Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When all else fails between school and parents

They're just not listening to you. You've begged, pleaded, and tried to explain your child's situation and the cooperation just isn't there. With your child's IEP there is supposed to be a sheet sent home every day to tell you about behavior (for the doctors and therapists) and homework (so you can be an assisting parent with it and make sure it gets somewhat done). But, even if they say they will, it just doesn't happen.

The excuses are mountain high and they may say things that are pretty disturbing for a parents ears. They'll even blame each other.

"I gave it to Mrs. X and I don't know why she didn't do it."
"I can't get any of the teachers on board. I don't know why." (from a special ed teacher)

Or they'll blame the child (who has a IEP). "Joey is very manipulative and only acting out to avoid doing any school work."

Now, past the disappointing comments there are reasons that schools struggle with IEPs. Overcrowded classrooms come to mind. The implementation of Common Core doesn't make anything easier. Don't even get me started on what Common Core does for our special needs students. Just don't.

So what do you do when it gets to the point that they have made up their mind about your child and just WON'T cooperate with you? There are several steps you should take.

1: Seek out an advocate and get their input. Are you really being that unreasonable in what you seek for your child? It's possible to get help to talk to the local school system. There are advocates who may be willing to come and sit in on an IEP meeting to hash out the details of what's needed for your child. Be sure to have a working list of your concerns all written down before you go in. Have a solid game plan and be courteous.

If you have a knack for screaming at teachers, your problems will worsen. They will block you out mentally and disengage. It will hurt your child's chances of a fair education. It should always be from the ground point that you are trying to be helpful and active in your child's education.

How do you find an advocate? Well, when it comes to autism, you can contact your state Autism Society and ask about leads to people who can help you. Your Health and Human Services office may know someone too. I also suggest the website for Parents Helping Parents where they have a database of advocates and attorneys who may help you. You can also look up your local "community support team" for mental health and ask them. Sometimes, they will come to an IEP meeting after assessing your child. Seek out parent support groups in your area and ask them.

But, you've done that and STILL no dice. For that matter they won't listen to the professional who sits right next to you and tries to teach them about your child just like you tried to do. They believe what they believe and they are doing to do what they are going to do and that's that. Only now they are more dismissive than ever. It's time to file for Due Process. Hopefully, up to this point, you've been keeping copies of everything and anything that proves what you have to say. Unprofessional emails, blank behavior forms, report cards, and reports from Dr.s and therapists, because you will need evidence.

TIP: When collecting evidence on anything you may require for court, DO NOT TELL THE PERSONS YOU ARE COLLECTING AGAINST. You will send them into "cover ass mode" and things will get worse. You will lose evidence while things stay pretty much the same.

But also know this.... filing Due Process will make enemies for sure. It's not supposed to, but it does. Animosity will happen. So, just know that once this process is done, it may be harder to negotiate on the next year than before.

So, you contact your State Department of Education and let them know you wish to file for Due Process. This should not cost you anything, unless of course you've retained an attorney. Advocates are usually willing to assist with this process and walk you through it. This will trigger a series of events. The school will be requires to offer a meeting to work out the issues and settle them prior to a hearing. Go to the hearing and have someone with you (IE: advocate). This is where you and the advocate get into the dirt details of what you expect to correct the situation. Most cases are generally solved at this meeting, but not all. If you and the school cannot come to an agreement that will take you to the Due Process hearing and you may have to do some traveling for that. In my state, I would have to go to Baton Rouge.

TIP: Retaliation is illegal in any form and may be reported to the State Department before or even after the hearing. They're already mad at you, don't be afraid to report unfair or discriminatory behavior.

Alas, you get some things worked out, but they still act nasty towards you and it's still a migraine headache to get through the year. This is where harsh reality really comes into play. You still have options, and none of them are fun.

1: Tough it out. Just do the best you can and forego talking to the teachers. If you are on your last year with a given school, this may be the best play you have. Hopefully new faces and a new start will help you. Just be as nice as you can with those new people to abolish negative news they may already have about you.

2: Move to another school district. This is more common than you might like to believe. People have been known to move across state lines for autism assistance in any form because their state just didn't have it. Same goes for schools. Yes, you might have to give up a job or get a transfer if possible. You may give up close by family support. It will hurt. It definitely did for me when I left my hometown for better support for my son. But it's possible that you may have to uproot and move.

3: Start a movement to make changes in your school system. If there are enough parents who agree with you and are having the same trend of problems, this could be an answer. It will take tons of work and you are trying to teach people who may believe they have nothing to learn from you. You will have to be stronger than you ever thought possible. But it has been done! With parents, advocates, and an attorney or two, you could really make some waves in how things are done in your district.

4: File another Due Process. New violations of your child's IEP or new failings of it qualify for a new complaint! But boy will they HATE you. It's a simple reality. No one likes complaints made about them. You wouldn't either (even though you are within your rights, just be ready for the fact).

5: Go to a private school. It may even be possible to get it paid for by the school system (but that WILL require a filing and court orders to make that happen). It may also put your proposed school on the stand to be inspected and cross examined. They aren't going to pay for a school just because YOU approve of it. THEY have to. Your new school may not appreciate that. You will likely have to foot the bill and it won't be cheap. But if you can afford it, do it. Many do and they actually can't afford it.

Also know that you are not alone. School systems are hurting everywhere with the implementation of common core and you can google to get thousands of complaints. There are also plenty of schools that are just NOT equipped for what your child needs. So it's not that they WON'T do it, rather they CAN'T. On top of that, they don't have the money for your child's private school any more than you do.

And that's basically the jist of what you can do about a bad school situation on IEPs. With the school year about to kick in, what do you want to know about?