On January 24th Disability Scope ran an article, Most Parents Pleased with Role in Child’s IEP. The article stated:
In a study looking at the experiences of families of more than 10,000 students with disabilities, the majority of parents said they attended their child’s most recent IEP meeting. And of parents who attended, about 70 percent said they thought their level of involvement in decision making was “about right.” In most other cases, parents said they wanted to be more involved.
At first glance this sounds great and as I read it I was pleased with these percentages. Then I started really thinking about these numbers. The last data provided to Congress showed that there are approximately 6.6 million School aged Children served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If we extrapolate the Study’s results to the entire School aged population; that means approximately 2 million Parents are unsatisfied with their IEP involvement. This number in isolation doesn’t bother me but let’s look at the following stats on Dispute Resolutions from the 2009-10 School year provided by IDEAdata.org:
|Number of Written Complaints:||3,052|
|Number of Mediations Held:||5,380|
|Number of Hearings initiated or adjudicated:||14,471|
|Number of expedited Hearing requests:||329|
|Total for 2009-10 School Year:||23,232|
Of the 2 million Parents unsatisfied with their involvement during their Child’s IEP only 23,232, or a little over 1%, filed for some form of Dispute Resolution. This is an alarming percentage. I have very often heard from School Districts that Parents are satisfied with their children’s IEPs otherwise there would be more Due Process complaints filed every year. While this is only one Study, it proves that there is no correlation between parent’s feelings of satisfaction in an IEP versus exercising their rights to disagree under IDEA.
So what are some of the reasons why I feel Parents don’t exercise their rights under IDEA when they are unsatisfied:
- Some Schools make parents feel like if they file for some form of dispute resolution it will irreparable harm the Parent-School Relationship;
- Some Parents are overwhelmed by the process and just don’t know how to proceed;
- Even though Parents can get reimbursed for legal fees if they win a Due Process complaint they currently cannot get reimbursed for Expert Witness Fees. It can be difficult to win a Due Process Hearing without expert witnesses; and
- There is a lot of misinformation about the Dispute Resolution process under IDEA provided to Parents.
It is unfortunate that so many parents do not exercise their rights under IDEA to disagree with the School; especially when this study suggest almost 2 million parents are unsatisfied. This is why Parents need to educate themselves and conduct themselves in a positive manner. I have filed for Due Process four times for my child and it has never affected my relationship with the School or my son’s Teacher. Our disagreements are conducted in a respectful manner and neither the School nor I hold it against each other. You cannot control how a School will react when you disagree BUT you can control how you conduct yourself at the IEP meeting and how you approach the School. This is why it is important to create relationships with the School early on in a positive manner so when disagreements occur everyone will act appropriately. Check out yesterday’s guest blog, Do Relationships with Special Education Departments Have to be Adversarial?
Although I feel Parent education and positive relationships will help tremendously in reducing the stigma of filing for some form of dispute resolution in an IEP, I also hope expert witness fees will one day be a reimbursable expense. Hopefully these issues will not be a factor in the future to deter parents from filing for some form Dispute Resolution.