IEPs, “LITTLE KNOWN FACTS” that they don’t tell you! WHAT EVERY PARENT SHOULD KNOW
By Stephanie Wynn
Do you feel nervous and unprepared for every IEP meeting? Do you feel like you’ve made mistakes on your student’s IEP? Are things taking too long or are you experiencing too little progress? Is your student failing or nearly failing school? Read some of these common IEP myths and begin to allow yourself to feel empowered as your student’s advocate!
MYTH #1: YOU MAY HAVE BEEN TOLD ANY OF THESE BY YOUR SCHOOL ? “There is a waiting list for students to be evaluated” or “We have your request but are a little backed up right now, we will let you know once we get to it” or “The teacher decides these things, you’ll need to speak to them”.
If you’ve heard anything along these lines AFTER you have given your student’s school administrator, teacher or district staff a request for special education EVALUATION do not accept any of these excuses. Here is why. Federal law requires certain procedures to be followed by districts to protect students.
Federal law: 20 U.S.C. § 1414 Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements
(B) REQUEST FOR INITIAL EVALUATION - Consistent with subparagraph (D), either a parent of a child, or a State educational agency, other State agency, or local educational agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability.
(i) IN GENERAL - Such initial evaluation shall consist of procedures.
(I) to determine whether a child is a child with a disability (as defined in section 602) (see definitions 1401) within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation, or, if the State establishes a time-frame within which the evaluation must be conducted, within such time-frame; and
(II) to determine the educational needs of such child.
SOLUTION: Write a letter requesting evaluation citing federal law and mentioning to ask/check for state/district guidelines as well. Mark your calendar with the date you submit the request and mark on your calendar to followup.
MYTH #2: WE DON’T OFFER THAT IN OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT
Districts are required to provide individual services and supports listed in student IEPs. If your student needs a service that the school or district does not currently provide it does not necessarily mean that is the end of the road and you have no options.
SOLUTION: I suggest writing a letter and presenting to the IEP team as to how this service “bridges the gap” between the student disability and their accessing FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).
MYTH #3: IEP meetings are only held annually. You’ll need to wait and address your concerns at that meeting. Have you heard this before? This is absolutely false. Here is the law that supports and outlines the required frequency of IEP meetings.
Title 34 CFR – Education subtitle B chapter III Part 300 Subpart D Section 300.324
§ 300.324 Development, review, and revision of IEP
(i) Reviews the child's IEP periodically, but not less than annually, to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved.
SOLUTION: Write a letter or email to your IEP team leader; LEA representative or school administrator requesting an IEP team meeting to address your concerns. Clearly state your concerns in the letter and list the supporting federal law in the body of your letter.
MYTH #4: SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS CAN BE DENIED ATTENDANCE OF SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS. This is false and violates Sub-part D of the Section 504 regulations which prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities. This means that public schools must provide services to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the schools meet the needs of students without disabilities. In Section 504; the focus is on ensuring equal access for students with disabilities to the programs offered by the public school. Under 34 CFR 104.34 of the 504 regulations, equal access includes serving students with disabilities in both school settings of academic and nonacademic with students without disabilities. Equal access to the school program includes equal access to field trips. If your student has been denied access to school field trips then they have been likely denied this protected right.
SOLUTION #4: This will require proof that a student was denied access to the specific field trip. It is generally best to get this in hard copy writing in either an email or letter format. Hearsay or verbal is not best and usually does not hold up well when advocating for your student. Get it in writing from a school administrator and then consider presenting to the Office of Civil Rights or your State Department of Education.
MYTH #5: THE SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS DECIDED YOUR STUDENT NO LONGER NEEDS ONE OF THE ACTIVITIES OR SERVICES ON THE IEP SO IT HAS BEEN TERMINATED.
This cannot be done without a formal process. Students with IEPs must go through a process to determine eligibility every three years. Any item listed on an IEP cannot be arbitrarily removed without going through the process.
SOLUTION #5: If this situation has happened to your student I suggest contacting your school and requesting the entire cumulative student record copy for yourself. Contact an advocate or attorney immediately.
This publication is intended to give you a general idea of the law. However, each situation is different and unique. If after reading one of my publications you have further questions about how the laws may uniquely apply to your experience please contact me through FB or an attorney of your choosing.
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Stephanie is a Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates member. As an IEP Advocate Stephanie has worked with parents, students, & districts across the US.