Wait for Open House

Now we’re in the time of the school year when schools have Open House. Many districts suggest that teachers don’t have individual conferences with parents until Open House. This is because the beginning of a school year is the most hectic time of the year and teacher conferences are very inconvenient at this time. However, good-hearted people who see a child’s needs will make time–and districts sometimes attempt to “protect” their staff from such inconvenient “intrusions.” When you have a child with unique and pressing needs, this is hard to hear and harder to live with. There are children whose needs simply cannot wait. If you can’t get anyone to listen to you or accommodate your child’s urgent needs, here’s a way to get noticed now.

1. Call for an IEP meeting to be held immediately. These meetings are costly and if there is a way to take are of problems without the expense, it makes sense for administrators to listen and work with you. Call for the meeting and claim, “XYZ School is not providing FAPE for my child and an immediate IEP meeting is required.”

2. When an administrator tries to make you wait, explain the danger to your child. “My child’s emotional status is deteriorating, and he needs help immediately. Neglect is tantamount to abuse at this point, and I really don’t think you mean to be abusive. I’d be willing to skip the full IEP meeting for now if we can just talk and get something in place to get us through this time period.”

This strategy tells them you are serious about your child’s needs, that your child is in serious need of accommodation, and that you know you can call for the full IEP meeting. If it is really bad, you can call for an emergency IEP meeting. They will know you know this, too. So, it should get things moving.

If they only provide lip service, you can go to the school office to ask for the principal’s full name–including middle name–to put on your complaint to the superintendent–or if you are already dealing at that level, it would be for your complaint to Office for Civil Rights. You don’t have to make the complaint if knowing you would do this moves them.

Be nice. You don’t really want to have to make a complaint, and you don’t want to make bad blood where there has been none. But you do want them to move to help your child, and if this is what it takes, so be it. But as you get the job done, explain to them that you did ask when there was nothing “threatening” in the picture, and they ignored you. You really wish that hadn’t happened, because we “can’t ignore what can’t be ignored if it is for a child who is missing his educational opportunity and can’t rush to make it up later.”

Be generous with your thanks, “especially when you are so busy with this time of year,” and follow it up with thank you notes that you request to be placed in each participant’s personnel file.

Next time they will hear you the first time and understand the urgency of your request. Because the result is a good thing in their personnel file, there should be no resentment even if they don’t agree with your feelings of urgency. If you are quick, direct, in and out, the interruption will be minimal and the results will be satisfying.

Now you can do it. Go advocate for your child!

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