have to pay anything out of pocket, and perhaps not have to attend court hearings. I honestly, could not believe it.

Our lawyer was in charge of everything for me and my son, and I shifted my time to researching quality public schools. I knew, I would never trust that school with my children’s education.

During the time of the trial and even now, I think about all the parents who are in similar situations and don’t know what to do or have information needed to help their children.

If the school is still operating the way it was a few years ago, it is horrible to know other students maybe encountering similar situations without anything being done.

My son went through very bad times because of the school’s negligence, but the lawyer took the case and sought justice for the harm that the school caused. Although the compensation does not erase the harm that my child suffered, at least I know that I held them accountable and perhaps the school and its leadership will think twice when they are about to shut the doors and ignore their parents.

As parents, we must not be be afraid to ask questions, inform ourselves of our rights and our children’s rights. I only wish that the information about how to take action was more accessible to all families.

Soon after I heard of KIPP schools, and this was where I decided to enroll my children.  The change at KIPP has been from heaven to earth. KIPP is committed to providing all children a quality education, and the school is also focused on helping meet the needs of each individual student. I am fascinated with the school and am glad that my children are there.

What do you think?

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Liliana Plascencia De Soto

Liliana Plascencia De Soto

Liliana Plascencia De Soto is from Jalisco, Mexico and a mother of 2, an eleven year old son and a nine year old daughter. Her and her family live in San Lorenzo in the Bay Area. She is a parent advocate and is extremely involved in her children’s education; her husband and her decided she would stay at home for the first years of their children’s lives so she can focus fully on their development at home and at school. But even as an involved parent it wasn’t easy for Liliana to learn her children’s rights when it came to their education or even her rights as a parent. From personal experiences, information was not accessible in her school community as it should have been. It is every public schools’ responsibility to provide the necessary resources and services that a student needs for their emotional and academic growth. As a migrant from Mexico she wants to share her knowledge and experiences to parents everywhere; she wants to make sure that people are not afraid to ask for help or to demand for resources. Liliana’s purpose is to provide families the information they need to make sure they’re children are successful at school and in life.

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