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Why “No” May Not Really Mean “No”

07/23/08
by Wrightslaw

As a parent, have you asked the school to help your child only to have the school dismiss or deny your request? What did you do?

Most parents seem to believe that “no” means “no” forever. They give up. Other parents view a “no” from the school in the same light as the denial of a health insurance claim. They don’t give up. They persevere.

Faced with an arbitrary “no” about an important issue, these parents write a polite letter that describes their request, the school’s response, their disagreement with the school’s decision  –  and that they cannot accept this denial …

I appreciate your efforts to help my child but these problems are too important to ignore.  We need to have another meeting to resolve these issues. Please send some available dates for the next meeting.

If the parent presents more information (evidence) that supports their request at the next meeting, they will often get the services they seek. A few days ago, we received this email from a parent who described what she did when the school said “no” and the outcome: 

Last year I requested in writing that my son be assessed for eligibility for special ed services. The Admissions and Release Committee (ARC) decided not to refer my son. They said he could not be eligible for special ed because his grades did not fall below 80%. 

This year my son was diagnosed with Aspergers/OCD/ADHD/Temper issues.

After this diagnosis, I requested another meeting. This time, I brought representative samples of his school work over the past several months and the psychiatrist’s diagnosis. This time, the team referred him for a special education evaluation, even though his grades are not below 80%.

Why did the school react differently this time?  Their decisions seem so arbitrary and unpredictable.

What led to the different outcome? We don’t know for sure.

At the second meeting, the parent presented additional information and evidence of need – this may have persuaded the team. Before that meeting, the parent wrote a letter describing the child’s problems and what happened at the earlier meeting. This letter may have caused some team members to have doubts about their earlier decision. They may be relieved that the parent keep the issue alive. And she explained that because the issue was important, she could not take  “no” for an answer — so the team knew she would persevere.

The next challenge is to ensure that the educational program provided by the school is designed to meet the child’s unique needs and that the child receives “educational benefit.” Before you can answer that question, you need to answer questions like these:

  • What are your child’s unique needs that affect his ability to learn?
  • In what areas is he behind?
  • Specifically, what type of help does he need?
  • Will the school provide that help?

Many parents don’t realize that school staff may not be  savvy about the needs of children with complex neurologically based problems like Asperger’s Syndrome or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Educators often think negative behavior is under the child’s control (“he’s just spoiled.”) 

As a parent, you may need to (tactfully) educate the educators about your child’s disability and unique needs. Don’t be surprised if you encounter resistance. Some teachers view themselves as the experts on all children.

If you are dealing with a school team that says “no,” you will find several articles about advocating with the school in Advocacy 101. These short articles may help put these problems in perspective: 

Gatekeepers: Their Job is to Say “No!” 

10 Reasons Why Schools Say No! 

NOTE: The special ed law and regulations do not mention grades as a criteria for referring a child for a special education evaluation or finding a child eligible for special education services. Think about it. If schools made these decisions based on a child’s grades, they could avoid providing services simply by giving everyone passing grades!

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gwendolyn 10/17/12 at 3:05 pm

    My son has a IEP He has a learning disability , He started his Chicago Public High School and was very disappointed because he couldn’t go to the High School he want to attend .Due to lack of information from his case manager. He’s trying to navigate with the new High School but he still wants to go to the School he choice for his High School , I want him in a good High School because the one he’s attending has no support concerning his IEP. what happen to kid come first – NOT TAKING NO .- I want stop trying to better my son education

  • 2 Concerned mom 10/16/12 at 11:50 pm

    My son has an IEP for ADHD but is being evaluated for other diagnoses. His neurologist put in writing for my son to have one on one help 2-3 times a week. His public school has denied this request in his IEP meeting, saying that it is to costly and the district will deny it. And then they complain about how off task he is all the time, cant pay attention, what kind of medication is he taking, and needs to be prompted constantly to stay on task and finish his work. They want to have him become more independent without so many prompts from the teacher. My son says no one ever helps him and the other students complain if they have to partner with him because he always loses his place in reading, doesnt follow along or pay attention. He does extremely well when he works 1:1 and is very bright. How can I get him help that he needs?

  • 3 Garry 10/16/12 at 10:12 am

    I am facing “No”‘s on getting my Non-Verbal, SCI, ASD Son some ‘Assistive Technology’ so he can communicate. The School is going to try and only allow him to use an iPad for 1 Hour per Week. How is that going to help him communicate? My Question exactly. That is my primary Argument today. He needs the Ability to communicate all day, all week, all year, all of the time. Not just 1 hour per week.

  • 4 Penicall 03/05/09 at 11:22 am

    No really means u have to work harder at it to get the answer yes.. because things change under different situations.

  • 5 Terri 08/09/08 at 7:48 am

    Since my last statement I have addressed the school on this matter and also the Dept. of Education in the state where we live…..with a response from them I went back to the school and now the are reviewing the file. So hopefully I want have to go to the next level as having the file sent to the state with a complaint letter…..so wish me luck on this trail.

  • 6 karenRZ 07/27/08 at 9:02 pm

    Wow, Terri –

    They altered her permanent school file by shredding records? That’s a horrible situation! Did you have an IEP showing that she had resource room pullout services?

    Your story makes me want to go the the school and read my son’s file to make sure it’s complete! Good luck!

  • 7 Terri 07/26/08 at 8:46 am

    This has happened to me. The school has refused to help my child due to her grades. My child is ADD and Dyslexic, she has a reading comprehension problem. The psychologist that I took her to due to the school not wanting to do the evaluation, said that she was ADD and made recommendations for the school for her problems. When she was in elementary school she was in resource for this problem. But when the school went to get the papers to back up what I had said they told me that 3 years ago the papers had been shredded. So now she is not getting any services and struggles with reading and spelling.
    Now I am trying to get all this corrected so that she can get help with her problem of comprehension.