Did you do the following checklist in August?
If you followed the suggestions in SGW’s August Blog, you did the following tasks:
- Reviewed your child’s IEP or 504
- Determined what responsibilities, if any, you have w/r/to the IEP.
- Scheduled or attended student-teacher orientation with your child’s teachers.
- Let your child’s teachers, case manager, and child study team members know that you are eager to be involved in your child’s educational experience.
- Established a rapport with staff and offer them any assistance you will be able to provide. For example, would you be able to act as a class parent? Although this will be a time commitment, the investment usually has a huge return in the information you learn about your child’s teachers and the day-to-day workings of the class and the school.
- Determined whether all the services were in place and ready for the school year.
- Attended Back-to-School night.
If you were able to do these and the other tasks recommended last month, you’re in a position to have a great year. If not, don’t worry! There’s still time to get everything done without disadvantage to you or your child.
Either way, you now have more information than you did a month ago. You know the transportation arrangements and whether they are working properly and safely. You likely have met your child’s teachers and service providers. If you still need to make contact with any of the staff, you can:
- Email them. Send a short-and-sweet, typed list of questions or suggestions about your child. Ask for a follow-up conference at a time that is convenient for them.
- Grab them at the end of the day if you pick up the children from school.
- Request a Zoom session.
During your meeting with the staff members, respect their time. Your consideration and understanding will go a long way toward forging a positive relationship for the upcoming school year. The law says that the hallmark of IDEA is cooperation amongst parents and school districts. Since you can control only your behavior, follow the motto ‘You get more bees with honey than with vinegar.’
However, being respectful of and cooperative with staff does not mean that you need to overlook IEP or 504 violations. If your child is classified, your school district is required by law to have your child’s IEP in place at the beginning of the school year. The Office of Special Education and the courts typically allow some leniency during the first few weeks of school to allow the district to get everything set up. Judges and hearing officers know that many things can defeat even the best efforts of the child study team to have a program in place at the start of school. School staff may resign unexpectedly or suffer an injury that sidelines them when school begins. There may be a shortage of qualified staff to replace the missing staff members. It pays to be understanding of these types of circumstances.
But there is a fine line to be drawn here, and parents who are too patient, and their children, can end up missing out on a full year of appropriate services. Therefore:
- Be Patient.
- Be Enquiring.
- Be Firm.
In the meantime, while you are waiting for your conference or meeting, or if you don’t need one, there are many things that you can still do to ensure your child’s success this school year:
Project success for your child.
- Children pick up and mimic/utilize parental attitudes. Speak positively to your child about school staff, projects, classwork, and their peers whenever possible.
- Don’t ignore problems. If your child reports trouble in any realm—academically, socially, emotionally, with staff, or with peers, listen carefully to what they are saying. Take them seriously. Engage them in critical problem-solving that is developmentally appropriate. Put a plan in place that you and your child can implement to address the problems.
- If you need help, contact the appropriate staff to assist.
- Respect the staff hierarchy and don’t go over heads unless and until it becomes necessary. If the teacher, therapist, or child study team member can handle your issue, contact them first.
IEP or 504 reminders.
- Whenever you contact or meet with the staff, focus on the most important issues in order to make effective and lasting change. Unless this is an IEP or a 504 meeting, don’t try to address everything or the staff will likely be overwhelmed.
- When you do meet to review the IEP or 504 plan, ask at the outset how much time you’ll have. Plan accordingly and let the team know your concerns, ideas, and requests. If you run out of time, you can request a follow-up meeting.
Lastly, write everything down.
- Any time you contact school staff, put it in writing, but don’t make it sound adversarial or like legalese. That will only put the district on the defensive.
- If you get no response within a reasonable amount of time (48 business hours), go one step up the hierarchy of command. If you emailed the teacher, your follow-up email should go to the teacher and the child study team case manager. Err on the side of caution by saying, “It’s possible that my earlier email went into your spam folder. Here’s what I wrote to you about.” This should net you a response. Only contact the director of special services if you get no response or a negative one to this subsequent email.
If you need help with your child’s educational program, you may contact us at Sussan Greenwald & Wesler to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. You can reach us by phone at 609-409-3500.