Tag Archives: special education

KPS4Parents’ Parent Education Series

New Sessions to be Held November – December, 2017

Sign up for individual sessions or all six sessions as a package deal.

Your presenter will be Anne M. Zachry, M.A. Ed. Psych.  Ms. Zachry has been a special education and disability resource lay advocate since 1991, a paralegal in special education and related matters since 2005, and an educational psychologist since 2013.  She will take you through the procedural and substantive considerations of identifying each student’s unique learning needs and how the regulations apply to their unique situations.

Our six sessions are as follows:

  • Session 1 – Nov. 4, ‘17:  The Basics of Special Education Parent Rights
  • Session 2 – Nov. 11, ‘17:  Assessments and Present Levels of Performance
  • Session 3 – Nov. 18, ‘17:  Measurable Annual IEP Goals
  • Session 4 – Dec. 2, ‘17:  Determining IEP Services & Placements
  • Session 5 – Dec. 9, ‘17:  Behavioral Interventions and Students with Special Needs
  • Session 6 – Dec. 16, ‘17:  The Differences Between IEPs and 504 Plans

EACH SESSION WILL BE HELD FROM 2:00-4:30pm

at Little Thai Fine Dining

2500 Las Posas Rd., Ste. D, Camarillo, CA  93010

A buffet-style late lunch is included.  This is meant to be a comfortable setting where we can tackle some hard issues and help parents understand how the rules and regulations uniquely apply to their own situations.

Educational Series Course Fees:

  • Single Sessions:  $45/individual, $80/couple
  • Package Deals:  $250 for all 6 sessions/individual, $475 for all 6 sessions/couple

PARTICIPANTS MUST PRE-REGISTER

LIMITED SPACE IS AVAILABLE FOR EACH EVENT, SO REGISTER RIGHT AWAY!

Refunds not available for missed events, but make-up sessions will be conducted.

 

Combatting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Many people have never heard of the School-to-Prison Pipeline, or may have heard of it but don’t know what it is.  Here are some web sites that provide information on this horrific phenomenon that literally funnels children out of our schools and into our prison populations every day.

While there are a variety of populations that are impacted by this phenomenon, children with special needs are right up there at the top of the list. The failure of public schools to utilize positive behavioral interventions and, instead, rely on punitive measures in response to the manifestation of behaviors related to or caused by children’s handicapping conditions directly contributes to the incarceration of children with handicapping conditions rather than their education and remediation.

Unfortunately, the arrest of 11-year-old Zakhquery Price in Fort Smith, AR is just one of many cases of school districts responding inappropriately to the behavioral needs of special education students and is a prime example of the School-to-Prison Pipeline in action.

5th Grader with Autism Charged with Felony Assault

Zakhquery Price

I am writing today about a deplorable situation in my home state of Arkansas involving an 11-year-old with autism who has failed to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), according to the events described by his grandmother (see the Examiner news article). Zakhqurey Price is a 5th grader at Beard Elementary in Fort Smith, AR, who is challenged by autism.

I’m not going to repeat verbatim the article cited above because that’s unnecessarily redundant.  I’ve already posted comments on this article and its sister article at Great Schools in hopes that the family will get the word and contact Arkansas Legal Aid for help.  The point of today’s blog article and podcast is to use this horrible situation as a teaching example and learning opportunity for others.? I’m going to presume for the purposes of this article that the family’s assertions are true.

Robin Hanson reports in the Examiner article that Zakh returned to school on August 18, 2009 after having been institutionalized.  His family attempted to coordinate an IEP for him prior to the beginning of the school year but the Fort Smith school district refused to do anything until the school year started.  In many states, the IEP process is disrupted by summer break and school districts are not required to engage in IEP-related activities until the school year starts.? However, not being required to do something doesn’t mean that school districts are necessary barred from doing anything.

While a procedural violation may not have occurred due to the District’s refusal to coordinate an IEP for this child prior to the onset of the school year, common sense dictates that it probably should have done so regardless of whether it was procedurally required or not.  The millisecond that school began on August 18, 2009, the District instantly denied him a FAPE on the basis that whatever IEP he had failed to meet his unique needs and was unable to render educational benefit.

The change from institutionalization to a public school setting was a change in placement for which amendments to the IEP were required.  These are two very different settings and the institution into which he had previously been placed was outside the District. An IEP meeting should have been held on the first day of school at the very latest to put together an appropriate offer of FAPE so that he could start school right away with appropriate supports and services in place from the very beginning.  That was not done, thereby resulting in an actionable denial of a FAPE.

Zakh’s grandmother, Carole Reynolds, claims she has been refused access to Zakh’s records in spite of her repeated requests. She stated, “We have made requests to receive a copy of his evaluation/assessment results before the October 15th temporary placement IEP meeting and were refused because they said it was not allowed by state law.”

As of 2004, when the IDEA was reauthorized, whether a state has its own timelines for certain aspects of the special education process or not, federal law now establishes mandated minimums and maximums.  If state law does not require the provision of student records prior to an IEP meeting or within a specified number of days, it doesn’t matter.  Federal law mandates that parents (or those acting in the legal capacity of parents, including emergency foster care status and legal guardians) be granted access to student records within 45 calendar days at the most, but definitely before any scheduled IEP meetings.? (See 34 CFR Sec. 300.613.)

Giving parents access to records is not the same thing as providing copies, however. Copies may be provided and school districts can charge photocopying fees so long as the imposition of fees do not prevent the parents from receiving the copies (see 34 CFR Sec. 300.617).  What this basically means is that if the school districts provide photocopies and wish to charge photocopying fees, those fees must be waived if the parents can’t afford to pay them since the imposition of photocopying fees would prevent them from obtaining the copies due to their economic hardship.

Arkansas’ Special Education Rules and Regulations can be found at http://arksped.k12.ar.us/sections/rulesandregulations.html. Arkansas defaults to the federal standards for the provision of parent access to student records.

Arkansas’ regulations require the provision of copies of student records if failing to provide them would otherwise deny parents access to those records. Such might be the case if the parents lacked transportation to go to the school site or district offices to review the records on site, if the amount of time necessary to read and review all the records would exceed the length of a school day or business day and the parents would need to take the records home to continue to review them, or if the parents work or care for children during the day and cannot take off to go access the records at a district location.

In a situation like this, it would by highly unlikely that the parents would be able to review the entire file with comprehension in one sitting, much less with school site and/or district personnel hovering over their shoulders.  Plus, if the parents decide to file for due process or file compliance complaints, they would need copies of the records to review and possibly submit as evidence.? In this case, the provision of copies of the records, as opposed to simply granting access to them at a district location, is warranted.

Ms. Reynolds reported that a temporary placement IEP meeting was held on October 15th, nearly 2 months after the school year started.  The reason she requested the IEP meeting was that Zakh had been previously placed in a residential facility and facility personnel believed that he could not be appropriately transitioned to a less restrictive setting without 1:1 aide support.  Staff at Beard Elementary allegedly refused to provide aide support via his IEP.

20 USC Sec. 1414(d)(2)(C)(I) requires that when students transfer within a state, the receiving school district “…shall provide such child with a free appropriate public education, including services comparable to those described in the previously held IEP, in consultation with the parents until such time as the local educational agency adopts the previously held IEP or develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP that is consistent with Federal and State law.” [Emphasis added.]  Again, this is a federal minimum standard and the states are free to add additional protections according to their own implementation methodologies. The Arkansas regulations mirror the federal requirements.  (See Sec. 8-03.3)

While, procedurally, Fort Smith had until such time as a new IEP was developed to implement the last IEP in effect from Zakh’s prior placement, the prior IEP was written for a residential placement, not a public school placement. Fort Smith could not implement the last IEP without placing Zakh in a residential placement at the District’s expense. That clearly was not done.  Given that it could not implement the IEP as written, it had no choice but to revise the IEP.  For the period from August 18 to October 15, the District failed to implement the IEP as written, which is a procedural violation.  However, the bigger issue is that a FAPE was denied during that same period on the basis that Zakh’s IEP was no longer appropriate to his then-current placement and needs.

At the October 15, 2009 IEP meeting, Ms. Reynolds says she requested a Functional Behavioral Analysis (“FBA”) and positive behavior intervention plan for Zakh, but no behavior plan was ever forthcoming. On October 30, 2009, Zakh experienced a behavioral meltdown related to his autism.

In the absence of a positive behavior intervention plan that would have helped to prevent the meltdown in the first place and given specific guidance to school personnel as to how to respond if the meltdown had nonetheless occurred, staff failed to prevent the behavior from escalating and then resorted to physical restraints when Zakh passed the point of no return. Staff received minor injuries in the course of restraining the 11-year-old child.? Instead of responding to the situation appropriately, school site staff called the police and had the cognitively impaired, autistic youngster taken away in handcuffs and charged with felony assault as though he had attacked people with criminal intent rather than struggled during an unlawful restraint, thereby contributing to the inadvertent injury of school personnel.

Zakh’s current home-school placement resulted from a disciplinary removal and he has been suspended for 12 school days this year. This constitutes as a change of placement pursuant to Arkansas regulations. This makes the need for a functional behavioral analysis mandatory at this point.

If an FBA was conducted previously but failed to result in a positive behavior intervention plan, then the family could disagree with the district’s FBA and ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”) in the area of behavior as a corrective remedy.  Clearly any assessment of his behavior performed failed to result in a legitimate offer of FAPE since it failed to produce a positive behavior intervention plan.? It’s more likely, however, that the FBA hadn’t been done.  If it remains outstanding, then the family may be stuck with a District assessment at this point, though it’s long overdue if so.

The fact that this family has a court date on January 12, 2010 on the felony assault charges means the charges obviously haven’t been dropped and Fort Smith schools are prosecuting handicapped children for manifesting the symptoms of their handicapping conditions rather than providing them with a FAPE. What is more, in addition to the claims that this family most likely has under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), they probably have actionable claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for discrimination on the basis of handicapping conditions. While the IDEA claims can only pursue remedy in the form of special education services, the 504 claims can pursue monetary damages.

The District’s board of education, which is comprised of Dr. Deanie Mehl, Ms. Shannon Blatt, Mr. Wyman R. Wade, Jr., Ms. Jeannie Cole, Ms. Barbara Hathcock, Dr. David Hunton, and Ms. Yvonne Keaton-Martin should be mortally ashamed and embarrassed right now, and are well-advised to keep their eyes on the horizon for a big, fat legal expense that should never have had the occasion to develop.

If you are an attorney in Arkansas who practices special education law on behalf of children with disabilities, please register with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates at http://www.copaa.org so that Arkansas parents in situations like these can find you.  I will be attending the March 2010 COPAA conference.  If you will be attending as well, please sign up for Text Alerts so that I can connect with you in person at the conference.

Click here to download the podcast version of this article.

Anti-Student Practices Involving Teachers’ Unions

I want to talk about a subject that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves due mostly to political reasons. Because I am not employed by any public agency, I can speak freely about this subject as a taxpaying registered voter as is my First Amendment right and the unions that represent teachers and other public education agency personnel have no legal authority to shut me up. I’m going to be candid on this subject because it is the source of an awful lot of problems that public education agency officials are prevented to a large extent from successfully addressing.

First, I want to make it clear that I am not taking a pro- or anti-union stance per se. I’m just telling you what I’ve seen and the problems I’ve witness arising from the current state of affairs. What we all collectively decide to do about it is something we need to discuss and figure out. As much as I’m sharing my observations, thoughts, and ideas here, by no means do I think I have all the answers. But, problems left undiscussed remain unresolved.

Unions are formed for a reason. People feel like they are being exploited or being taken advantage of by their employers and believe that collectively, they are more empowered to bargain for better working conditions, better pay and benefits, etc. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with people protecting themselves from exploitation and sometimes it takes the power of numbers before someone doing wrong gets the point. If this weren’t the case, KPS4Parents wouldn’t be trying to rally all of you together to effect positive change and achieve appropriate educational outcomes for children with special needs.

Within the public education system, there is a body of rich history that has led to teachers’ unions and unions representing other public school personnel, and it is rooted in the Industrial Revolution. In a nutshell, during the Industrial Revolution, large families moved from farms to the cities to work in the factories. At first, this included the children. The children had worked on the family farm and it didn’t occur to their parents who were seeking better lives for them all that any less effort would need to be put forth once they relocated to the cities. The idea that all of them could be earning wages seemed incredibly fortuitous.

However, everyone was quick to discover that six-year-olds really shouldn’t be handling heavy equipment. The factories were largely first-generation technologies, devoid of appropriate safety standards. Until people got maimed and killed by the equipment, the gravity of the situation hadn’t really sunk in and during an age where people had done most of the work in the absence of machines, the preservation of all human life was not nearly as valued by many people as it is today. In short, the most common, uneducated of us were considered fairly expendable by the elite. It was a very turbulent time.

Not being entirely backwards, however – it wasn’t exactly the Dark Ages – politically active child advocates expressed horror and outrage over the injuries and deaths experienced by children in the factories loudly enough to get child labor laws passed. Prior to this time, child labor laws were pretty much non-existent. Children were prohibited from working in the factories and all the child advocates sighed a huge sigh of relief. Forget the fact that there was no childcare available to their families and their parents still had to go work in the factories every day.

Shortly after the child labor laws were passed, juvenile delinquency in the inner cities rapidly increased. Unsupervised youth roamed the streets and did as they pleased in the absence of any oversight or guidance. Their parents had no idea what to do about it. Half the reason for taking their children to work with them had been to keep them occupied and out of trouble while the parents worked, as well as to teach them discipline and the value of hard work, just as had been done on the farms. One problem was solved by child labor laws, but now a new problem developed.

Looking to the prevalent business model of the day, which was designed around the assembly line process of mass production, child advocates developed a new solution: compulsory education. But, with that many children being compelled to attend school, there had to be a systematic way of organizing everything or the whole endeavor would have been a disaster, which is where looking towards the assembly line process comes in.

Children were organized into “grades” – an industrial term that previously had been used to refer to types or qualities of raw materials, such as Grade A lumber or Grade 1 crushed stone. In public education, the arbitrary application of a child’s age was used to categorize them into grades, regardless of previous educational experiences or lack thereof. They had to start somewhere. Children were passed from grade to grade based on the acquisition of knowledge and the arbitrary application of their age.

Teachers had to be hired en masse and there weren’t enough qualified candidates to fill all the positions needed to instruct that many children. Teacher quality and effectiveness was an issue from the very beginning. Plus, mandatory schooling was just as much about getting juvenile delinquents off the streets as anything else, so behavior modification was an expected outcome as well.

Being modeled after the manufacturing process, public education developed a quality control measure of issuing grades for academic accomplishment. As was expected in mass production, there was the expectation that a certain percentage of the “products” of public education would fail QC. There would be rejects. This where the whole “teaching down the middle” thing first began. That’s a whole conversation in and of itself, and I’m not going to belabor that point here.

The point is that as the public education system got off the ground, there was little to no understanding of children as individual learners. Everyone was treated like identical products on an assembly line for all practical purposes and when outcomes were not to the administrator’s expectations, the criticism often fell on the teachers, many of whom were inadequately trained. This is when many more women entered the field of education, as well, leaving dangerous and dirty factory jobs for the relative safety of the classroom.

Caring for children had been considered “women’s work” for centuries. They gravitated towards school teacher positions as men gravitated towards the factory jobs. In many instances, the teaching positions paid less than the factory jobs, but the women were not getting their long skirts caught in gears or having their long hair fall into weaving machines by accident in the public schools.

At the time, women were less assertive of their rights and, quite honestly, they really didn’t have that many. They were easily exploited by almost entirely male administrators and school boards. They were being blamed for poor student outcomes when the truth of the matter was that the system was flawed all the way around, as “modern” as it was at the time. It wasn’t all their fault. Not enough research had been conducted regarding behavior, learning and memory, and childhood development to better inform the process. Even if more teachers had been trained, the training was grossly inadequate in many regards.

Following the lead of their factory worker counterparts, public school teachers unionized to combat the mistreatment they were experiencing at the hands of school boards and public agency administrators who knew even less about child development and learning than they did. At the time, it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. But, because the system was flawed from the get-go, it naturally spun out of control and over the span of 100 years, it has become what it is today – a broken, ineffective system with poor quality control measures and people employed within the system who seek to avoid any kind of accountability.

The unions originally formed to protect the earliest teachers from exploitation and abuse have become behemoth organizations that exist for their own political and financial benefit, using school district personnel as pawns to strong-arm the government-operated public schools into ridiculous concessions. Even when the unions themselves are not advocating for outcomes that are detrimental to children, teachers and other school personnel who volunteer as union representatives have been known to grossly abuse their positions within their unions to exact revenge against co-workers for petty grievances, harass students and parents with zero accountability, and undermine the special education process, which brings us full circle back to the point of today’s posting and podcast.

I’m not going to assert that all unionized public education employees engage in bad faith behavior. That would be an entirely untrue assertion. I know teachers who greatly resent being forced to join the union if they want to teach, only to see money deducted from their paychecks for union dues they have absolutely no desire to pay and lobbying efforts and political stances being publicly taken by their unions with which they wholeheartedly disagree.

I’ve also directly dealt with teachers who refused to make regular education accommodations for students struggling in their classrooms because their unions told them they didn’t have to provided any accommodations unless compelled to by a legally binding document such as an IEP or 504 plan. Where special education is only supposed to be provided after regular education accommodations have failed, this becomes a problem. I’ve dealt with teachers who refused to implement special education accommodations and attempted to involve their unions when both the parents and the district’s administration came down on them, only capitulating (and with a huge chip on their shoulder even then) once a compliance complaint had been filed against the district in response to their non-compliance.

On more than one occasion, I’ve filed complaints and requested due process just to give school district administrators legal leverage over unionized employees who had dug in their heels and refused to conduct themselves in a compliant manner to the educational detriment of special needs children. The compliance complaints and due process filings trump the union grievances. As a taxpayer, this should make you sick to your stomach. In an effort to comply with the law and properly educate children with special needs, administrators encourage litigation by parents against their public agencies so that they can make their unionized staff perform their legally mandated duties.

Children with special needs have no friends in partisan politics. Conservatives generally don’t think it’s the place of any public agency to assume the responsibility of educating children with handicapping conditions, particularly given the cost per child to do so. Either they don’t consider the far greater costs that arise later on down the road when these children become adults with disabilities who can’t support themselves or they realize the consequences but don’t think the government should be responsible for the problems caused to society by millions of adults with disabilities and no resources, either.

Liberals are too busy protecting the unionized employees to pay too much attention to the consequences of entitling people with paychecks without expecting them to perform in return. While this is gross over-generalization, you get the point. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong on a multitude of considerations. It’s not a black-and-white issue. It’s very messy and gray.

The point is that we, as a society, have determined the need for public education and we, as a society, have insisted that children with special needs receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education. The system as it stands is failing to deliver and to an unhealthy extent, there is tremendous opposition to trying to fix it coming from unionized personnel. There is an utter abandonment of the regulatory requirements going on every minute of every school day due to a combination of ignorance, incompetence, apathy, egocentrism, power-mongering, and out-and-out malice.

These undesirable human qualities crop up amongst all the stakeholders, which includes parents, school district personnel, union representatives, compliance officials, the judicial system, legislators, taxpayers, and voters. No one group is entirely to blame. So, while we as a society have determined it necessary to educate children, including those with special needs, we as a society have failed to a large extent in meeting the needs we’ve determined we need to meet. And, one of the most central components in all of this is the role played by unions and union members in public education.

While every group needs to get a grip and start working collaboratively with all the others to improve student outcomes, the focus of today’s posting and podcast is the pitting of student needs against the rights of unionized employees. I am asking you to think long and hard about this because until this critical piece is successfully addressed, all the other pieces are compromised. So long as unions continue to perceive their function as elevating their members desires above the obligations of the public agencies that employee them, the public agencies are grossly impaired in their ability to effectively serve the public, which is the whole reason these agencies exist in the first place.

Click here to download the podcast version of this blog article.

Professionalism in Lay Advocacy

On more than one occasion I have had school district administrators tell me that they wished that one or more of their students were being represented by KPS4Parents than the lay advocates (or, sometimes, even the attorneys) representing them at that time. That can be taken more than one way, so my eyebrows tend to shoot up when school district administrators say things like that to me.

There are a handful of ethical administrators with whom I regularly deal who have confided in me their frustrations with personnel who don’t get it and don’t want to; parents with emotional problems with whom communications are incredibly difficult; law firms giving bad advice to school districts on purpose so that problems will develop for which they will ultimately be able to put in billable hours; and lay advocates who, by all accounts, have lost their freaking minds.

I know that the landscape of special education is extremely varied and that “bad guys” can pop up anywhere at any time. The whole “us versus them” mentality that often develops when there isn’t a meeting of the minds between parents and school personnel only makes things worse, creating windows of opportunity for the “bad guys” to do their damage.

To be clear, when I say “bad guys,” I’m not necessarily talking about people with malicious intent. I’m also talking about people who just don’t care and wreak havoc simply because they’re not trying or being conscientious about what they’re doing. It’s an inadvertent outcome of them pursuing their own agenda without thought as to how their actions might impact other people, including children with special needs.

Then there are those who are just simply nuts and there is no rhyme nor reason to what they are doing. I have dealt with many school district administrators, teachers, and administrative support personnel who clearly meet this definition. I’ve encountered hearing officers and federal court judges of have clearly taken leave of their senses or are just incredibly apathetic and unwilling to put forth a legitimate effort. I have also met advocates who are unethical and/or dangerously unknowledgeable, as well. The point is that “bad guys” crop up on both the public agency and parent representation sides of the equation.

“Bad buys” in special education lay advocacy is the consequence of the field being unregulated. There are no licensure or certification requirements. Indeed, there is no licensure or certification offered. Like the term “counselor,” anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves an advocate. “Advocate” is a generic term referring to a person who actively communicates with others with the intent of achieving a particular outcome for a particular cause.

As a result, lay advocates come in varying degrees of competence and ability. Some are very knowledgeable of the technical requirements of the IDEA and its implementing regulations and others are not. Some are accomplished communicators and facilitators of resolution while others are not. It’s a mixed bag.

To do the job well, you have to understand an incredibly complex system of rules and regulations within the context of the psychology of learning and memory, language development, behavior, and motor skills. You don’t have to be an expert in these areas, but you have to possess enough knowledge to know what to ask of whom if you don’t have the answers yourself.

You also have to exercise professionalism. That doesn’t mean you have to be uptight and stoic in all of your dealings with public agency personnel or your clients. I’ve broken the tension in many an IEP meeting by making a well-timed wisecrack, myself. Certainly don’t lose your sense of humor; just use it appropriately.

The value of professionalism in your dealings with public agency officials is the credibility it earns you. On the rare occasion when one of my cases has gone to due process and I’ve had to testify, it is the quality of my work on the record that precedes me. The letters I’ve written on behalf of our clients do not make wild, emotional accusations or leap to conclusions unsupported by the evidence. The compliance complaints I’ve filed are neatly organized with exhibits attached to support the allegations I’ve made. The due process filing documents I’ve prepared tell the story as reflected by the record and include itemizations of the procedural violations that have occurred and the substantive claims that the student has against the offending public agency.

By the time I make it to the witness stand, I’ve created a body of evidence that pretty much makes the case for the most part. The purpose of my testimony is largely just to authenticate my documents submitted as evidence for the record so that the hearing officer can consider them in trying the case. Of course, once I’m on the stand, opposing counsel will do everything possible to try and discredit me – sometimes to ridiculous extremes – so I get questioned about everything under the sun. But, once my documents are admitted into evidence, they speak for themselves.

While it’s always a gamble as to who you will get as an investigator on a complaint or a hearing officer in a due process case, the more effort you put in to producing quality work, the more seriously you are taken. This goes for your conduct during IEP meetings, as well.

Given that I audio record every IEP meeting that I attend, I always make a point to remind the parents I’m representing that if anyone is going to sound like a jerk on the record, it’s not going to be us. If it ever becomes necessary to transcribe that recording for due process, I want the record to reflect that we followed the process and stuck to the point as we worked our way through the issues that had to get resolved.

Audio recording an IEP meeting, for me, is intended to maintain a verbatim record of what was discussed so if people later can’t remember what happened, or remember it differently, we have a way of going back and clarifying what was actually said. It also tends to keep people honest and encourages diplomacy. Sensible people do not want to be recorded carrying on like lunatics.

But, once in a while, I find myself collecting evidence rather than legitimately participating in the IEP process because the school district personnel involved have gone off the deep end. Those are the moments when I’m compelled to push the audio recorder towards them and say, “Reeealllly? Tell me more!” I don’t, but I’m compelled to. Instead I say things like “Perhaps I don’t understand what you’re saying. Could you please explain what you mean?” I don’t need to push the recorder closer for dramatic effect. It’s a good recorder that picks up everyone in the room.

Dramatic effect has rarely served me well in an IEP meeting. Stating the facts and the regulatory requirements gets me farther, even if only to make the record so that a trier of fact can sort everything out later.

This is why I am horrified to hear of advocates who show up at IEP meetings wearing top hats and spats and carrying a cane with a brass knob on the top, carrying on like some kind of whacko and failing entirely to take the IEP process seriously; who try to get what they want by screaming and yelling during IEP meetings to no constructive end; who meet with administrators privately in the belief that they are schmoozing when they don’t understand the regulations, are being manipulated by these same administrators, and are only making fools of themselves and wasting their clients’ financial investment in their time; or who attend IEP meetings with their clients to insist on outcomes that their clients don’t actually want and interfere with the resolution of disputes, leaving the parents not knowing who to trust at all.

The acquisition of power is not the point. Achieving appropriate student outcomes is the point. Power, to the degree that is needed to achieve appropriate student outcomes, comes from knowledge and skill, not pounding tabletops and acting like a weirdo. You fail your clients tremendously when you skimp on your research, disregard the evidence, and attempt to effect change through extreme behavior. If you don’t know what you’re doing, either figure out how to do it or find someone else who can.

Join COPAA and/or other advocate organizations so you can become part of a network of professionals who pursue appropriate student outcomes and collaborate with each other on the best ways to see that happen. (I’ll be attending the March 2010 COPAA Conference, myself, and hope to see you there!)

Most importantly, dedicate yourself to diplomacy, tact, and making fact-based assertions on behalf of your clients. Take your responsibilities seriously. The futures of our most vulnerable children are in your hands and their parents are trusting you to protect those futures with every fiber of your being.

Click here to download the podcast version of this blog article.

Podcast: Get Your Facts Straight When Filing Complaints

On September 20, 2009, we originally published “Get Your Facts Straight When Filing Complaints”. Throughout this school year, KPS4Parents is recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click here to download the podcast “Get Your Facts Straight When Filing Complaints”.

Podcast: Services for IEP Behavioral Goals

On July 7, 2009, we originally published “Services for IEP Behavioral Goals”. Throughout this school year, KPS4Parents is recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click here to download the podcast “Services for IEP Behavioral Goals.”