Educational Rights of Children with Learning Differences in WA State

We spoke to Special Education Attorney, Lara Hruska, MSW, MSEd, JD at Cedar Law, PLLC to learn more about the educational rights of children with learning differences and disabilities in WA State and here is what we learned.

What do you think parents may not know about a child’s educational right?

Federal and state civil rights and entitlements are robust for students and families under the IDEA for students with IEPs; as well as the ADA, Section 504, and the Washington Law Against Discrimination for all students with disabilities with or without IEPs.

Many people don’t realize that even without academic or cognitive concerns, a student can qualify for a 504 or IEP if the disabling condition is impacting their ability to access their education.

This could include, for example, students who are not attending school due to anxiety or if the disability is having an adverse impact on non-academic aspects of school like communication, social skills, or task initiation.

What resources to recommend for parents that are navigating the school educational system?

Short of hiring an attorney, there are other useful avenues for parents to understand their rights. I’m a big fan of and also refer people to Wright’s Law as a free online resource or Washington’s own OSPI website.

There are also parent advocacy organizations in Washington like the Washington Autism Alliance (WAA) or Partnership for Action Voices for Empowerment (PAVE). You can also call the Washington State Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds (OEO) for free information.

However, even for families that can’t afford to pay an attorney hourly, Cedar Law can be a solid resource. Because civil rights laws carry with them attorney fee-shifting for prevailing parties, we are able to represent families at no out-of-pocket charge and get paid once the case settles or wins at hearing. Plus we give free attorney consults. So I encourage families to consider attorney advocacy if your student’s educational rights have been violated.

Our law firm website also has a list of legal resources at and our education law blog has lots of articles on issues of interest for families of students with disabilities. I also made an informational video for WAA to assist parents preparing for IEP meetings.

Overall, there are lots of resources around the state and we’re happy to assist should you get to the point where you think you need an attorney!

Be sure to check out Lara’s video. It’s packed with useful information for advocating parents navigating the school systems. It points to the specific laws that protect both your participation and your child’s educational planning, what you are entitled to and the timeline with which it has to be completed!

Special Education Attorney, Lara Hruska, MSW, MSEd, JD at Cedar Law, PLLC

Tell us about who you are and why you founded Cedar Law?

My name is Lara Hruska, MSW, MSEd, JD. I’m a former social worker and special education teacher who practiced in California, New York, and Louisiana before I went to law school at the University of Washington specifically to make sure students and families were accessing their rights in the educational setting.

I started Cedar Law PLLC at the end of 2014 shortly after graduating from UW Law as a solo practitioner and it has steadily grown over the last ten years to 15 attorneys practicing in four states – which reflects, I think, both the quality of our work but also the significant need for advocacy in the school setting. We assist with all issues that can arise in the school setting – discrimination, harassment, abuse, exclusion, failure to serve, academic integrity, athletic eligibility, and higher education – but a cornerstone of our work is with students with disabilities in k-12 schools on 504 plans or IEPs.

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