Enforcing IDEA: Taking Action for Systemic Change

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Enforcing IDEA can be difficult. Use the tactics and strategies found in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy and other Wrightslaw resources.

Here are some other ways to require enforcement of IDEA within your school. And, some tips about what to do.

1. Find out if your school has a chapter of SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association). If so, start attending.

  • Do not be confrontational or argumentative.
  • Do listen to find who may be an ally, either parent or teacher.

If your school does not have SEPTA, find out how to get one started. This gives immediate credibility.

2. Attend School Board meetings.

It may take several times before you start to follow what is happening. Once you have a feeling for the general flow, try to get some time on the agenda. Then you can present data to the Board members.

  • Use data that you can confirm.
  • Do not make accusations or threats. Avoid confrontation.
  • Explain that you are there to let the Board know of a situation in their school that may cost the school money and damage student achievement.
  • Be specific about law that the school is ignoring.
  • Do not name teachers or students by name, but let the Board know you will share the names with them if requested.

This approach can take a full year or more, but top down changes tend to stick. Connect with other parents and bring them with you to the meetings.

3. In individual situations, it may become necessary to contact the Office for Civil Rights.

It is simple to file an OCR complaint and OCR is usually quick to respond. Again, have as much concrete information as you can. It will certainly get the attention of a School Superintendent if s/he gets a phone call from an attorney from the Office for Civil Rights.

4. Arrange for advocacy training.

Check out training seminars at Wrightslaw and the multimedia training on CD-ROM.

There are other organizations that will provide training. Start with the groups listed below, call the contact number, and check about training opportunities in your area.

Your state Parent Training and Information Center.

Local Disability Organizations.  (i.e. local chapters of the Learning Disabilities Association, International Dyslexia Association, CHADD, etc.)

A Consultant, Psychologist, or Advocate in your state.

Spread the word and get as many parents as possible to attend. You will be able to network and start to establish an advocacy group within your community. The more people you have to address the problems, the higher your chances of making changes.

Have you ever considered starting a parent advocacy group? How to Start an Educational Advocacy Group.


It takes patience and persistence to make systemic changes within a school. These changes will benefit not just your child, but other children who attend the school, perhaps for many years.

  1. When does IDEA overlap the admissions process for a State School? Is it, as I was told in a meeting, after eligibility is determined? That we cannot hold and IEP until after the school is deemed LRE for the child though the child already has an IEP? My reasons for asking these questions are because after 1 year of trying to apply to the Deaf school and 5 months after signing the application and evaluation paperwork (all on file) we have been once again told to wait 4 more weeks for a decision oh and I cannot attend this meeting in 4 weeks because the school determines eligibility. Suggestions anyone?



  3. Enforcing IDEA: Taking Action for Systemic Change by Keb
    I don’t know if you are a parent or a teacher. If you are a parent, take a digital recorder to meetings and tell them you are doing this so you don’t have to take notes and try to talk at the same time. You will see a change in what they say. They will never admit to saving money by using RTI unless they are stupid.
    If you are a teacher, let your parents know they can take a tape recorder to the meeting or a witness. This may immediately change the tone and you can move forward and make some progress.

  4. Any advice would be welcome. The board only sees the ‘declassification’ numbers and cost savings. I have tried to reach out to them but I do think that unless you understand special Ed, it is hard to understand. Our parent special ed leadership, is afraid to rock the boat too much as they have to work with these people. It is a big problem that is only going to get worse.

  5. I am a parent in a district where our administrators bully the parents and teachers into declassification and/or not providing services. I was in a Cse meeting yesterday where the student needed an iep, but they refused to consider. Administrator actually admitted to using rti as a means not to classify. This administrator had the audacity to tell the parents to ‘trust’ the district to take care of the child but refused to put it in writing. Our teachers are routinely told what to do at meetings prior to. All blatantly wrong.

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