Yes, School Districts Do Hold IEP/504 Meetings and Do Evaluations During Summer

Well, summer is flying by, and if your child doesn’t have an appropriate placement at school, don’t lose hope. If the IEP/504 Plan isn’t right, many school districts seek to “protect their staff” from the instrusions of working with parents and administrative issues during summer because they are working with reduced staff. No school district is exempt from this tactic, to my knowledge. They all seem to say, “It can wait until Fall.”

Well, the first day of school with an inappropriate IEP is not an It-Can-Wait item, is it? So let’s get with it and see what we can do.

First, moderate to large school districts don’t shut down their administrative offices, and it is in these administrative offices that anything can be done for an IEP change and evaluations that might be done during school months at local schools.

How do we get that done? Letters. Phone calls. Find out who is in charge of special education at your child’s school during summer months and make it clear by phone, personal visits, and writing that your child’s issues can’t wait. Explain on the phone that your child’s access to education doesn’t exist with an inappropriate IEP or without adequate evaluations to know what is really needed. On paper, write the district that your child’s IEP is inappropriate and this is denial of equal access to his education under both IDEA and Section 504. Go ahead and use the law to back up what you say. It’s what makes them move during summer. Write that without an immediate evaluation, no appropriate IEP could be drawn up because the data doesn’t exist to make placement decisions correctly.

If your child is one who learns slowly and will have great difficulty catching up after missing months of appropriate instruction, say so bluntly. “My child will suffer a loss of opportunity to learn and will require months of remedial efforts to catch up. This does not represent equal access to learning, equal opportunity to learn, nor equal effectiveness in education.”

One of my clients went so far as to say, “Andy is not receiving FAPE with his current IEP. Continuing with this inappropriate IEP isn’t exactly child abuse, but it is mentally and emotionally abusive to keep a child in a regimen of demands he can’t cope with until he becomes emotionally ill. This is what I see happening to my child and I will use every social, administrative and legal means I can find to stop it, including complaints to the State DOE and the Office for Civil Rights.” Her child was being damaged emotionally by a do-nothing administration that had put off evaluations and appropriate IEP provisions for two years. The month she wrote this letter, there was action.

A complaint to Office for Civil Rights involves vast amounts of data collection and proof of appropriate action or justification of why no action was taken. Hundreds of man hours, hundreds of papers, forms, etc. take man hours away from their daily duties in the school district. When that threat exists, many school districts take another, harder look at what needs to be done for the child, and it is often cheaper to serve appropriately in education than to defend against a complaint to Office for Civil Rights.

I’m NOT recommending you automatically throw out such threats. If they are warranted, don’t delay. But put your self in the district’s shoes. Your child’s needs must be presented to them in such a way that it is impossible to deny what is needed. Use the law and regulations. Get your district’s procedures and quote their own rules and procedures at them. These must comply with federal and state laws, so what you need will be there. Find it and use it.

The fact that it is summer does not justify delaying implementation of special education policy and procedures.

Tell them simply: “Jason’s education is negatively impacted every day he goes to school with an inappropriate IEP. Jason is entitled an appropriate IEP every day that he goes to school, including the first day of school in September, 2014.” Then tell them when you will be in their office to sign the consent for evaluation (give them 3 or 4 business days to prepare it for you) or give them 2 options when you can be available for IEP meetings in 7 to 10 business days. Give your contact information and then mail the letter so someone must sign for its receipt–certified or registered. Or hand carry it with a notation on YOUR copy that this letter was “Hand delivered to _____ on (date)” to be signed by the person who accepts it from you.

School districts do function in the summer. If you don’t know whether your district is open in summertime and no one answers the phone, call your state’s Department of Education special education office. They will tell you if it is open for business. If it is, you just have to put your child’s case on their list of priorities.

Understanding and Using Cum Files – Attendance and Medication Administration

Hello, Parents!

When parents get their copy of the cumulative file for a child with disabilities, it is a pile of paper filled with words and phrases we don’t understand, forms that seem to mean nothing but we know they are important or they wouldn’t be there, etc.  And there are things we do understand–immunization records, attendance records, things we sent in ourselves.  But with a file that can grow to 4” or 5” thick by 3rd grade for some children, there’s a lot that needs explanations.  Or just some determined examination.  So what is all this?  This post will stick strictly to issues involving special education papers in your child’s cum.

Attendance:  If your child’s attendance is at issue, use your own calendar at home to double-check the school’s records.  At the end of the school year, districts count the days of absence and may tell parents the student has missed too many days of school and will not be promoted to the next grade.  

I’ve seen times where the student was an honor roll student and the form letter goes out anyway.  It’s a big mess, lots of yelling and howling, finger-pointing and all that.  In the end, a good student gets a common-sense over-ride and advances.

But what if your child is a borderline case, one day makes a difference, and you can prove your case that the school is wrong because your calendar says so?  Your calendar can win the day.

What about behavior problems in a district where principals or school staff are allowed to call parents and say, “Joey isn’t behaving appropriately today so we need you to come pick him up and take him home for the rest of the day.”  And it’s still morning.  It’s wrong, but it’s done all the time.

What’s wrong about this strategy?

School staff are not teaching Joey when they send him home. He’s being denied access to his education.  Not just equal access, but any access, is denied.

Joey isn’t learning skills and strategies for learning or appropriate behaviors that permit learning, so his Free, Appropriate Public Education is denied.

Joey is being removed from very setting he most needs to be in so he can learn how to behave properly in it!

If parents don’t know that IDEA requires schools to develop behavior modification plans and class management plans that give teachers ways to help Joey learn better school behavior and participate in learning, Joey will eventually miss so much school he can’t progress.  He is a future dropout at best.

Parent Advocacy Skill:

“I’m sorry, Ms. Principal, but Joey won’t be coming home with us today.  He needs to be at school to learn, and we need to hold an IEP meeting to develop an appropriate behavior modification plan so he can learn good learning behaviors.  I’m available Thursday at 10 a.m. and Friday at 3 p.m.  next week.”

Ms. Principal will find your written IEP meeting request on her desk tomorrow morning.  “The school continues to request that we bring Joey home before the end of the school day because he is unable to perform good learning behaviors.  I am requesting an IEP meeting to plan appropriate behavior management strategies for his IEP so he can begin to learn appropriate school behavior.  Please let me know within three working days when this IEP meeting will be held.”

If your principal responds that there must be some observations and/or evaluations done before an IEP meeting, this is good news.  IF these are done and done in a timely manner, it is good news.  It should mean that a school counselor or psychologist is checking what triggers inappropriate behaviors from your child and how to avoid them or teach your child how to manage himself.  This evaluation period should not take more than a week or two, but in larger districts, staff time allocation may take up to 30 days.  Check in periodically (not more than weekly) to see how things are going and to say thank you.

Make a list of behaviors and triggers that happen at home that school staff can discuss in this meeting with you that will help them further understand your child’s needs.

Medication Logs (Individual and school):  If your child’s grades are not what you believe she is capable of, look at medication logs, especially if medications are to help with behavior, focus and concentration, or compulsion.

Medications must be given to children at the proper time for them to be effective.  Watch out for these errors:

A.  given too early — may create an overdosing effect that temporarily impairs your child’s ability to stay awake, focus, concentrate, or participate fully in class

B.  given too late — creates a gap where lack of medication is when behavior deteriorates and learning is no longer possible; and

–worse, creates the possibility that the late dosing causes an overlap with the next dose that then becomes the overdose situation

C.  not given at all

Is it just once or is it a recurring pattern of sloppy administration?  If it’s a pattern of lax management, document it in a list of times and dates or on a calendar.   Write directly to the principal.  “Jenny’s medications were administered inappropriately as follows:  (list the times, dates and medications not done correctly).   Jenny’s medications must be given according to the following schedule:   (then give that schedule).”

Your child’s file doesn’t have any medication administration records in it?  Then you need to see the school’s medication administration log.  By law they must record every medication administered to a student, when (by date and time), and by whom.

If staff tell you they can’t let you see it for confidentiality reasons, tell them you know they can redact a copy of the log so you can see what you need to see for your child’s case.  School staff will have to black out other student’s names, but they must allow you to see that record.

If you find medication administration is sloppy, look for evidence of how your child might be affected by it, talk to teachers for their impressions, etc.  If it’s clear or even possible that your child’s education is being impaired by sloppy medication management, it’s time for another letter and phone call to your principal.

“I’ve noticed Jenny’s medications are not being administered according to the schedule the doctor has requested and it is impairing Jenny’s ability to learn and participate fully in class.  Jenny’s medications must be given according to the following schedule:   (then give that schedule).”   Don’t forget to close with a thank you for helping Jenny succeed at school.

After two weeks, ask for copies of the last two weeks of medication logs.  (No excuses about confidentiality allowed.)  Once they understand you are looking over their shoulder frequently to monitor your child’s medication administration, it should improve.  If it doesn’t improve within two weeks, call and write to the supervisor of your school’s principal.  After two weeks, if there is no improvement, go up another level.  Give each level two weeks to improve.

Consider also that if the schedule for your child’s medications is not in the IEP, it might help to put it in there–so call for an IEP meeting to do that.

However, if lax medication administration is health- or life-threatening, don’t wait–just start with a call to the principal.  If the principal is not immediately supportive, call the next level above and write if they ask you to do so.  If you can’t get better medication management, call your state’s special education monitors in your Department of Education and ask for assistance.  You WILL get help.  Nobody gets to fool around with meds.

If your child has a 504 plan, all of this post applies to your child’s case.  Just substitute 504 for IEP, and there you have it.

This is all for now.  In the next post we’ll be looking at how to use minutes of meetings about your child, behavioral records, teacher referrals, teacher/staff notes, observation records and/or anecdotes to help your child.

Isn’t This Supposed To Be HEAVEN?

Today we’re going to use humor to vent our frustrations.  I wrote this a few years ago and it has been posted on some special education and advocacy websites.  Now I’m putting it here to share with you.  Enjoy!

Isn’t This Supposed To Be HEAVEN?

by Michele Williams

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

A special education administrator died and went to heaven to see about
getting in. St. Peter said, “Well, your mom and dad are here saying you
should qualify, but I don’t know. You see, we have to conduct our own
evaluations. It will take 6 – 9 months, or maybe two years. We’ll let you
know. Would you sign this consent for evaluation right here, please.” So the
man took a seat on a cloud and waited none too patiently.

A year later, St. Peter comes back to the man and says, “Sorry, but that
Consent form wasn’t the right one. Would you sign here please.” A year
later, the man is called in for a conference to talk about the evaluation. A
psychologist angel said, “Well, we noticed that you were extremely impatient
while waiting, drummed your fingers a lot, seemed not to pay much attention
to instructions, and you let us have you sign the wrong form at the get-go.
We suspect you probably have attention deficit disorder. We don’t do
behavior modification here, but we do have a detention room where our
offenders do time before being sent to Hell if they can’t figure “it” out.
We noticed you had trouble learning how to sit on our clouds, so we suspect
you probably need some physical and occupational therapy. You’ve been rude
and deceitful with parents of disabled children on earth, but with extensive
counseling, you can probably overcome that. You’ve been playing crony games
with public funding and key positions, and with personality readjustment
therapy, you can probably overcome that. You’ll have to work hard, try
harder than you’ve ever tried before. If you can make sufficient adjustments
with our accommodations, you might be awarded a diploma entitling you to
entry into heaven. It could take as long as 12 years, but we are
optimistic.”

The personality readjustment angel worked diligently with the man and began
to see progress. Still, when the man was frustrated, he acted out and was
not exactly heavenly-appropriate in some of his antics and verbal
expressions. The personality readjustment angel said to his parents, “I’m
sorry, but if he doesn’t make more progress soon, he won’t make it. ”

“He needs more counseling, some training sessions, perhaps some
role-playing, social skills training,” his parents said.

“Sorry,” the angel said. “There are far too many other angel candidates and
I’m overbooked as it is.”

The angel gave no clues as to what procedures heaven might have for
increasing the administrator’s personality readjustment services, and the
parents were sure that since this was heaven, they would have been told
everything they needed to know and all necessary help would be given. So
they rested on faith.

St. Peter assigned the administrator a physical therapist who worked with the

man to teach him to sit properly on clouds and a flight instruction angel
to teach him how to fly. The administrator got the hang of sitting on clouds
pretty well, but he had a ton of trouble learning to fly. “Look,” he kept
protesting, “This flying bit isn’t easy. I’ve got to learn to trust not
having ground beneath my feet. I’ve got to keep looking at the horizon
instead of furniture around me. I’ve got to keep from banging into other
angels. My flight instruction angel only shows up 80% of the time. I need
more help.”

“Sorry,” St. Peter said. “You’re not trying. If you speak up in your own
behalf, you’re showing a basic lack of faith and trust, and it has tinges of
disrespect for our authority. We can’t have that around here. We’ll have to
give you detention you if you keep complaining.”

The administrator shut up. But the next day, he took off from his cloud with
his flight instruction angel’s full approval and promptly plunged toward
Hell at full speed, flapping all the way.

“I have to say something,” he screamed. “I told you I needed more help, and
it would help if I had both wings!”

“Sorry,” his flight instruction angel shouted downward. “We don’t have the
funding for that.”

Resources for Parents and Schools on Bullying

Hello Parents and Guardians,

This information is valuable for parents and school staff alike.  Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is involved in issues such as bullying when the bullying is directed at someone with disabilities.  Go to http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/index.html?src=rt for the latest of OCR’s policy letters about bullying in our nation’s schools.

This letter is to “Dear Colleagues”–the governors and authority figures in the states’ education departments.  The information about resources on bullying is universally of value, so OCR included links to some good resources.  It is up to each state to determine what its laws and regulations regarding bullying will be, but as this letter makes clear, bullying is not acceptable behavior, it can destroy good learning environments, and it should not be tolerated.  Local school districts are expected to follow the laws and regulations made by the state.  If that doesn’t happen, sometimes acting locally will get the change needed.  If it doesn’t, a formal complaint to OCR might help.

Yes, there are bullies of all ages at our nation’s public schools.  This includes students AND staff!

Yes, bullying affects the person at whom it is directed, but it doesn’t end there.  Other students are equally terrorized by the meanness and the threat and come to feel threatened as well.

Yes, we can all learn appropriate ways of responding to bullying being done to those around us.

Yes, you have been bullied at some time, and don’t you roll your eyes at me–if you have a sibling, it happened.  If you didn’t have a sibling, it happened somewhere, and that’s final.  The only question is how severe the bullying got and how long it lasted.  (So little?  No wonder you forgot.)  Do you still hurt at the memory of it?

Yes, bullying can leave permanent emotional damage.

Yes, bullying can be stopped.

Go to http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/101215.html for a free, valuable bullying resource.  While you’re there, print a copy of that page and take it to your child’s school principal as an FYI item.  When you hand it to your principal, thank him/her for everything he does today to help our students with disabilities.  You can gently suggest “This might be another resource for you about bullying and schools.  It has some good information and links, and I thought you might like to be aware of it.”

The truth is that when these policy letters come out, they are sent everywhere–to the 50 states.  Few private individuals ever receive them.  Now you have.

Read it.  If your school falls short of what is described there, call and ask to talk with special education staff or regular education staff who are supervising this experience and share the letter with them.  In this way you are a resource, not the adversary, but you have expressed your desire for change.  If you want to become active in helping bring change, say so.  (If you’re just griping, don’t say so.  The letter is enough.)