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How to Disagree with the IEP Team Without Starting World War III
by Pete Wright, Esq.

If you are like many parents, you don't know what to do when your child's team presents you with an IEP that is not appropriate for youir child.

You need to advise the IEP team that you don’t think the IEP is appropriate, that it does not provide your child with enough help or the right kind of help. You need to use facts to support your position (i.e., facts from an evaluation of your child from a private sector evaluator, graphs of your child's test scores).

Be polite but firm.

Tip: Think how Miss Manners handles difficult situations and use this idea to guide you.

Your Consent to Implement Inappropriate IEP

When the team asks you to sign consent to the IEP, pick up a ball point pen and put the IEP on a hard table top. Write this statement on the IEP: "I consent to this IEP being implemented but I object to it for the reasons stated during the meeting."

Sign your name.

Don't be surprised if someone gets upset and claims you are not allowed to write on the IEP because it is a legal document. This is not true. You can write on your child's IEP, although the person who objects may not know this.

Never Forget: You are a member of your child's team. You represent your child's interests. The law requires you to make your objections clear. The IEP is the best document to use when you need to make your objections clear.

If someone tries to stop you, continue to write. If someone tries to pull the IEP out of your hands, press down hard with your ballpoint pen and continue to write. If someone tries to yank the document away, continue to write, even if the IEP tears.
Stay calm. Take your copy of the IEP (or whatever is left), stand, say "Thank you. I guess this meeting is over." Extend your hand to shake theirs. Pick up your recorder and leave.

The IEP team has a problem. You advised them, in writing, that their proposed program is not appropriate for your child. You also consented to their implementing the program so they should implement it.

When to Record Meetings - and Why

It's a good idea to record all important school meetings. If you expect a dispute or disagreement, you should definitely record the meeting. The recorder should be out in the open. For advice about how to tape-record meetings, read the chapter about "Surviving School Meetings" in From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition.

Your Thank You Letter

When you get home, write a nice thank you letter to the head or leader of the IEP team. (See chapters about Letter Writing in From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition)

Re-state your position: You consented to the school implementing the IEP because something is better than nothing. You believe that an inadequate program is better than no program. However, you believe the proposed program is not appropriate for your child. Because something is better than nothing, you expect the district to implement the program -- even though Mr. Jones ripped the IEP document.

After you mail this letter, transcribe the record of the IEP meeting.

Under these circumstances, the district will want to avoid a due process hearing.

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Rules of Adverse Assumptions

In From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition, you learned about the Rules of Adverse Assumptions. You should assume that:

* A hearing will be necessary to resolve a problem,
* All s
chool staff will testify against you,
* School staff's recollections of the facts will be completely different from yours; and, most important,
* You cannot testify!

If you cannot testify, how can you tell your story? You tell your story with the tape, the transcript of the meeting, your letter, and (maybe) a ripped IEP. Good evidence.

Dealing with a Bully

This happened in more than one of my cases. In one instance, the special ed supervisor yelled that the IEP was a "legal document," the parent was not allowed to write on it, then ripped the IEP when the parent tried to write her objections on the IEP document.

That case settled quickly.

These are good strategies to use if you disagree with an IEP team and are dealing with a bully.

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