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As a parent, you want your child to receive the best education possible. When your child has special needs, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can provide the necessary support and accommodations to help them succeed. However, disagreements can arise between parents and the IEP team regarding the plan's appropriateness or effectiveness. In such situations, it is essential to know your options to ensure that your child receives an appropriate education. In this blog, we will explore the options available to parents if they disagree with their child's IEP.
Understanding the IEP
An Individualized Education Program is a legal document that outlines a student's educational plan in accordance with his or her disability and needs. The IEP includes several components that work together to ensure that the student receives an appropriate education. Let’s explore the different components of an IEP and their importance.
Present Levels of Performance: Understanding Where Your Child Stands Academically, Socially, and Emotionally
Present levels of performance describe where the student is academically, socially, and emotionally. Accurate present levels of performance are crucial for developing appropriate goals and objectives that reflect the student's needs. This section is typically developed as a series of narratives that highlight pertinent student history and the results of current academic, achievement, and psychological assessments, evaluations, and observations.
Goals and Objectives: Specific, Measurable Outcomes for the Year
Goals and objectives are specific, measurable outcomes that the student will work toward throughout the 12 months covered by the annual IEP. They provide a roadmap for the student's education and help to ensure that they are progressing through the natural hierarchy of developmental skills. Effective goals and objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Services and Accommodations: Special Education Supports
The IEP outlines the specific related service providers and special education minutes a student is entitled to. This may include direct or consultative services from intervention specialists, speech therapists, occupational or physical therapists, social workers, or itinerant teachers who support the student’s needs. Additionally, accommodations are designed to help students overcome the barriers presented by their disability. These accommodations may be physical, visual, auditory, behavioral or environmental adjustments that create equal access to education.
Progress Monitoring: Measuring the Student's Progress Towards Their Goals
Progress monitoring describes how the student's progress towards their goals will be measured. It provides a way to track the student's progress and make adjustments to their educational plan as needed. Effective progress monitoring is specific and measurable and provides feedback to the student and their family at regular intervals (typically each grading period).
Reasons for Disagreement
Following are the common reasons that parents might disagree with IEP:
Inaccurate Present Levels of Performance
Inaccurate or incomplete present levels of performance can result in confusion for the IEP team and priorities that don’t adequately address the student's needs. Because IEPs span a 12-month period, the history and assessment descriptions may span two separate school years and multiple teachers who will only have the present level section to rely on for a clear snapshot of the student. A lack of current information to create lesson plans and skill development goals for long and short-term educational planning for the student can lead to wasted time, redundancy, or frustration for the student or provider.
Inappropriate Goals or Objectives
When goals and objectives are inappropriate, they may not reflect the student's strengths and needs. For example, if the goals and objectives are too easy, the student may not be challenged and may not make meaningful progress. On the other hand, if the goals and objectives are too difficult, the student may become frustrated and disengaged, leading to a lack of progress.
Insufficient Accommodations or Services
Insufficient accommodations or services can limit your child's ability to access the curriculum or participate in school activities. When the IEP team fails to provide the necessary accommodations or services, it can adversely affect your child's academic progress and emotional well-being.
Options for Resolving Disagreements
Parents have options for resolving disagreements with their child's IEP. Some of them are highlighted below:
Requesting an IEP Meeting: Collaborating with the School to Find a Solution
The first option for resolving disagreements is to request an IEP meeting. It's essential to communicate your concerns with the school in writing and request a meeting to discuss them. During the meeting, parents should review the IEP, gather information, and bring an advocate for support if possible. Working collaboratively with the IEP team to identify and address the issues can lead to a more effective and meaningful IEP.
Mediation: Finding a Solution with the Help of a Neutral Third Party
If an IEP meeting does not resolve the issue, mediation is another option. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which an impartial third party facilitates discussions between the parties to reach a resolution. The mediator does not make decisions but helps the parties communicate effectively and understand each other's perspectives. Mediation can save time and money and preserve the relationship between school and family. It is important to note that mediation is not legally binding, and either party can withdraw at any time.
Due Process: Legal Resolution For Final Decision
If mediation is not successful, parents can request a due process hearing. Due process is a legal proceeding in which an administrative law judge hears evidence and makes a final decision. The hearing is similar to a trial, with witnesses, evidence and legal arguments presented. Due process can be lengthy, expensive, and adversarial, but it can provide a final decision on critical IEP issues. It is important to note that due process should be a last resort as the process can take several months to complete.
Navigating the IEP process can be challenging, but parents can seek support by hiring an advocate or attorney to provide information, guidance, and representation. Resources for parents include Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Protection and Advocacy Agencies (P&As), which provide legal services to individuals with disabilities.
Contact K Altman Law today to Schedule a Consultation
K Altman Law offers nationwide legal representation to parents struggling with IEP disagreements. We have decades of experience representing and protecting student rights. Our dedicated team of IEP attorneys, student advisors and consultants can help you defend your rights. Schedule a consultation with K Altman Law today by contacting us at 888-984-1341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.