Special Ed Legal Consults


Special Ed Legal Consults Blog

If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen…

Let’s say you are attending an IEP meeting by yourself. (Note: IEP stands for Individualized Education Program.) You start to tell the IEP team about a conversation you had with Johnny’s teacher about why your son was not making progress. The other 8 team members—all from the school and school district — jump in and say that could not be possible because Johnny was making such great progress. The teacher conveniently claims that she couldn’t remember any such conversation. Do you think that you were able to persuade the IEP team to improve Johnny’s educational program?

Sure, you know your child better than anyone. But you:

  • Are considered as biased because you are the parent

  • Lack the right credentials to be your child’s expert

  • Are overpowered by the “wall” disputing what you say

What could you have done differently?

There’s only one answer.

Be prepared with documentation. It’s hard to argue with written evidence.

Your goal for the IEP meeting is to add services to improve Johnny’s reading comprehension skills. You want to add time to his special education services so that the resource specialist will preview the key points the teacher will present, allowing time for Johnny to read the material with assistance, listen to the material, ask questions, and answer questions before the teacher presents the material to the entire class.

How can you accomplish this, when you feel that the team members are ganging up against you?

“The facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Here are 7 types of documents you can bring to the IEP meeting:

  1. The most recent school district assessment showing that Johnny has deficits in reading comprehension

  2. Progress reports showing he has not made progress with his current level of services

  3. Teacher comments on his recent report cards

  4. Email exchanges with the teacher about Johnny’s reading level and how he is not keeping up with the class

  5. Work samples showing Johnny’s difficulty answering comprehension questions

  6. Perhaps you even have a polite email to the teacher, thanking her for sharing your concern that Johnny is falling behind, and asking her about other resources the school can offer to help Johnny improve his comprehension skills

  7. And, a private evaluation, presented by your private assessor, showing that Johnny has not made meaningful progress in reading comprehension with his current school program (more detail in a future blog post)

Make A Resolution — Get Organized!

Stack of papers.jpg

There’s no time to waste — it’s time to organize your child’s educational records to see what information is already there, and also discover what is missing.

The best way is to go “old school” and print out the educational records as they are created (and catch up NOW). Why old school? Because you want to be able to put your hands on an individual document when you need it.

Using a 3-ring binder, put the most recent document on top, and organize chronologically so that the records tell your child’s story.

In other words, it’s much better to organize records by date instead of category. If you are looking for Johnny’s 2nd trimester report card from 4th grade, you can find it by date a lot easier than thumbing through all of his report cards.

And, if you really want to be able to put your hands on a particular document, which is often necessary to prove your point in the moment, then use colored tags.

I have always used one color for IEP documents; one color for any time of evaluation (including assessments, progress reports, report cards, standardized tests); and one color for correspondence including emails. That’s right — I print out emails received as well as sent, unless the emails relate to scheduling and such routine matters.

I can’t tell you how many times during an IEP meeting I have listened to a statement by a district representative, making a claim that I know is incorrect. Since I have prepared for the IEP meeting by reviewing records, I can turn directly to the document I need, pull it out from my 3-ring binder, and read it to the IEP team. I wasn’t relying on my memory to tell; I showed the IEP team the evidence.

Show, not tell. That’s how to get your message across.