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Forced to Take a Stand

04/27/09
by Wrightslaw

I am a special education teacher. I resigned from a public school because they ordered me to do something that was against special ed law. I contacted the State Board of Education but could not get help at the state level.

I was forced to quit my job so that I could make a stand. From my perspective, special ed law is pointless because at the state level, they let administrators do whatever they want to do. Is there anything I can do at this point?

Teachers are not as helpless as they used to be. More cases are being heard and decided for teachers.

Fales v. Garst

First, read the analysis and decision in Fales v Garst and the Complaint filed in federal court. The analysis is at -

http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/fales_garst_analysis.htm

The actions of special education teachers Jacquelyn Fales, Mary Ann Kahmann, and Eileen Scarborough will be remembered and studied by lawyers and their clients for many years. In time, the rights of students and the teachers who stand up for these students may receive better protection and greater weight in the balancing process.

At the end of this article you’ll also find resources on the Legal Rights of Teachers and Students.

Pamella Settlegoode v. Portland Public Schools

Next, read the story of adaptive PE teacher Pamella Settlegoode who was retaliated against because she advocated for her students.

A jury awarded Pamella Settlegoode one million dollars after she brought suit against her school district and special ed director in Portland, Oregon.

The Inside Story of her case, including links to the Complaint, Pretrial Order, Jury Instructions and decisions is at -

http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/retaliate.settlegoode.htm

This decision should open doors for other teachers who feel trapped in oppressive work environments. With support from advocacy litigation agencies, teachers can use this case as a roadmap.

Lessons from the Settlegoode case: Paper Trails & Letter Writing

Pete says, “If it wasn’t written down, it wasn’t said. If it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen.”

Good records are important to effective advocacy. Documents that support your position help you resolve disputes early.

When you read about the Settlegoode case, you’ll learn that Dr. S. wrote letters that documented her concerns about her students. Although her supervisors ordered her to stop writing letters, she did not stop.

If you have a problem with the school you must document your concerns in writing.You need to write letters to clarify events and what you were told. If you have a dispute with the school, your letters are independent evidence that support your memory.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 merry 07/13/14 at 12:42 am

    I got my son a one on one tutor starting his 7th grade year because he begged for one. In 6th grade his IEP was taken away which he had for reading and written language. He had no growth from that point on and he was already 3years behind in grade level. Now 4 years later , going into 10th grade he is still at the same reading level . I took him to be tested at the lindamood-Bell learning center and they said he was severely behind in ability but very smart. His vocabulary is at a 74% and his reading at a 16% . He has the ability to learn if he had just been taught and had been diagnosed with his dyslexia. He needs extensive supplementary ed to try to close a gap of 6 years. Can a judge hold the school accountable? I did beg for testing every year but told no because of his good grades. Tutor helps but he can’t teach him how to read.

  • 2 pvining 10/23/11 at 12:01 am

    I have to fight for my diabetic special needs child what seems like on a daily basis just to try and get them to make sure he takes his insulin correctly. Which he doe not do at least once a week. He attends the middle school. I have filed complaints this does not work. I know this is descrimination because the elementary school provides nurse services for their diabetic students and provide what they need. I work there and know this to be a fact.

  • 3 Debbie 03/21/10 at 4:21 pm

    It’s called Special yes, Education No- I am without a job because of advocating for my students. No one really cares what happens to small groups of Special Needs students around the country.
    Special Education for these children is going backwards all the way back to the one room school house approach.
    I just had 14 Special Needs students all locked in one room for 2.5 hours in the morning then 2.5 hours in the afternoon. It was a mixture of severe MMI, ED and Speech and Language Delayed. I have fought for years hoping just once I would find a school that works the IEP as it is was meant to be implemented.
    It’s horrible – I’m quitting because as a Special Ed teacher no one ever has your back when working with the students. -I had an attorney who was going to help, but backed out – its about power and money not the kids.

  • 4 Debbie 02/06/10 at 5:11 am

    I’m going crazy this is happening to me. I need help please They put a student into my cross-cat class and he is regular Ed. I protested, least restrictive first, it did not matter- the student without an IEP or even a meeting was in my class – and tore it up. My other students grades dropped. There was a fight. I broke it up and they know they were in the wrong for having him in my class. Now they want me to resign or they say they are going to fire me- HELP

  • 5 Sheila 06/17/09 at 12:02 am

    It’s a sad state of affairs when dedicated teachers with principals are forced to resign. What’s even more sad is that others won’t.

    Yes, it’d cause chaos for a short time, but it would bring the truth to the public and hopefully, the end result would be that OSEP, OCR, States and School Districts would be forced to do their jobs and appropriately educate our children.

    And our legislatures need to fund IDEA! How is it that people just don’t get it that this is a pay now or pay later deal? And that it’s much less expensive to educate and provide services for children than “fund” social programs and maintain prisons for entire lifetimes because “appropriate services and education” was not implemented when it was the most beneficial time?

  • 6 Lori 05/27/09 at 2:45 pm

    Ok-here it goes. We’re in a bad economy with the schools getting less money and now our school district wants to cut our one and only teacher in our middle school that teaches in a multi-sensory technique. She is trained in Orton-Gillingham. Short of an involvement with a lawyer how can parents be heard? I am one of the biggest advocates for our kids in our school district and have read, learned and nearly memorized the Wrights Law books but feel very much alone with my back against the wall. Can’t something be done to protect these teachers? I just don’t understand schools. Do they not read their job decriptions? If so teaching all children with the right technique must be in fine print!!! I’m angry, upset that after 90 years of Orton-Gillingham we still have this battle. Enough is enough!!!!!

  • 7 Marie 05/09/09 at 6:54 pm

    I am a special ed para ed. I too reported fraud, ADA , FAPE, 504 & racial discrimination within the District’s special ed program. I filed a complaint under EC56046 to CDE. A Compliance Complaint Report was issued in my favor. I filed a complaint with OCR under CFR: Retaliation & rec’d a ruling in my favor. My case is the exact identical of Ms. Settlegoode’s. However, I hired an attorney who was totally negligent in preparing the case, even after providing a copy of Settlegoode complaint to him. He admitted he was unfamiliar with handling this type of case & withdrew just before the Summary Judgment hearing on 5/19. My case is very much salvageable & with merit. I have forged IEPs & thorough documentation, memos,etc. The loss of my case will be a severe blow to the children and teachers in CA who advocate for our student. Taking a stand and fighting discrimination cost me my job of 17 years. Can anyone help?

  • 8 advocate 05/09/09 at 6:43 am

    Understand that teachers are not allowed to say anything. We are out there, and we are just as frustrated. We did not go into this career for the money, but because we love children and want to make a difference. When a child is in a classroom not getting services, not only does it affect that child, but other children too as teachers struggle to give that child what we think he or she may need to the best of our ability without supports. My own child was denied a FAPE in the very district that I work in. Even though I am a staff member who knows the law, I have had administrators and attorneys lie to me about the law and falsify paperwork. I have put my job on the line fighting for my child – but what I see is that even if you know the law, you have to be ready for a battle of many years to have it followed.

  • 9 David1 05/06/09 at 5:59 pm

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    Does it seem odd to anyone else that a staff member who acts in accordance with the IDEA and ADA law is considered to be taking a stand that puts their job in jeopardy?

    The REALLY nice patrolman who stopped me the other day for running a stop sign, is not likely to face any negative treatment when his boss finds out he is following the law.

    I have talked with Administrators at our State Department of Education about this and the response is “We know it is broken and it will take time to fix it”, Meanwhile, kids today are treated the same way Shannon Carter was treated with that particular issue was brought to the surface.

    The Admins who are opposed to teachers standing up need to find somewhere to sit other than our Public schools.

  • 10 patricia 05/06/09 at 8:15 am

    I too was a sped teacher in NYC public school when I was asked to falsify an IEP about speech & hearing services given to a welfare child as stated on his IEP. I tried to have the principal write a true statement that services were desperately needed but were not given within 6 months of school. When she refused, I wrote my own statement on the IEP with the truth.A visit with the superintendent informed me that “my position might not be needed next year”, but I didn’t change my IEP statement. I have a new job advocating for PARENTS/kids from all economic paths. I sleep much better at night and so do the parents. Now I’m facing 3 teachers in my son’s OREGON public school who are afraid to speak up for an MSL program for dyslexia. The entire school district doesn’t use MSL and intimidates teachers.Where are the teachers with conviction?

  • 11 Kathy 05/05/09 at 8:58 pm

    I agree, that you need to have a paper trail. It will be most useful when your child goes to Hgh School and to College. Our high School tried pulling a fast one on us, but I in turn put it right back at them and the director of sp. ed was dumbfounded. I know the law probably better than the school. I’ve been fighting our district since my child was 3 years old. I usually get what I want for my child. I have a repuation in the district, and they don’t like to deal with me, its a win win situation for my children. I’m always prepared for my IEP meeting, husband always attends I bring a list of my acommondations for my children, which we usually get for them. I give the dedicated teachers a big hand becaue they really lay it on the line for their families and the backlash from the administration can be brutal. Keep up the good work.

  • 12 Carla 05/05/09 at 7:46 pm

    I find this very interesting as a paraprofessional I too have resigned from my job. I work with a teacher who has no compassion for the needs or these children. I have worked with these children going on 5 years and have really gone close and put them under my wing to protect them. I am very disgusted at how the public schools handle these situations. I think because I do not have a certificate I am a nobody and I do realize that it is a tough job with these children. But I feel like if you are educated in this field you should be able to deal with the children, but no it is the paraprofessional job to do all the work and the teacher just call the punches. There is such a demand for special ed teachers that I have gone back to school to get my license and hopefully I can be an advocate for these kids and matter. Bravo to you who do.

  • 13 patricia 05/05/09 at 11:46 am

    The School District, Oregon, uses a form of coersion/intimidation towards its enlightened teachers so that they will not talk to parents or the IEP team( as per parent request) about MSL programs that they have been trained in previous to being hired by CSD.
    Ex: A teacher wanted to attend the IEP meeting for a dyslexic/TAG student who was requesting that Language! (MSL program by Dr. Moats) be tried with him. The program is being used in his school but not by HIS special ed. assigned teacher. The enlightened teacher said she would like to come and talk about the success & trouble spots with the program as she is using it. She would come on her own time so that no sub or $ was needed by the district. The principal said no thanks and then lied to 2 attorneys as to why the teacher didn’t come. What does a parent do?

  • 14 mm 05/05/09 at 10:22 am

    I know what you mean.. I did the same. I am a paraprofessional and there were some issues I saw and reported but nothing was done. I give my hat off to you I wish more sp.ed teachers would speak up.

  • 15 Cindy 05/05/09 at 6:46 am

    Written communication is very important! We have communicated this way for at least the past 5 years (after we read From Emotions to Advocacy and with the help of an educational advocate). Our child is ending 8th grade year. At the last IEP meeting we were told that we were the most difficult parents that the school system has ever dealt with because we insist on maintaining a paper trail! The lady told us that phone communication would make her job so much simpler! Well, they can count on our continued commuication in writing – our paper trail has been and continues to be quite useful. Written communication is the only way to advocate!

    (Our recent paper trail was useful in getting the school to allow our child to register for band as the teacher didn’t recommend our child to take this class but would not put inwriting why!)

  • 16 CONNIE 05/01/09 at 11:05 am

    Ours is now in 8th grade,you have to be a strong and firm advocate for the child.be sure you have your knowledge on what the issues are and what your options are and stand up for the child!! When you do the IEP try to get everything you can to help the child that is your grounds to stand on in there defense.Then you have mediation or due process! Some schools try threat with taking away IEP accom. ours did that. Be smart and strong

  • 17 Nancy 04/30/09 at 5:07 pm

    Unfortunately, special ed laws do not include teachers/educators as a separate stakeholder group. There’s only two sides – the “school” and the parents (or student if old enough). Teachers/educators are part of the school side whether they agree with any individual IEP process or not. Standing up for students may put an educator in a dangerous employment situation.

  • 18 Sherry 04/28/09 at 10:30 pm

    This is common all throughout the US. Most parents don’t know the special ed laws thus not pursuing to get help.
    I just don’t see how state and federal level lets them be exempt from laws. Most teachers are not at fault, it’s the administrators ordering them to do wrong. Schools spend thousands of PARENTS TAX DOLLARS to fight against the parents. The schools would spend much less money if they just go on and help the child.

  • 19 Sharon 04/28/09 at 7:45 am

    Unfortunately, it is very true that most states and local districts do exactly as they please with no regard for the law. I was once told, by a CSE chairperson, that they didn’t have to know the law. Ever since that day, I have shown them whatever law they are breaking in Pete’s Special Ed Law book, and they are usually surprised.
    If you do it in a nice way, if you tell them that the law exists, if you tell them that at due process the law prevails, you will find yourself in a better position.
    Sharon :)

  • 20 David1 04/27/09 at 5:45 pm

    Kudos for standing up for the kids.

    It seems to be common practice for school districts to opt out on the safeguards they do not feel they should follow.

    Rather than having resources in place to protect these kids, they system is designed to fund attorneys to “protect” the school from having to comply with the laws that protect our kids.