As the parent of a child with autism, there have often been times when I did not agree with the school’s handling of my son’s IEP. In fact, sometimes I don’t agree with how they handle him! So, what do you do when you disagree with how they handle the IEP? I dug into Wrightslaw (a fantastic website) and found some great tips for dealing with disagreements. While the school doesn’t sometimes act like it, you do have rights as a parent and your child has rights as well. So, here’s how you deal with disagreements:
Dealing with Disagreements with the School
While it may feel tempting to send off a nasty letter or email to the teacher or the school, creating adversarial relationships does not help your child. if you want your child’s needs to get met, you must remain composed. In truth, the minute you get nasty, you discredit yourself. Kill them with kindness. Always stay calm and polite, avoid emotional outbursts, and stick to the facts. Most importantly, keep documentation of all communications with the school and create a binder with your child’s IEPs, re-evaluations, progress notes, and communication logs. Beyond that, Wrightslaw provides fantastic recommendations for “levels” of letters to handle disagreements with the IEP.
The Clarification Letter: Following up with the IEP Meeting
The clarification letter is a way to communicate with the school about situations where you agreed on certain accommodations during the meeting, but the school did not well-document these accommodations on the IEP. For example, if the school agreed to provide a cool-off zone or safe place with the counselor during intense emotional outbursts that would be either (a) requested by your child or (b) seen as necessary by the teacher, but you got home and read the IEP and it just vaguely stated “cool-off period,” you might write a clarification letter regarding the IEP. When you write the clarification email or letter, clarify the agreement and keep the documentation.
Sample Clarification Letter: Here’s your template
Do you have difficulty coming up with what to write? Here’s a free downloadable copy of a clarification letter. Feel free to use it and modify it to fit your child’s needs!
So, maybe you did not agree with what was said at the IEP meeting and the IEP was not written with your child’s best interest in mind. During moments of disagreement, if you want your voice heard, you must still remain calm and polite, but address all of the issues that you disagree upon. As stated by Wrightslaw, “federal law does not require parents to explain exactly why they disagree with a school district’s evaluations.” For this reason, you can be as specific as you feel necessary in this letter.
Sample Disagreement Letter: Here’s your template
If can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you disagree. Here’s a free downloadable copy of a disagreement letter. Feel free to use it and modify it to fit your child’s needs.
When You Have Significant Unresolved Issues Regarding the IEP
So, what do you do when you have several very significant disagreements with the school? At this point, you have met with the school and had one or two unproductive IEP meetings and you feel it might be necessary to file Due Process regarding the IEP. Perhaps the school has even made several outrageous statements during the IEP meetings, does not follow the IEP, fails to consider the law, or is completely inaccurate in their response to your child’s educational needs.
At times, the school might make some blanket statements regarding how they follow the IEP at their school, such as:
- We don’t have enough staff for that here
- We don’t have that program here
- Our policy says that we should…
- If “the team” does not agree with your Independent Evaluation, we do not have to consider it.
- We don’t allow parent observations here.
Whatever is said during the meeting, you should document word-for-word in your follow-up letter. Here is a downloadable copy of a letter transcribing major disagreements with the iep.
Tips for Transcribing Outrageous Statements Made During an IEP Meeting
- Transcribe any “blanket statements” and connect them with the person who said them.
- Use a digital recorder to keep track of what was said and when. Make sure you inform the team that you are recording.
- Keep detailed notes of what happened during the meeting, but keep it brief, as transcribing the entire meeting will lead to a lengthy letter, especially or long meetings.
- Note the major points where you felt statements were inaccurate or offensive, when they were said, and who said them.
- If possible, bring an advocate to the meeting to help you keep the meeting to an even keel tone, especially if the school refuses to meet when you bring a recorder.
- Check to be sure your state is an “all parties consent” state or not when it comes to recording the meeting. Although there is no federal law expresslly forbidding you to record a meeting, it is up to the discretion of the state as to whether or not it is allowable.
- If the school forbids recording, request a copy of your school district’s policy regarding recording. There may be provisions allowing those who are incapable of taking notes to record the meeting.
- Send your letter to the school district and request that your letter become a part of your child’s IEP record.
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Final Notes About Handling Disagreements with the IEP
To conclude, the IEP meeting is mean to be a time for all parties to come together for the common good of your child. However possible, make this meeting as productive and useful as possible. Recording may allow you to ensure that the IEP documents your child’s needs precisely and will help you write more effective follow-up letters. However, if this is not possible, be sure to take good notes of what was said during the meeting and by whom. Many times, bringing an advocate will help dissuade the school from making blanket statements and disregarding your child’s needs. The presence of your child’s organized records and a notebook and pen will allow the school to notice that you are keeping records, which may help prevent several of these issues. If not, please use the letters above to help you form your thoughts in a reasonable, polite, but accurate way.
Best of luck to you this year as you pursue what’s best for your child!
Note: I must credit Wrightslaw.com for helping me provide the suggestions in this post. If you haven’t checked out Wrightslaw, it’s another great resource of information for laws on helping children with disabilities in schools.