My school is not following the IEP!
It’s a common parent complaint. A mom in California recently wrote to me.
My son has an IEP plan for his new 7th grade year. In the IEP plan it states that he is to be pulled out of class when testing so he can concentrate better and hasn’t happen yet. Also to just keep an extra eye out for him because he becomes distracted easily. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO?
Here are some steps that you can take and I’ve sort of listed them in order of how you should proceed, though some may overlap.
(Note: For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that the IEP is appropriate and sufficient. I have written probably 100s of posts addressing how to get a sufficient IEP.)
Again, I wrote these steps thinking incrementally. I would start with the first one and work my way through the list until the situation was resolved.
- Make sure you are documenting everything. Make sure that everything is clearly defined in the IEP as far as the number of hours, minutes, when, where, who, etc. If he is to be pulled out of class for tests, I bet they’re going to say “He’s not asking so we weren’t doing it.” Ok, so add in a self-advocacy goal. But in the meantime, it is the staff’s responsibility to prompt him to leave. Not his responsibility until he learns to better self-advocate (which he needs to do anyway).
- Tips for better IEP documentation from parents. Hopefully, you have email. If not, you’ll have to do it in handwriting and take a picture of it with your phone before you send it in. Email automatically time and date stamps, so don’t forget that if you are writing it. Be specific. “Today he said he had an algebra test. Per his IEP he is to go to a quiet room to do testing, but that has not been happening.” Stay child focused. Word your sentences carefully. Instead of finger-pointing and saying, “You are not doing this and this and this” keep it focused on what the student is or is not receiving. “Per his IEP, he is to be receiving A, B and C and he reports that this has not been happening.”
- Request IEP meeting if necessary. If the documentation alone does not prompt them to follow the IEP, it’s time to request a meeting. Submit a parent concerns letter for the IEP meeting and state all of your concerns. “At this IEP meeting, I wish to discuss….my son says he has not been receiving…and I want to see what we can do to make this happen consistently.” Bring all your documentation to the meeting.
- Find an advocate. At this point in the process, parents are angry and frustrated. Your child may be regressing, he might be getting repeatedly suspended. At best, they are stagnating because they are not receiving services. Find an advocate to attend with you for a more objective set of eyes and more people on Team You.
- Call your state Protection and Advocacy group for Disabilities. These groups are horribly underfunded and their efficacy varies greatly. But you don’t know until you try. Call and ask them if they have special education advocates. If not, ask them if you know where you can find one. Ask them about the state complaint process. Ask them, since they are the P&A group for your state, what they can do to assist you.
- Find a support/parent group for your child’s disability. Whether it be your local Arc or Decoding Dyslexia or whoever. Poke around online and find a local group. There is strength in numbers. You might find new ideas, validation (which can be worth a lot!) or enough people to start a class action suit.
- File a state complaint. I have filed state “Professional educator misconduct complaints” before in my state. Note that this is pretty extreme and should be for extreme measures. Different states offer different kinds of complaints.
- Call your state’s Department of Education. A simple internet search will get you this information. Call them, tell your story, ask what suggestions they have.
- Call the Office of Civil Rights-file a complaint. If your child is in a protected class (disability, minority) ask yourself these questions: Is he being treated differently than his non-disabled peers? Is he being treated differently than his non-minority peers? Is he being denied FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education, as defined by IDEA)? Do I think he/she is being discriminated against based on race or disability? Then file a complaint! Please note: You may look at that link, see an online form and think this is a simple process. It’s not, and it doesn’t save your information. So read it, print it, prepare it in a Word document or something else–prepare it and have it all ready to copy and paste before you submit. You’ll also need to read Title IX and Section 504, as well as IDEA. You want to make sure that you hit all the points and this takes time to compile. You want to be specific, thorough and accurate in filing a Civil Rights complaint. Also, when you state that you are filing on behalf of “my child, Joe Smith” you want to say “my child, Joe Smith and all other similarly situated students.” This gives OCR (Office of Civil Rights) reason or cause to look at ALL files, not just your child’s. And minority students with disabilities getting frequently suspended is a really hot topic right now on OCR’s radar as well as the US Department of Education.
- Hire an attorney. You’ve been working at this, it’s still not being followed and your child is regressing. Find a special education attorney and ask about comp ed-compensatory education.
- Call your politicians. Look online for your state legislature. See who chairs various committees (like education) and who represents you. Call or stop in your local office and tell your story, ask what they can do. It may be nothing more than an email or phone call, but might be enough.
- Path of least resistance. I don’t judge. Not everyone can fight every fight, not everyone has as much fight in them as the next guy. Sometimes you just want it over. You never know what another parent is going through–divorce, family deaths, illness, job loss. It happens. And you might just not have the mental energy to fight IEP battles right now. Some other choices are: moving to a different district, homeschooling, home cyber-charter, paying privately for a private school or outside services. Lots of choices out there, you have to do what is right for you and your family right now. And don’t let the naysayers get you.
Weigh all the options, make your decisions and sleep well, my friend. Remember, the IEP lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re all in this for the long haul.
Final thoughts: I never, ever recommend that parents contact the media for solutions or to expose a problem. Not everyone in society thinks the way we think or views it from our shoes. I’ve seen stories backfire and the child is viewed as a troublemaker, the parents viewed as entitled whiners and so on. You never know how someone is going to view this and they make take the school’s side and say, “Hell yeah! Expel that kid!” If you do talk with the media, be very specific and careful before it prints or airs. It can be life changing and not necessarily in a good way, trust me.
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