A Gebser letter is the most powerful letter you will ever write on behalf of your child and their ability to get a free and appropriate public education. The formula for the Gebser letter comes from US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the Gebser case. They spelled out that unless the school district has actual knowledge of something going on you can’t get damages from them so in keeping with that US Supreme Court case special education lawyers like Reed Martin have interpreted the case and have come up with a cookbook formula for parents to utilize so that they can get the services that your child deserves.
The following are 10 suggested steps to follow when parents choose to write a “Gebser letter” to the School District (These are taken from the late attorney Reed Martin’s “10 steps to making a successful complaint”).
- In writing, address the notification to a specific person and date the letter.
- Write the letter to a person who has the authority to investigate and the authority to correct the wrong.
- Note that the school district is a recipient of federal financial assistance.
- State the past or continuing discriminatory activity against your child.
- State that the school district has control over both the site of the discrimination and over any school personnel involved.
- Explain that the discrimination was not a single act but was severe and pervasive.
- Tell how the discrimination excluded your child from continued participation in school or denied your child the benefits to which other students in school have access.
- Explain, as well as you can, what you would like the school to do to stop the discrimination or to remediate the harm the discrimination has done to your child.
- Ask for a copy of a school district grievance procedure under Section 504 (even if your child has an IEP under IDEA). Not having this information may result in continued discrimination.
- State that if the person receiving this letter does not investigate or does not take effective corrective action, that you may claim that the district showed deliberate indifference to the discrimination. You may also want to add a date you expect to hear back from the district in regards to your letter.
You also want to request in your letter that they send a copy of the documents that they swear to in writing and send to the Department of Education that they are in compliance with all federal laws.
You need to overcome the legal hurdle of deliberate indifference and properly done this letter will do so. The end point is to get the services you need. Keep the letter detailed so there is no wiggle room for the school district.