New to special needs education, and I left my last IEP meeting feeling more than defeated and skeptical of my son's teacher...

Her surprising behavior (was never like that at other meetings) makes me question what goes on in the classroom. Her recommended placement for next year: special needs kindergarten @ another school (with his program). Due to her continued unhelpful behavior, I'd like to know: 1). Transition box: To help him transition over summer break, can I request pictures of his new school,the classroom, his bus driver, and teacher? 2) What rights do I have (as a parent) to request items in his IEP and request he be placed in general education classroom (with support)? 3) Can I record or have someone present at IEP meeting? 4) Can I file a complaint against teacher? Sorry for many questions, but any help you can provide would be highly appreciate

Marietta, GA -

Attorney Answers (2)

Jonathan Seth Corchnoy

Jonathan Seth Corchnoy

Education Law Attorney - Philadelphia, PA
Answered

First, don't feel like you are a bad parent or feel defeated. "They" (school IEP team members) almost always make parents think that they don't know anything about their child, that the school professionals are always right, that your right to be part of the IEP team is "just a formality", etc.

Second, never go to an IEP meeting without someone else with you - at least as a witness to the fact of the above-noted attitude. I would highly recommend that you take with you a non-attorney advocate. You can usually find one who is very good by checking The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) website for an advocate in your area. If you ultimately need an attorney who specializes in special education matters, you can check there also.

Third, as to your specific questions:
1) Yes; you should be able to get such pictures. Often you can arrange with the school district to meet those people and get a tour of the school and classroom before school actually starts - which is NOT an extraordinary request for students who have great difficulties with transitions from one thing/place/activity to another (e.g. students on the autistic spectrum such as PDD-NOS, Aspergers, Autism).

2) The federal statute that governs IEP's is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (more commonly known as "IDEA"). The School District is required to give you a list of your procedural rights under that statute. If they did not, then ask them for a copy. Nevertheless, you are a requried memeber of the IEP Team and the Team must consider everything that you want to talk about. They must meet at a time that is convenient for you (within reason) and if you can only meet in the evening or by telephone conference, they must make reasonable accommodations for you. Likewise, if you have disabilities, they have to accommodate your disabilities or inability to communicate in English or spoken word.
There is a section in the IEP labeled "Parent concerns" where you can expressly require what your concerns are regarding your child's issues. Although the District may not address some or all of them, if you should get into litigation later, the District may be found to have failed your child specifically because they had notice of your concern and then did nothing to address it.

3) Recording an IEP meeting is up to yor state Depratment of Education rules and you can contact them to find out what they are.

4) You can complain to the District, your State, or the U.S. Depratment of Education if the complaint merits it. However, you may find that the teacher's actions were being overseen by the District's special education director who was "calling the shots". As a practical matter, complaints about behavior that does not endanger a child rarely gets any action. Having an Advocate with you will get you more of what you want and better respect from the District, although they will think of you as "the B---", or some other derogatory term. Regardless, always treat them civilly; losing your temper will likely give them an excuse to ban you from the school property.

Todd Bruce Kotler

Todd Bruce Kotler

Education Law Attorney - North Canton, OH
Answered

I agree with Attorney Corchnoy 110%

I write separately to speak to some other issues of which you ought to be aware. The tansition box is usually for 14 year olds and above. You still may make the very reasonable request you suggested as it is reasonably calculated to to bring educational benefit to the child.

Come to your next meeting prepared. Review the suggestions of the school's team members with your child's therapist or neurodevelopmental doctor. Get their recomendations and incorporate them into the plan.

Also, if you have any doubt about the plan the school has presented. DON'T GIVE YOUR CONSENT TO IT! Typically, there are two places to sign; one signifying attendance and the other agreement. Don't sign that second one. You have the right to take it home and review with your spouse or the child's other parent.

Lastly I recomend you read up on the Delphi Technique. This was developed by the RAND Corporation for the Dept. of Defense as a way to obtain the opinion of experts without necessarily bringing them together face to face. As originally conceived it works quite well, based on the sumption that forcasts gathered from groups of neutral individuals are better than those from just one person. In recent times, however, it has been used preserve the illusion that there is "…lay, or community, participation (in the decision-making process), while lay citizens were, in fact, being squeezed out."

A specialized use of this technique was developed for teachers, the "Alinsky Method" The setting or group is, however, immaterial; the point is that people in groups tend to share a certain knowledge base and display certain identifiable characteristics. In the IEP meeting setting someone likeable (often an administrator; Principal, VP, etc.) acts as a "facilitator" beeing everyone's friend and gathering opinions from all; building an apparent consensus. The facilitator guides discussions, rebuts points of contention pointed out by divergent (trans. parent's) opinions and moves the group towards a "conclusion". The facilitator does this by gradually assigning good guy and bad guy roles to all in the meeting to ultimately ostracise those who disagree with the consensus as "bad guys" thus minimizing the percieved value of thier input.

Below are links to articles on parental rights in special education and the Delphi Technique and how to combat it.

Good luck

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