Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

May 03
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by Doug Goldberg

Every year there is one IEP meeting where, no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep my emotions in check.  I work as an advocate in one of the largest School Districts in the Country where, in my opinion, the administrative designee’s have limited Authority to bind the District and consider the request of the parents.  While this would mean the IEP is invalid, it is very difficult to prove.  I encounter three types of administrative designee’s in IEP meetings: 

  1. The tortured soul – This is the administrative designee that really wants to help but is stuck between doing what’s right for the child and keeping her employer happy;
  2. The smiley face – This is the administrative designee that remains smiling throughout the entire meeting and is all business.  They have a job to do and want to get that job done as quickly and painlessly as possible; and
  3. The intimidator – This is the administrative designee that runs the IEP meeting with an iron fist.  Their demeanor is sour and threatening and is meant to limit input from the parents.  In my case, this is the rarest of administrator, BUT at least once a year I meet one.  

With most of the School year behind us, and too many IEP meetings to count, I finally met with this year’s “Intimidator”.   This year’s run-in had to do with predetermination.  Predetermination means that the school makes unilateral decisions prior to an IEP meeting and then refuses to listen to parental input during the meeting.  In my most recent experience, the Intimidator had been directed by the School District to offer a predetermined service.  How do I know this; The Intimidator told us this in the meeting.  After which, the parent and I were accused of being non-collaborative with the IEP Team when we would not accept the predetermined offer and tried to add our input into the decision.  When we pointed out that you can’t be collaborative if the team decisions are already set in stone, it was suggested by the Intimidator that we end the meeting.  Not being easily intimidated, we choose to stay and finish. 

So what do you do if the School has already decided or predetermined what placement or services will be offered?  Most likely you are going to want to file for Due Process.  Parents cannot force the school to allow you to participate if they adamantly refuse.  You should speak to an experienced Special Education Advocate or Attorney to determine if you have enough evidence to prove predetermination.  Predetermination can be proven by: 

  1. The School District making few and no substantial changes reflecting parent input from the draft ones they provide;
  2. The School District having a pattern of doing the same IEP categorically or maybe just at a specific school;
  3. The School District failing to identify any substantive reason or data in the prior written notice given the parent for refusing parent requests; or
  4. Recorded admissions that this is the way it is going to be whether the parent likes it or not. 

Due Process is an important part of the procedural safeguards, which is why the Individuals’ with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) have it in place for parents to protect the rights of their children with disabilities.  Don’t be afraid to exercise those rights in the face of predetermination or other violations.  As for me, at least I have this year’s meeting with the “Intimidator” out of the way and the rest of the IEP season can go more smoothly…..hopefully!!!

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16 Responses to “Predetermination in an IEP”

  1. Good Article. If the IEP team (parents, teacher & Administrator) all agree on a service or an accomodation but parents are told they will have to go to Due Process to get the service and/or accomodation is this type of predetermination a violation of law?

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  2. Hi Steve,

    Yes, if the Team decides on a service then there has to be an administrative designee who is capable of binding the District. If there is no such person then the IEP was invalid.

    This happens WAY to often but is difficult to prove unless you have their comments on tape or they wrote notes in the IEP that proves your case.

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  3. We have found this to be the case in our district and if we as parents ask questions or try to add input we are always put off. They refuse to give us written notice of why they will not implement the things that we feel are neccessary for our son, Instead they say that our concerns are addressed in the IEP meeting with the team and will be reflected in the meeting notes. The district representative takes the “official” meeting notes….very sketchy, inaccurate and incomplete. So we have now been typing our own notes during the meeting and bringing a small printer and printing them out at the meeting and giving them to the district representative and asking that they be attached to the IEP. She outright refuses to do so! We ask that they be included as parent input, but she says they are not “parent input” and we are not allowed to attach a record of who said what, or what was discussed in specifc detail. (our notes read more like a transcript.) She says they are not required to include them in the IEP because ” the IEP is a district generated document” and when we ask for a reason why or a written copy of the policy or law that prevents this. She says ” she cannot tell us…. just yet.” THEY have had their attorney contact us…..we do not have one. The whole situation is very strange and they are hostlile. Do you know of any law that prevents us from being able to add our notes to the IEP document? Why does the district get to be the only notetaker?

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    • The law says just the opposite. They MUST include your notes of the IEP meeting if you request that. I hope you record the meetings so that you have proof of what you write as it can be very difficult to get your notes admitted as more valid than theirs, but if you have a recording, you have proof. In many states you must give 24 hour notice that you intend to record a meeting, some don’t need that, but I would give the notice in case. If they are being this difficult about something so obvious, I would be very sure that they are doing other illegal sneaky stuff, so if you can, I would get an experienced advocate or attorney to help sometimes it takes this to let them know you will not go along with their crap. The trick about this is, hire the person to take you to due process – that is all you can be reimbursed for. Don’t let them go to a ton of IEP meetings and let the district run up your tab. Our district suddenly couldn’t start an IEP meeting on time when our attorney was there, then the meetings had to go on over multiple meetings when they never did before, nor do they now. They knew we had to pay travel time for our attorney so having the meeting go on over several meetings met we paid for 2 extra hours every time we met, when we had four meetings this amounted to over $3200! They try to run you out of money before you can fight the good fight your child needs. Good districts don’t pull this kind of thing but then good districts don’t lie to you as yours has and ours did.

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    • I am having trouble with my child’s school as well. They have done things to us and our son this year that has left me beyond speechless. They are “bullying” us as parents. Trying to put the blame of the whole situation on us. It really all started when I issued the letter asking for them to do testing on our son, which left them with a deadline to start and complete testing. Initially, the principal said my son didn’t have a learning disability. We went and had our own independent testing done on our child due to the labels they not only attached to our son, but to us, which was completed before they even started their testing. I hired an educational advocate for the IEP/504 meeting. We are definitely dealing with No.3 “The Intimidator”. Upon the advise of our advocate, we voice recorded the entire IEP meeting. My son was given a double IEP, for ADHD and learning disability. Thanks to the education advocate, we were not railroaded by team into a poor plan of action for our son., but here we are 5 days after the IEP meeting and they still don’t have the corrected IEP for me and my husband to sign. Due to the schools actions this year we have very little to no contact with the teacher and principal. As soon as we have our IEP I will moving my son to another school. I am currently looking for a school that can better help my son.

      We no longer trust anyone at my child’s school. It breaks my heart to take him there 5 days a week. He is young and he really doesn’t understand all that is going on. I just hope I can find another school that I can trust.

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  4. Hi Rebecca,

    Yes, you should be able to include your parental concerns. If they will not allow you to include your concerns and they will not provide you PWN then write your own and send them registered mail to the School.

    Write the letter in a calm, business like manner and do not get emotional or aggressive just describe the events of the meeting. You will be surprised how quickly they will respond to your letter assuming they disagree with your comments. This way you have documneted the meeting and have proof they received a copy of your concerns. Remember if it’s not in writing it never happened so the registered mail receipt will give you the proof you need that they saw and disregarded your concerns.

    I might even start the letter with, I am writing this letter to document my parental concerns. These are the concerns i tried to include in the iep but was told, “the IEP is a School generated document”. Since i was not allowed to include my concerns in the iep i will be doing so in this letter.

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  5. I agree, but this seems so idealistic and simple… when for us parents it is overwhelming, and we are bullied year after year… advocates and attorneys cost money… money parents of special needs children don’t have most of the time.

    So children like mine… are denied FAPE and bullied, tortured, and abused in schools by the other students/teachers and the parents are bullied, intimidated, and abused by the administration and spec ed personnel.

    We’ve written letters, we’ve refused to sign IEPs, but then we look like we aren’t willing to work with them, even though the state’s formal complaint found the district out of compliance on more than 30 different violations that we filed. But the state doesn’t follow up. There is no recourse. No real help.

    It’s the children that are hurt.

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    • YES, WE JUST NOW GO TO DUE PROCESS FOR SAME THINGS !

      are denied FAPE and bullied, and abused in schools by the other students/teachers and the parents are bullied, intimidated, and abused by the administration and spec ed personnel.

      WE HAVE MORE 50 COMPLAINTS!
      We’ve written letters, we’ve refused to sign IEPs TOO
      But the state doesn’t follow up, ONLY CALL TO DISTRICT AND THATS IT.

      AND THIS PEOPLE IS PAY WITH OUR TAX MONEY!!

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  6. Question?
    If a child is receiving resource classes for all academic subjects but the parent is adament about having the child removed but the IEP team provides data, worksamples and observations of the child’s performance indicating that there is evidence of deficits and recommends that the child continue resource placement. Is this a violation and should the team just honor the parent’s request despite their professional, evidenced suggestion.

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    • The district is obligated to do their work, testing, evaluations, work samples, once they have parental consent. The parent can still say they don’t want their child to receive services, and the district must do as the parents request. No one can force special ed services on a child, but having rationale for the services is mandatory if the school recommends it.

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  7. Rebecca, Have you tried attaching your concerns via exceptions to the IEP yet?

    I ask that the the parents concerns be cut and pasted into that section in the IEP. I’ll bring a list to the meeting but I find that list gets updated in the meeting…so I’ll tweak it & email it to the case carrier to be cut and pasted into the IEP. Since I also advise the parents I work with to only sign that they participated in the meeting (review the IEP prior to giving consent,) we’ll review that, make suggestion & offer additional comments* BEFORE it’s signed.

    *There’s a lot of info so I like to review a clean copy & use 3 different color highlighters – one for simple typos, another for areas that need specifics or clarification, & a third for areas I suggest the parents disagree with. Next we’ll type up a list of corrections, questions, concerns & if something’s corrected that becomes an exception. Those are then listed (typically in order, by page number) on the parents’ exceptions to the IEP. I’ll then advise the parent to sign that the agree with exceptions & have them write “see attached x numbers of page/s to this IEP”. At the bottom of the exceptions attachment, under the parent’s signatures and dates, I’ll include this statement – “At this time we request Prior Written Notice for any proposed action, we do not consent to and any refusal of our requests noted above.” For some districts I’ll highlight this statement as well. In some cases I’ve included parents’ concerns that were either not included in the document or those that may have been rewritten by the district.

    The parents’ concern section is supposed to be used to record your concerns.

    I’ve one final suggestion for you: Why not take the time you may have this summer to write a letter to OSEP & ask for a policy letter on what you’ve described? I took a quick look at a site that lists the OSEP policy letters by issue & did not see anything there. Perhaps a policy letter from OSEP will convince them to follow the law. (If not, you could suggest that in order to receive Federal funding the district must sign a statement that they are in compliance with all federal law. If your district’s really that bad / that hostile, try filing a compliance complaint with your state in conjunction with your letter to OSEP, cc the the appropriate person in the appropriate state office or department in, to save time. Heck, you may even want to also explicitly/specifically ask in the OSEP if your district may be jeopardizing all of their Federal funding by refusing to comply with (those) provisions in IDEA.

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  8. If the district is pre-determining the contents of the IEP, bullying a parent or retaliating, then file a Complaint with the Office For Civil Rights under the Department of Education. Come on, people! The district is violating your parental civil rights -they are safeguarded under IDEA, ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Code. Don’t get mad, get even. In NJ, East Orange SD violated the civil rights of special education students and their families, and is paying the price. Don’t let the school district bullies violate your rights! This is still USA and our laws don’t allow for these blatant violations.

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  9. https://charlottehear.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/annual-iep-review-part-2/
    Thoughts? This is my second post on the same subject. I was handed a draft IEP where my daughters services were changed and other facts omitted. I refused the changes and requested a consult with a teacher of DHH, and stated after that and the recommendations of an expert on a child w hearing loss, will I readdress the change.
    Meeting was postponed and rescheduled due to time restraints.

    Needless to say the LEA (school principal) sat at her desk doing paperwork away from the rest of the team. I could see her eyeing the SPL to keep pushing.

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