As a pediatrician, I get all kinds of questions from my patients. Can you help me answer these two special education questions?
1. A teacher in a school system wants to sit in on the IEP meetings as the student (family’s) advocate (not as a county employee). Can the school system refuse, saying it is a conflict of interest?
There is a legal answer and a practical answer…
Legal answer: The parents and school system can invite individuals who have knowledge or expertise about the child to be members of the IEP team. The decision about who has knowledge or expertise is made by the parents or school system. There is no provision in the law that allows the other side to veto this decision, including conflict of interest.
However, it should be clear that this decision is made by the parents, not the teacher. If the teacher says she wants to sit in on the meeting and the parent does not notify the school that they intend to invite her to the meeting, this is likely to create a bad situation.
Practical answer: School systems are intolerant of employees who are viewed as disobedient or free-thinking. This teacher is putting herself at risk for losing a job by taking this stand. I assume she is aware of this. Unfortunately, the teacher is in the position of a whistle-blower who is fired from a job, but years later maybe honored for taking a stand and doing the right.
The teacher can act as an advocate but should expect fallout and perhaps the loss of a job. The teacher needs to document everything that is conveyed to her in letters and/or a log.
A similar situation happened in Oregon a few years ago in the Pamella Settlegoode case. A teacher was fired for advocating for her students. Ultimately, she received a 1 million dollar verdict because the school violated her rights under Section 504. Most people don’t have the stomach for litigation, nor a husband who is a federal court litigator.
2. Do Charter or Choice schools have to obey all of the accommodations set forth in an IEP or 504 if they are public schools?
Charter schools are so new in Virginia, I can’t give you a great response. Logically, I would think that Charter schools, because they are publicly funded entities, have to comply with accommodations in the IEP. To do otherwise would be discrimination by an entity that is funded by tax money.
Check your state Department of Education regulations regarding Charter School requirements in your state.