Every state and more so every city has their own way of running education and handling IEPs. What you could do for your child in support and educational experience is literally a great spectrum of its own. It's important to know that, if you have a problem, you can't just bring federal law down on their heads. You have to go through proper channels and that means the State level. How that state handles or enforces federal law is entirely up to them and yes, that's mostly considered legal and accepted by the "higher authorities". So if you are in Florida and have an IEP complaint to make, you have to make it to the State of Florida Department of Education. You don't get to just jump to the White House. Some places may cave to the threat of a complaint, but that will be the exception rather than rule. Because of the process you will have to go through,, many of them will be pretty calm about the issue.
Florida is a state of nightmare tales of abuse against children in autism (or other disabilities) and you can find tons of news media all over the internet. States like, Wisconsin are generally more successful. If you want to have some fun take a trip to Greatschools.org and see how schools in your burg measure up to others around the country. Check anywhere you want. You'll be amazed. For even more comparison, compare that to the 2009 NAMI grading of the states. You can pretty much see how things will be for your child in school on the comparisons. But influences go deeper than that. What kind of things go into affecting how your state and city run their system?
Politics: Where do you think common core came from? Politicians. It's all done with Ordinances, Acts, and other nonsensical business you may not even get to vote on.
City Size: Are you in a major city or small town? Small and isolated towns can be the most differential in school from the rest of the state. Even that may be small differences, but I'm sure I have readers with stories.
Local Beliefs/Traditions: What are of the country are you in? Are you in the Bible belt? Maybe you live in Tornado alley or way up north? Beliefs and traditions of the place you live in will have a direct impact on education and how it's run. It's not supposed to, but it does. In Utah, the Mormon Religion is majority of the population. That means most of the teachers are Mormon too. Their distinct beliefs carry over into the class room. I know this because I lived in Utah for my 9th grade year after being in Nebraska. Totally different worlds.
What they personally think of YOU as a parent: I've had one school commend me, one judge me as a parent (and they all do but I mean harshly) and one label be as a difficult parent, all for doing the exact same thing. It's common knowledge that you can't get along with everyone. But we are supposed to be professional too, right? Well. Definitions vary. One thing that is for sure, if the teacher really doesn't like you, it will affect his or her point of view toward your child. The common thought on parents of special needs students is that we are a colossal pain in the ass. That stigma (and not all teachers are like this) can make it hard to establish a good parent/teacher rapport.
And all of that is just in Elementary school.
The reason I post this is because, as I look over stories on the internet; I see people lending advice about federal IEP Law as if it's exactly the same in ever state, county, and city. Yes, I know it's written the same, but getting it enforced is a totally different universe. And situations vary so that the law may not be broken by some technicality. It's always best advice to consult a local attorney. Consultations are usually free.
If you are a parent of a special needs student with an IEP, you owe it to yourself to find out exactly what your state's procedures are in handling complaints and education in general. How do they enforce their policies? Too often we wind up surprised and that's never a good thing to be. But what do you do if you are in a bad situation? In my next installment, I'll tell you.