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How to avoid IEP Meeting Negativity.

IEP Meeting negativity woman sitting on bench fist clenched frustrated
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Avoid falling into the hole of IEP negativity.

Recently there was a lively discussion in our Facebook group. A teacher said something inappropriate to a student. Not sexual or anything like that, just unprofessional.

But I took a lot of grief from members because I presented the teacher’s side. After all, she had been criticized on social media. Presumably, she was hurt or upset, and her emotions got the better of her and she said something to the kid.

“You’re supposed to be a parent advocate!” I was told. And I am. Child advocate first, parent advocate second. And you are doing your child a disservice if you participate in online criticism of school staff.

I hear that one a lot. When you come into contact with as many IEP parents as I do, you hear it all. But there are a surprisingly high number of common themes. And a trend I’m seeing is a very negative one. It has to do with parents being very one-sided and not taking ownership of their participation in nonsense like this. Parent was inappropriate, the teacher was inappropriate. Period.

IEP Meeting negativity
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I thought long and hard about posting this one, but it is common enough I felt it should be addressed. I’m getting so many negative questions lately from parents. There’s an air of suspicion, of “I don’t trust anyone” and “they must have an ulterior motive to whatever they do.”

Please note, I am not AT ALL judging or finger-wagging at anyone. This happens to even the best parents and we’ve all been there. We start to get sucked into a habit of negativity.

Hints that a parent is on a path of IEP negativity

It’s an easy hole to fall into. I am merely posting this so that other readers can see the warning signs, perhaps self-identify, and move back on to the correct path. Here are some recent questions I’ve received from parents.

  1. {Special Ed Director} has told me that there were policies that didn’t exist, such as (deleting specifics).
  2. I’ve also heard that {special ed director} wants to move my oldest to life skills. It’s just a rumor but I’m pissed. I was hoping someone would know what she did before his that qualifies this person as a special Ed director.
  3. I think on {special ed director’s}  part it is just revenge And I hate that.

There was more to it, but that was the bulk of some parent questions for me. Again, this is just for learning, and identifying issues and how to move past negativity like this.

Do you see yourself in any of this?

For question or statement #1, there is a very simple solution. Ask to see the policies. You can always go to your District’s website online and research them yourself. If you do not or cannot find them, an email to the Special Ed Director should suffice. “Dear Special Ed director, last week you told me “this” is a policy of My School District. I am unable to locate this policy online, can you send me a copy of it or a link please?” Wait a week to ten days, if no response, go to Pupil Services or Superintendent. Depending on what the answer is (the policy exists or it doesn’t) will help you determine how to proceed. For the record, for her specific question, I do not know if that is a policy in that school district or not. But it is a common policy that districts have, I have seen it elsewhere.

Ok, on to question or statement #2. Re-read the first and second sentence. This parent is angry over a rumor. While anger can sometimes be a productive emotion, it’s often a destructive emotion. Therefore, I reserve it for when I truly have something to be angry about. And rumors aren’t it!

It would appear that this parent is gossiping with someone about the special ed director and her child’s placement and progress. I frequently chat with my son’s team members, but the bulk of our progress and placement discussions take place in IEP meetings. Why would you chat about placement outside of an IEP meeting? Why are you talking “rumors” with other people regarding your child? A rumor is just that, a rumor.

And it’s beginning to consume you if you are allowing it to anger you to the point that you are seeking help online.

Use the process. Go back to your child’s IEP and start with the most important section of the IEP-Present Levels. Have concerns about placement? Draw up a parental concerns letter and ask for an IEP meeting. Those are two great starting points to get the process moving if you are unhappy with the IEP. If present levels are fine, then move on to goals and SDIs.

But most importantly, get out of the habit of gossiping and chit-chatting like this. It’s not productive and it’s time-consuming. Because it has driven this parent to the last sentence of #2. She is questioning qualifications.

In this day and age of litigation, I assume that most districts hire qualified people if only qualified on paper. Then again, nothing surprises me and people do lie on resumes. However, it is not my job to vet Special Ed Directors. It is my job to get my child’s needs met. So go back to the previous paragraph. Use the process. If you are unhappy with the IEP, use the IEP process to correct it. Questioning a director’s qualifications will get you nowhere. If the IEP process leads me to Due Process, then it is my attorney’s job to question everyone’s qualifications, not mine.

Anger has also led this parent to statement #3-revenge. Revenge, retaliation, call it whatever you want. But why are you wasting time and emotions on speculation? I do not have time to speculate as to the motives of others. I really don’t. Use the process. Retaliation is illegal, and if you have documentation that you think shows retaliation, file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

When you are frustrated with lack of progress, an increase of negative behaviors, or regression, it is very easy to fall into a rut of negativity. Use the process. It doesn’t always mean that you will win, but it will get you heard. In this situation, the school district may very well be dealing her a crappy hand and being dishonest at worst and lazy/incompetent at best.

Lowering yourself down to a pattern of negative behavior will not help your child’s situation. I don’t even know the answers to help her, because she did not tell me one thing about her child. I have no idea if his needs are being met or what is not working. The conversation never went there.

You cannot control anyone else’s behavior, but you can control your reaction to their behavior.

10 Ways to Avoid IEP Negativity

  1. Stay Child Focused. Instead of worrying about what teachers did or didn’t do, bring it back to their child. What didn’t they receive as a result of this?
  2. Never assume intent. “She must have done this because…” We don’t know anyone’s intent. Remember Hanlon’s Razor.
  3. When in doubt, ask.
  4. Avoid gossip.
  5. Do not post school issues on ANY social media.
  6. Use the IEP process to handle issues.
  7. Consistently practice open communication, both written and verbal.
  8. Take the high road. Always.
  9. Spend some time in that person’s shoes. For a moment, try to view the situation from where they sit.
  10. Keep discussions about your child and his team in the appropriate venues.
  11. Stick to facts-not emotions or speculation.

Ok, that’s 11, so you got a bonus tip!

It’s about the child, and what they are or are not receiving per their IEP, that they need. Period. Full stop.

 

IEP Meeting negativity woman sitting on bench fist clenched frustrated
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