I’m a teacher, and I know IEPs aren’t being followed. What do I do?

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“I am a teacher in — and I know that IEPs are not being followed…What do I do? I have already talked to people in the school system. I want information that explains why it’s so important for teachers to take this seriously, including the legal ramifications.

I want our new teachers to understand their accountability with regard to this aspect of teaching.”

What should you do?  I think it depends on –

  • whether the administration is aware that IEPs are not being followed, and
  • if they do know, why they haven’t put a stop to it?

In 1992, there was a case in West Virginia styled Doe v. Withers. A high school history teacher refused to provide the modifications promised to a student. Several people advised the history teacher about the need to provide these modifications but he refused.

The boy failed the exam. Later, the family filed a civil lawsuit against several people who worked at the school – teachers, special ed director, etc – and who knew the teacher refused to provide the modifications.

The parents brought suit against several individuals who worked for the school district. The judge did not allow the case to go forward against anyone except the history teacher.

Why? Because all the other staff members had written about their concerns.

There was a jury trial. The jury awarded the student and/or his family about $15,000 – and that history teacher had to pay these damages out of his own pocket.

Doe v. Withers was the first damages case against a teacher for refusing to follow the IEP. There have been several other such cases since.

School Culture in Your District

  • What is the culture in your school district?
  • Are children with disabilities and their families viewed in a positive or negative light?

If the administrators have a negative view of special ed and kids with disabilities, it is unlikely that anything will change until they move on, or until a parent requests a due process hearing and these things are exposed to the public. But that may not happen, or the outcome of the hearing may not be favorable to the parent and child.

In general, we recommend that teachers put their concerns in writing.

This has to be done very carefully so you are not viewed as a troublemaker. Otherwise, you may find yourself in hot water.

When you put your concerns in writing, you write a letter that assumes that the administration is not aware of these problems and cannot correct them unless they know.

You have heard about the Doe v. Withers case, and W.B. v. Matula. You are are concerned about your liability because you know IEPs are not being followed. You know the administration would want to know so they can handle it.

First Special Education Damages Case

Here is some more information that should be helpful.



The case was noteworthy because it was the first special education damages case and the first case in which damages were assessed against a teacher who refused to comply with an IEP.

You can find other damages cases since that time on this page:


Thanks for caring about the kids.


Re-edited from a post originally published 4/09/2008

You may also like….

When Teachers Won’t Provide Accommodations in the IEP
How Can I Know if my Child’s Teacher is Highly Qualified?
IEP Compliance: What Do I Do?
It Isn’t OK Just to Teach the Easy Kids
Damages: Articles and Case law

  1. How do I handle this situation? I received a phone call from a teacher who claims she was not allowed to see my child’s IEP, and also feels that my child was not given what was promised in her IEP. I believe she called me so as not to draw attention to herself, however, my child showed signs of regression last year. This coincides with the lack of education in the classroom.

    The teacher was supposed to have more time with her in a partial inclusive atmosphere, however, she does not feel my child was given that. She told me she brought this to the attention of the principal, however was told my child required 1 on 1 supervision with her aide. On one hand, I feel I need to address this. On the other hand, if I do, this will cause more problems than before.

  2. Speaking up has cost me more jobs than I can count. There is no protection for teachers who stand up for kids..

      • Currently dealing with this at my school. I was already transferred once for attempting to get the students I worked with the services they were supposed to. Now I’m branded a trouble maker in the school I was transferred to. Just had a lively discussion with the principal today about two of the students not receiving the allotted speech therapy times. I didnt even bring up two other ways they are out of compliance. How can I help these children get what they need without getting fired?

        • One approach is to create a paper trail to show that you informed appropriate staff of the situation & your concerns. If they take actions against you, that paper trail, can indicate that they retaliated against you. If you belong to an educator association they might have attorneys to assist you.

        • One approach is to also educate the parents about advocacy. I had many teachers help me advocate in such a way as to not involve them. The issue at hand is some parents are very reactive and may create a hostile situation for you if you tell them information as some of them may “blow up” at the administration as I have seen this all too often. I had the trust and confidence of great teachers who wanted the best for my child and others students (some whose parents were uninvolved). With their collaboration, my advocacy and networking, we were able to implement some intervention strategies that not only benefitted my child but others. However, the teachers could trust that I knew how to advocate without revealing the whistleblowers. It is a fine line and not easy to navigate.

          • I would appreciate if a teacher was to inform me about my child! Just as the teacher doesn’t want to be considered a troublemaker, as a parent I don’t want to be considered one either. I read information on documenting every communication by letter or email. Both parent and teacher need to be smart with how they handle situation. The children can not be overlooked! It is the law.

    • You are correct. If a teacher speaks up at all, he or she will be viewed as a troublemaker and forced out. I know because it happened to me.

      • currently trying to figure out how to navigate this issue w/o using my name and being labeled a “troublemaker”. I’m already too out-spoken and it has caused me trouble with Admin. I do know where to go.

  3. The CA teachers union has some advice for teachers who know that IEPs are being violated. http://digital.copcomm.com/i/65746/14

    Anyone who advocates for people with disabilities is protected from retaliation under Sec. 504 of the Rehab. Act of 1973 and under Sec. II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. See also Susan Lee Barker v. Riverside County Office of Education at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2009/10/22/07-56313.pdf

    I shared this with our local teachers’ union, the superintendent of schools, the school board, and the supervisor of special ed., noting that it is more cost-effective to follow the law than break it. Courage is contagious, so please share this with your local teachers, too.

  4. My autistic son was bullied in school. I reported it, nothing was done, then a second time I was given lip service. The third time I threatened a lawsuit based on non compliance with his IEP by the School Principal. The bully was suspended and the Principal lost her job. There was no anti bullying law in Michigan at that time.

  5. Our school district tells the teachers what they can and can’t do. Doesn’t matter about the IEP. Teachers are let go for being advocates for our children. My son had a different teacher each year even though he was in the same Life Skills classroom. Had to go through Due Process which was not only costly but emotionally draining while I kept my son home for 6 months. We won our due process and he is in a new school but that was only for two years. This year the district will re-evaluate him and then we will be in the same boat telling me that they have an appropriate placement for my son. I don’t understand why we as parents have to work so hard at having our child’s IEP carried out in the way it is written, without the district changing it and not telling you.

  6. my daughter is a special ed student who cannot read or understand her math. one of her teachers is always picking on her what can i do about this

  7. I have a Question about the Legal Requirements related to staffing shortages. In my district we have numerous IEPs that are not being followed because we “can’t” find OT’s, Ts, SLPs to provide the services. I think they just don’t want to pay what it would require to fill these open positions (in fact several local people have applied for the jobs, but are not willing to accept once aware of compensation offered-they’ve offered to work on contract but the district refuses). SO, my question – what is the district’s obligation when it comes to staffing these open positions? What do I need to do to CYA since I know these IEPs aren’t being met?

    • My sons iep has not been followed he was arded for 60 minutes of in class group support per week. He has not gotten any. The teacher said ” we dont have an in class support teacher in this class”, my son has never seen a helping teacher in there.

      • I am sorry to hear this. I work for the TX parent training and information project assisting parents. Go to http://www.prnteaxas.org to find our regional coordinator who works with your area of the state. They can assist you in dealing with this situation.

  8. I am special ed. teacher and two teachers would not follow the IEP. Parents filed numerous complaints. I advocated for the parents and students, and I am now suspended; I would not lie for one of the teachers. One of the students tried to kill himself and a lot had to do with this situation. The parents brought in advocates filed complaints with the state dept. I will eventually lose my job over this. Please be careful.

  9. Our VI granddaughter is in Second grade in a regular classroom with a 1 on 1 personal aide. Her iep states she will have a TVI teach her Braille 4 times a week for 1 hour each day. The problem is the TVI teacher takes so many days off and shows up late that my Granddaughter is only receiving maybe Two hours a week. I have asked for a substitute from the N J CoB but they say no. My granddaughter is falling behind in Braille. I think they are out of compliance . Any suggestions?

  10. I was hired as a self-contained teacher by a public school in August, 2011, for a education program that doesn’t yet exist. My student’s IEPs contain outdated information, are missing key transition components, and, I’ve just learned, have been created with a non-compliant program. My students are not receiving fine-arts (not due to any physical or behavioral limitations) and many are not receiving an education in the “least-restrictive environment,” denying them the opportunity for crucial social skills, as mandated in their IEPs. The case manager is now unwilling to consult with me, let alone modify their IEPs, for fear of her department being outsourced. I am concerned not only for my credentials, but for my students’ experiences, as well.

  11. In 6th grade my son got into a few fights and got suspended from kids bullying him. We had mediation and it was found the fighting was due to his disability. In my frustration with the school I had IEP meeting and demanded they let me move my child to alternative school for help with emotional issues. they did not agree with the decision but let me do it. Big mistake! So this year when I asked for him to come back, the vice principal said he didn’t want him back because he was too violent. Can he legally do that if my son has a disability and the fighting was found to be caused by that disability? Plus I had been to the school numerous times before complaining about the bullying and plenty of times since then too.

  12. Music Teacher with not aides for students with IEPs-post dated 3/3/10

    This is a common occurrence in some schools, especially larger districts. As a former para-educator, I have been caught between a music teacher and a case manager with the expectations that I modify the work–that is how crazy it can get because both teachers were overwhelmed. I went to the case manager and said, I need work for this studets. Guess what–it was nothing but worksheets and busy work because the case manager felt it was the teacher’s responsibility. I am sorry to say that they felt that your was the one class that they could just put the students in and give the aide a lunch break or use in another class. You can be creative and make this happen. It can work..it won’t be perfect but it can work. Research and make it happen to protect yourself.

  13. Pam, i am glad that you addressed this. I have seen many teachers caught up in similar situations. They care very much but their hands are tied. The most sucessful teachers who get their voices heard are usually the tenured teachers who knw how to carefully navigate the system and understand the key players. New teachers are in vulnerable positions. Some teachers in order to survive have been told to “shut your door and teach.”. Others, regardless of tenure,, are savvy enough to carefully educate parents and refer to the advocacy groups who can help them with very strong hints,

  14. my district was out of compliance before they hired me. i had an eligibility report that was done and no iep for a new referral. an iep that had expired since february of 2011, the last straw was the teacher changed the date on the old eligibility from 2011-12 and did not do the eligibility report at all on a third student. i am being harassed by treated like all of this is my fault. all of this happened last year in 2010-11 school year. i was hired for the 2011-12 year who do i need to contact

  15. I need to find out what the statutes of limitation is on criminal acts against a school who harassed, bullied, refused ARD’s, ignored iep, humiliated by teacher and singled out my son and emotional abuse for my son and daughter due to bullying and violence? It occurred during the school year 2009-2010. I am now in a position to be able to pursue damages. I eventually had to withdraw my kids. If I didn’t, my son would have been killed in junior high with his behavior and others bullying him due to his view of teachers and principals after what they did or the lack thereof at the previous school. He has high-functioning autism, adhd, and ocd and was in cluster classes. I also need to find a good lawyer who is pro-bono in the Houston, Tx area if filing charges in still possible.

  16. We are looking for an attorney to help us bring a case against Alamance-Burlington School District in North Carolina. Our boys IEPs were not being followed. Our concerns were ignored. The attorneys we contacted either didn’t return our calls or said that they had a conflict of interest. The experiences that my sons were having gave them a lot of distress. We decided to home school them, I was a special education teacher in the district. I was shocked at how far they were behind. My job was threatened and I, eventually, resigned. We moved back to NY. I know that things like this are wide spread in Alamance county and want to do something about it.

    I am concerned that, with all the cuts in education, district will be taking even more “shortcuts” with our kids. I would like to get involved with fighting this problem in NY.

  17. Laura, convene an IEP meeting to determine what is going on. Ask the school for proof that they are following the IEP. If they don’t, you can go to the next step. Retaining an attorney is a last resort, not a first step. .

  18. We just discovered that my son has not been receiving inclusion support every day as required by his IEP. What is our next step? Re-convene the ARD committee? Teacher conference? Filing due process?

  19. I am considered one of those “trouble makers” already since I (sped teacher) have written some of the types of letters that you talked about. After waiting many, many months of waiting for things to get better, they got worse. Now all of my IEP meetings are attended by a District Program Specialist so that most of my input into the meeting is never recorded on the IEP document. Often they have another sped teach attend the meetings. I have filed with the State and they claim the District is in compliance, WOW! Doing research to open my own business and continue to work with families and students with special needs.


    Disappointed but not giving up in CA

  20. I am a para-educator in a small school. I have been battling two teachers for the entire semester on modifications not being made. The administration is fully aware of this issue, and the teachers have been addressed. If a teacher says she/he is making mods, but we aren’t allowed to know what they are, how can we be advocates for the students?

  21. I am a special education teacher . I have a student that has brain damage. The was diagnosed as mental retarded. In my school he has been placed in the 5th grade general education classroom despite he performs at lower 1th grade level. The IEP meeting decided that I should be in his classroom 2 hours per week during sciences and history class. I am not in compliance with this requirement because when I ask anything about what was said in the classroom using simple words the student says: : ” I don’t know”. If I insist with him he gets so tired and falls asleep. My Principal knows that I am not working with him at 5th grade level, instead, I am working at 1th grade level.
    I am wondering what can in the next IEP to justify my non compliance with the IEP. His parents insist that he has to be placed in the general education

  22. Thank you for caring. I am a mother of a child who teachers are not following his IEP. I even call meetings with them, and they still don’t follow. My child is at risk for flunking loth grade.

  23. I am a music teacher in a district that requires that all students take general music in 7th & 8th grade. Consequently, the level of understanding and performance in these classes is very high. As an example, I have a 7th grade class with students that have been studying violin since 4th grade. In addition, I have two students mainstreamed into this same class. I have requested that the mainstreamed students come with aides but have had no luck. The students go to Health and Home and Careers with an aide but not to music. Their IEPs require that I read any reading material to them and provide them with a scribe for writing in addition to providing alternative assignments. The special education teacher is constantly calling me on the carpet for not following her students IEPs. Do I have any rights?

  24. My daughter attends a public school. At the end of last year she was put on an iep after years of fighting for one but the iep lack other important program I think is essential for my daughter to suceed in Ive been asking for her to be put in the special math for two years now I been asking her to be put on a iep for ateast four years now. She has two years left and she is getting further and further in her math the school psychiatrist have her down as having a math disability this has been frustrating for my daughter as well as myself I need some advice and direction for I don’t know what to do and where to go from here help

    Ashlyn in Ohio

  25. During our last IEP the school’s special education director said, The recommendations my daughter requires in her IEP are provided by you, the parent. My child attends a Charter school that provides on campus classes and an independent study program, my daughter is primarily in their independent study program. I said, “she was on campus but the classes had over 40 kids, she was not able to cope with her environment, she was overwhelmed and zoned out. She shouldn’t have ever been placed into a class of that size. My goal, I also said, was to eventually have my daughter on campus full time.” The director stated, “But she will be overwhelmed with class curriculum and all the classes for Jr. High are large class sizes.” The large class that my daughter had been placed in was never communicated to me, prior to enrollment. My question to you is: is it the responsibility of the parent to provide FAPE, when a child is enrolled in an independent study/on campus Charter School?

  26. I am looking for case history which can be used to persuade administrators to not pull Special Ed. teachers to cover General Ed. classes as substitutes. Special Ed. students are not receiving services per IEP.

  27. The principal has refused to give my son an IEP. I asked him 4 times. He didn’t know my son was already on an IEP from when he was in middle school. His reasoning for refusing to convene an IAT was that my son is just lazy and that’s not an adequate reason for being on an IEP. His accommodations are supposed to help him with his organizational skills and he does have behavior issues. The only help he is willing to provide me is with an invitation to pull my child out of “his” school and open enroll him in another district. He has used this tactic on many students and has direct bearing on the school district having received an excellent rating by the state. I understand this is a federal statute he is violating, but what are my options?

  28. My principal insists that i do “full inclusion” (no pull out) for my students on ieps (even though some specifically state that they need pull out/use of resource room. Furthermore, my principal dismissed the iep goals and insist i follow the 7th grade curriculum (with modifications) because these students will take the Ohio Acheivement Test (she told a parent that her child didn’t need to learn multiplication because she can use a calculator and she doesn’t need to know how to spell because the student can use spell check on a computer. The parent is very upset because the child’s needs are not being met in a regular ed class (appr. 30 students–10 with disabilities) and the goals are not being addressed. My principal is mad at me (not quite sure why) and the parent wants to take legal action against the principal. What should I do?

  29. A student’s IEP states that the child has reading and mathmatics disabilities, no mention of a writing disability. There are no writing goals. The section of the IEP that states the extent to which the child will be out of the regular education setting only mentions for math and reading. This child has 3 periods of communication (English) classes a day. One period is in the general ed. classroom and 2 are in the learning support classroom. This child is receiving writing instruction in the learning support setting, although it is not mentioned as a need in the IEP. Is this a major problem? What should happen?

  30. I have been a one-on-one aide for the past 2 years with a severe and profound autisic male student. His mother is planning to place him in an institution after October. He is having medical issues that will prevent him from attending school for the first 2 weeks of school. The Central Office staff offering the mother home bound instruction until he goes to the institution. His IEP states he needs a one-on-one. He will still be on our county’s roster until he goes to the institution. The Central office staff is moving me to another student, not filling his position, and not ammending his IEP. If they do not ammend his IEP are they guilty of non-compliance of his IEP. They will be sending the certified teacher that is on his case load to the home to provide services.

  31. The principal met with mother of student to discuss inclusion services after the annual meeting held. No other personnel attended meeting. The Team had determined at annual meeting the student needed inclusion support in science, English, social studies, math. The parent did not object to this placement. The principal later told the mother that he didn’t need those services. The principal said he just needed to do his homework. Inclusion support in English, social studies and science were removed. Inclusion services were left for math only. The principal told the sped coordinator to write ammendment changing this service. I (sped teacher) spoke to the principal after I found out; the principal ignored my request for Team meeting in regards to the change in services. Is this legal? What can I do? My name is on the IEP as liasion.

  32. I am a former sped teacher, & I believe that certain accommodations are not being adequately made at my children’s school due to the school’s physical plan. It is an open school with no enclosed classrooms; during recent state tests, it was impossible to provide a testing environment with minimal distractions since there were no enclosed rooms. For students with that accommodation on their IEPs, I believe this was a disservice. (in the past there had been a portable, enclosed classroom used for Special ed, but that was reassigned this year). This accommodation doesn’t pertain to my children, but I know it does to others. Am I able to advocate for students even if my children are not affected?

  33. I am high school Inclusion Specialist in an inner-city district. Recently I have had to confront both a spec ed and a gen ed teacher–co-teaching pair, based upon the failure of 4 IEP students, w/o the implementation of IEP specified accommodations and modifications within their inclusive general education program. Initially, the teachers both claimed that they did provide accom/mods but that they were not specific to the IEP, and later had admitted that they had not differentiated the gen ed assignments until after the student had failed, or showed difficulty in the assignment. The special ed teacher believes that she was right, and that the student failures were justified. The general education teacher believes that since he provided a word bank to all the students he had done his part.

  34. once my child goes to a training center – who is legally responsible for the IEP (untill she;s21) and carrying out the goals and objectives. they dont have a special ed teacher and I guess i thought they had to have one to write and carry out IEP transition goals

  35. Whenever I speak with parents who voice frustrations over the inability or unwillingness of teachers/administrators to implement accomodations all I have ever needed to get them was the Dole v. Withers citation….Instant compliance. It is amazing how PERSONAL LIABILITY changes minds…cha-ching.

    Pam, thanks for keeping the information coming.

  36. First, get your administration on board. Second, please understand that you have a legal responsiblity to provide services and if you are a casemanager, at least in my district, you are also responsible for making sure that your team understands their legal responsibility. Don’t give up!

  37. Anne: Good luck in mediation. A successful outcome in litigation often depends on the decision-maker and if this person wants to rule in your favor. You want to make your case simple, so it is easier for them to do so.

  38. We have filed an administrative complaint against the district and the school and are going through mediation on May 19. I just want to make sure of our rights. We believe that the district is out of compliance because they took away a service written into the IEP without notice to the parents or the specialist involved and without a team meeting. We wrote numerous letters and e-mails about various complaints including this one. Also, the district OTR and COTA did not introduce three objectives written into the IEP for almost two years. Also, the OTR did not attend the triennial eval meeting even though we had scheduled it around her and only gave us notice a week before – we went ahead anyway because the OT specialist could only attend that day. They did schedule another meeting without the specialist, but since then, there has been lack of follow-up and communication on all sides.

    Happy 10th anniversary and thanks for the blog!

  39. J-
    It’s possible the IEP team met because the current IEP was about to expire and they felt that they needed to create an IEP that would not be out-of date. Your daughter probably knows the date on the last one.

    I think your daughter needs to write a letter, BRIEFLY describe what was going on (as you did), that she understands that the team met but made no changes, that she is requesting another IEP meeting to develop the IEP for next year.

    I’m very glad to hear that you attend IEP meetings with your daughter. Support and involvement by grandparents is so important.


  40. About IEP meetings –
    My daughter missed her IEP meeting for my grandaughter due to a medical emergency. I notified the school asap and let them know she could not come at the appointed time due to medical test/appointments made by her physician. We were advised a week later that they held the IEP meeting without my daughter present and made no changes. Is this legal under the circumstances? I normally attend the meetings also, but I was with my daughter. She had experienced dizziness and the inability to talk for an hour or more so her doctor ordered some test asap. I surely felt the school staff should have understood this situation and rescheduled. What do you think?

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