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. TEACHER OR MOTHER- Here are some words to live by when it comes to your kiddo(s)

    I am ‘that’ mom

    The one that speaks up before, during and after IEP meetings.

    The one that demands the IEP be followed.

    The one who questions everything. The one who loses sleep over needs not met.

    The one who cries over skills lost.

    The one who gives a voice to her child when they have none.

    The one who has experienced highs she’d never dreamed of and lows she would wish on no one.

    The one who sometimes dreads adult- hood instead of looking forward to it.


    Walk Down Autism Lane

    I am ‘THAT’ mom and proud of it!

    -author unknown

  2. No where in this article does it explain what an IEP is. How are we to know what your talking about when your terms aren’t clear?

  3. Nowhere in this entire article does it explain what the hell an IEP is. How can someone understand what you’re talking about when your terms aren’t clear?
    John Nichols

  4. I am a middle school special education teacher for math and science self contained students. I have been asked to talk to the general ed teachers and write progress reports and annual reviews for students that I do not know. These students have either In-classroom support or Pull-Out resource, but the para does not have certification. I am not comfortable reporting on a student I do not know.

    • As you realize this action could be a violation the ethics code for educators. I suggest a letter to the principal, and district special ed director about the request to do this without knowing the students. You are not saying that you will not do this, but that you need help in doing it, if you are required to do it. This could lead to them finding another way to do this, getting help to make you feel better about this. And it documents your concern, & request for help.. .

  5. Can a special Education teacher be used as a substitute on any given day for a general education teacher, in Arizona?

  6. Who do you contact if you work in a school district that is notorious for firing any employee who goes against them? I work at the elementary level and see all kinds of violations. IEPs not being followed; students being placed in self contained classrooms without an IEP, BIP, or FBA; students not being transitioned into gen ed from the self contained classrooms; paraeducators without any college teaching Orton Gillingham; special ed students not being recommended to be placed in a more appropriate educational setting (ie – students that need a residential setting are not being recommended for the residential setting; students not receiving services that are included in their IEPs (ie – student has a one on one aide on their IEP but there is not a one on one; a single one on one aide is assigned to several students). Students who are in dire need of an IEP are not being identified or the teachers are being ignored when they air their concerns.

    • Mary A – Sadly, you are not alone. You need to protect yourself until you can find a job in another district. The best way to protect yourself is to keep a log and write entries each time you observe an incident. A log is a simple record with the date, what you observed, and what you did or tried to do to remedy the problem.

      If you keep a log and enter events AT THE TIME THEY HAPPEN, your log is powerful evidence that will protect you and possibly help your students.

      Over the years, Pete had cases where a child was abused by adults at school. When the parents learned about the abuse, they sued the school district AND the sped director AND school board AND the teachers.

      In some cases, a teacher kept a log of what she observed. She reported her concerns to her supervisor and his response (how he was going to talk with the abuser or fire him but didn’t) so she included this in her log.

      The lawsuit was amended to remove her name. Eventually, a trial was held. The teacher was a strong witness for the (nonverbal) child (she had moved on to another district).

      In my experience, school districts that do these things don’t change – they have a negative school culture and believe the laws do not apply to them (which can be true). Try to get a job in another district or in a school that has a more positive culture.

    • This is a common practice everywhere….districts protect principals and themselves well. They care not about teachers. as far as they are concerned we are just a bunch of whinny “overpaid” college grads

  7. Julie
    I have worked in several districts and schools. The biggest obstacle has been school district administrators that blatantly ignore special education law either because of ignorance and power OR just plan power. Special Education teachers are held responsible for following the IEP BUT they are not given any authority over ensuring service are delivered. As the response indicates, little to nothing is done when a Special Education Teacher advocates for the student and law. You are trouble maker when you advocate for the child & law; yet held responsible if violations are found. It is tragic situation. Spec Ed laws while well intended are NOT legally supported.

      • Exactly what is happening in the school I work in as a teacher assistant. Children who required to have a 1:1 paraprofessional DO NOT classroom staff is short staffed and admin continues to take new enrollment regardless of health and safety issues. Teachers are not complying with IEP requirements on a daily basis and it’s hard to be a part of a system that isn’t interested of a child’s educational needs but taking funds from other districts for administration to get enormous salaries. I’ve been a teacher assistant for 20 years and can’t wait to retire!!! State agencies need to be aware of this continued problem! Not fair to all this children!

  8. This is a pretty bleak topic. There are many great sped teachers and schools, but I’ve only been one place where IEPs were actually followed. Everyplace else, people just do what they want, special education rooms become dumping grounds, students are put in placements for the convenience of the adults and not because it is the right placement for the student. Say something at your own risk. I know two teachers who were fired partly because they advocated for a disabled student. They filed a complaint with OCR, who turned out to be utterly useless. They bought that the teachers were non-retained due to declining enrollment even though enrollment had increased. It never occurred to them to actually verify the student numbers. There’s so much more. Worth doing but can end career .

  9. I’ve found myself in a bit of a pickle as a general ed teacher on following IEPs: The school refuses to show them to me, or even tell me what I’m supposed to be doing. We do not have an on-sight Sped teacher–she comes around a couple of times a month. What would be the best way to approach this?

    • This appears to be a violation of IDEA rule, 300.323(d) I suggest putting a request for this information in writing to the building principal, spec ed teacher, & special ed office.

      • Any teacher or staff who works directly with a student requiring an IEP has a right to a copy of the IEP. If a teacher is not following the IEP, the teacher not having or receiving a copy of it will not be a sufficient reason under IDEA. You would still be held accountable.

  10. My question is about vocational issues in an IEP. For years students have had vocational objectives listed in their IEP’ that we’re not addressed! In fact, few or none of these students could meet the requirements as listed in their IEP’s. It is my belief that these objectives are outcome-based! What is the remedy for the failure to provide for the successful outcomes? What legal ramifications can be pursued by parents, of a special need student, against the local school system or special education teacher?

    • This is tough to do. A successful outcome really depends on another party (an employer) ultimately giving the student a job. If the students aren’t “meeting the requirements” listed in their IEP’s that may be a different matter…but I still think it would be difficult to pursue damages – but I’m not a lawyer so what do I know?

      I think this really highlights the need for parents and guardians to take an active part in the process. I think my State has a fairly strong partnership between schools and various other State agencies helping people with disabilities find employment. But I would never consider giving them “carte blanche” over the process for my own child. We know our kids best, we need to guide the process and take advantage of available resources – IMO!

  11. I am a speech-language pathologist. My school expects me to put service minutes on the IEP that cannot be met 1 × 30 /week for each of the 50 preschool children in 12 hrs /week and I’m told by another SLP that if I am in the classroom it’s therapy. Working with one child the others will learn by osmosis? I have told my administrator but she says it is possible and has not told me how. What can I do?

  12. My child’s teacher seems to be following only parts of the accommodations from the IEP. The teacher will document on the assessments that certain accommodations were made, but there’s no way to verify it. My child has been struggling all year in subjects that were somewhat easy for him and I feel helpless because I don’t believe the accommodations are not n place properly. I’ve amended his IEP four times this year to make sure the teacher is doing what’s required to keep my child on a level playing field.
    Any advice is welcomed.

  13. I was fired from my position as a paraprofessional after I admitted that I was told and trained by my fellow paraprofessionals to not follow a non-verbal child’s IEP. I voiced my concerns about being told to lie if asked directly about not complying with the plan, and other times advocated for another student who was wheelchair bound and was left to wait in the flow of student traffic in a busy hallway. I was told in my exit interview later that I “don’t get along” with other faculty members. This has been bothering me for the few years that have passed since I was let go from this job, all of those paras are still there. Who’s looking out for the kids? what should I have done to protect them?

    • Dawn, you did nothing wrong. I was a para and have moved on to another career. I also knew I could not stay and play the game and saw too many issues and understaffing of paras. The veteran teachers protected each other and the old timer paras knew how to play the game. It can be a hard system to navigate in some districts regardless of union protection or not. If you speak up and/or ask certain questions then other staffers become intimidated and you become the target. You pointed out some important issues to them and those questions did have an impact. Consider it a blessing to be out that dysfunction. Some workers are too scared to leave and become ill. Continue to bloom where you are planted and let your light shine!! Journey on!!

      • thank you! it’s good to know it wasn’t just me. I really loved that job, though, and made a difference in some kids lives. what other careers mirror this without the drama?

        • I don’t have a specific careers in mind. I do know for myself that I establish strong boundaries and stay out of drama at work, etc. I think all jobs have drama at some level. At this stage of my life, I do my job well and go home and set boundaries. I can still make a difference and have peace in my life. In terms of special ed, I tried to keep strong boundaries with my own kids teachers, etc and collaborated and not get involved in drama at their level. It worked out quite well.

  14. I am having problems with my sons team, I know that things are not being done to follow his IEP. At the meeting though it was like they were prepared for me. I kind of felt attacked. It doesn’t help my son and I were just relocated because of domestic violence, they were trying to belittle me. Just like they are doing to my son,and he really doesn’t need this treatment! There is alot of barriers that are pretty overwhelming without the school acting like an enemy!

  15. can a school change a student IEP from in class replacement requiring the services of a special ed teacher to assisted support with a para because they don’t have a special ed teacher to cover the class?

    • The state education agency would need to answer that, but the school should have a plan to find a teacher, and ensure that the student meets their goals. And share this with the parents.

  16. In 2012 my child was deemed a voice output device with training for her and family. Her teacher, now promoted to vice principal, falsely stated my daughter had no homework so the district withheld the device. The HRC counselor stated viewing her at home doing homework. Teacher then said she get it but doesn’t do it. After years of violating FAPE the vice principal (newly principal) stated we would not receive the device as he was concerned I would not charge the device overnight. No training. 10 minutes per week in class as a whole and the speech pathologist kept it to use for the entire school. Wow, that’s certainly not in her IEP’s. The regional center just found proof of falsified IEPs and forgery of my signature. They’ve done this for 7 years. I’m lost ban from retaliation

    • Even if the child is not on the diplomas track that IEP is to be followed. The school needs to follow that because it is that child’s lifeline. What the parent of said child can do is one request an IEP meeting immediately to go over the goals, accommodations and modifications. If that does not work they can request mediation or use the office for dispute resolution. If they have too they can even go as far as due process. The parents should also contact their state and parenting training center.


  17. what happens if you’re a parent. My son has not gotten what was said promised from the get go. This year they redone his IQ testing and the school Psychologist said she did not know how he has went this far in the system with no real help?

  18. I am a teacher and my students are not receiving the social work minutes stated in the IEP. Schools have a very political environment and I am not sure how to handle the situation.

  19. I work in a school in North Carolina as a special education teacher and found out that
    one of the special education teachers has not taught any children in 8 years! Administration
    has been notified and nothing has been done. As a special education teacher I realize that
    many laws govern these children: IDEA, 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. I am now in
    an ethical dilemma as to how I am going to proceed with this. Parents need to always
    follow up with their teachers to Make sure that services are being implemented!!!

    • My child has reported that numerous times this year they didn’t do anything in their special ed pull-out class. They were permitted to just “play” on their chrome. This is a high school course. His IEP also includes baseline numbers for goals that were not even covered at any time during the school year. It is a very frustrating situation, because there have been other parent complaints, but nothing is done. Some students have complained to other teachers. I just want my son out of the class but this is the teacher that my son is scheduled to have for the next 3 years.

  20. What should I do if our own Sped teacher is NOT following the required minutes on my student’s IEP? Come to find out she has done this before! She was going to be “out sick”, and told me that I would be required to keep my student. I simply said. ” today it was fine”, but that the minutes would need to be made up later in the week. She acted as if I was out of my mind and that she had never heard of such a thing! I said, “by law you are required to give my student a certain amount of mins PER WEEK”! What should I do now???

  21. I’m an elective teacher in a unique situation, our students attend our classes for 18 weeks for 3 hrs every other day instead of 36 weeks for an 1.5 hrs. the entire year. The class is extremely accelerated and requires students to take an EOC at the end of course for potential college credit. The IEP reads the students are in 36 week class and everything is based on a year long classes. I’ve been trying to get the SPED to rewrite the IEP based on when the students are actually in class. What can I do?

  22. Hi, I’m a general education teacher and this is my 1st year to have an inclusion class. A few of the students who have IEP’s do not have accommodations they need marked. Two of the students have about 100 min with the sped teacher shared between ELA and math. The sped teacher does not teach them English during the ELA portion she only teaches them phonics and reading. These students can not do the English lessons we are doing in the regular Ed class because they are extremely low. They are in 3rd grade but probably a kindergarten or pre primer reading level. I do not know what to do. Every time I talk to the sped teacher she says ” it’s the the law”. (Her favorite statement ). What can I do?

    • I suggest talking with the principal. Depending on their response, you may want to communicate with the special ed director.

      • I am in a familiar situation. The Spec. Ed teacher is supposed to have close to 1400 minutes per week with my inclusion student. The student comes in for read alouds and PE, his goal is socialization. The Spec ed teacher, principal, and director told us that the 25% inclusion time in a gen ed classroom was minimal. I don’t see how it can be minimal if he has other goals to also meet such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and other services the child needs to receive. He was not receiving close to 300 minutes of his FAPE minutes in his Special Ed class per week. as a gen ed teacher, he was coming in for close to 40-50% of his time vs. the 25% that was in his IEP. I was also told that I couldn’t have a copy of his IEP after they amended it. I am beyond frustrated.

  23. Hi, I live in Bathusrt N.B I have a 6 year old who is in grade 1, that was left behind in his class after they were getting ready to go to Gym. Mind you this is in the morning. He had a bleeding nose and went to the bathroom to clean up, teacher did not notice. 5 min. later he open the door and nobody is there. He told me he was worried, confused and was wondering why he was left behind. Long story short. He made it to the Gym. Asked why he was left behind and was told “Sorry, I forgot” I was not notified, left a message once he was home. No call back. Bloody shirt all day. What should I do? Concerned Father

  24. I was an IEP student that graduated in 2005 and I think that school’s should be held responsible for making sure that Learning disability teachers follow IEP. I was in LD class for both English and Math and in the English class, the teacher did not follow what my IEP goals were and when I was in junior high school, the LD teacher told me that I should not take the test that is given every four years since I would test out. I later learned as an adult that school’s get money for each LD student and it make’s me furious because I am having to pay loans for stuff that I should have been taught in school.

  25. Hi I’ve heard of this happening in an elementary school by a young girl who’s brother is in special ed. Also I recently had an IEP assessment for my daughter with her school, the board of educations psychologist and speech pathologist and they said my daughters IQ is 75 and denied her special education and to continue as she is doing. My daughter is having issues in school and on the bus and about ready to get kicked off of the bus. If that happens I’ll have to transport her to school then leave work to get her to take her to daycare then back to work again. How can schools get away with this?? Help!!

  26. I’m in intervention specialist. there is a teacher who has caused lots of trouble throughout the district and continues to be moved from building to building. I seem to be her big time this year. she questions which students I’m seeing, when I’m seeing them, and where I’m seeing them. she wants something in writing explaining who I see, when I see them each day. how does she have the right to view IEP’s of children who are not in her class? she only has about three students out of my caseload of 16. please advise. administration seems to have turned on me and I can’t figure out what’s happened.

    • Hi, I am in Massachusetts and I went through the same thing when it came to my child. This one person demanding answers from the SPED dept concerning my child. Other teachers snubbed her and refused to even come to the team and IEP Meetings. She would not even respond to emails but she had her nose in everything concerning my child and didn’t even know her.It was covered up but I complained to the Dept of education. The Principal and vice P were removed along with the teacher who was so overly concerned with demanding answers. Stand your ground go to the top keep notes with dates and times, It will all fall together for you.

  27. I am a special ed teacher, our Special Ed. Director has instructed us to participate in peer reviews of students IEP files throughout the district that I have no common educational purpose for reviewing their files. Is this process legal in accordance to FERPA/HIPPA laws?

  28. Can anyone provide citations to more recent cases in which teachers or administrators have been held liable for their failure to implement IEP??

  29. Hello, I hope someone could help me. My son is in 6th grade and I have an IEP meeting coming up. He has done well in previous years with it and his teachers. This year they have him in a regular class room for 98% of the day and his grades are declining. His math level is beginning 4th grade and reading is mid 2nd. Im not sure how he has made it to 6th grade. The teacher have called me saying you don’t want your child to be the one smoking in the bathroom and that they don’t have the time to tutor him. Before he was taken out of class more and his grades were better but with it saying his level is 2nd and 4th makes me think there just pushing him through. Confused on what to do and laws and so forth.

  30. Hello, I know this a little off topic but I’m hoping someone can help me. My daughter’s father let his girlfriend take my child to see a friend who’s a preschool teacher and had her tested to see if she ready for preschool. I have full custody of my daughter and they didn’t ask for my permission. I wanted to know if it’s against the law for them to test my child. I tried talking to her father about how unethical it was, but he and his friend just called me stupid.

  31. I am growing concerned because as a case manager and their teacher, I know that certain services are not being provided, or at least not the correct amount. They send out a schedule saying Ms. X will pull Johnny 9:30-10:00 on M & W to work, but Johnny is in my class and is NEVER pulled. When I ask Ms. X for a revised schedule they say that is the correct one. Um, ok. I have voiced and documented concerns to them, as well as with admin. Admin just brushes it off like I am wrong or confused. I get a lot of “you’re young, you’re new, we know BETTER” …this is my 4th year with this district and these students and it is plain as day that these students are not receiving services per their IEP. What is my next step?

    • Because you are the case manager, it is your responsibility to see that the child is receiving services in compliance with his or her IEP. Clearly, you are concerned about the misrepresentation of service provision. If you have documented your concerns and spoken to the administration about the issue and been brushed off, perhaps you could have a conversation with the parent in which they realize that the services are not being provided. If not that, then notify disability rights in your area. It sounds like this is a systemic problem by the “we know better” comment.
      By all means, do something. Attorneys provide services for their clients, docs for their patients and educators to their students. Thank you for not looking the other way.

  32. after teaching gen ed for years I got my ma in special ed. I only taught for two years in NJ, but now i am in PA and I am suddenly, not just the teacher, but the Case Manager. All I have been doing since the first day is paperwork, bench marking is hard for me bc of all the paperwork. In Nj there was a CST leader, a LDTC, a child psychologist, etc, I never actually wrote the entire IEP myself, until this fall. My students aren’t getting the resource room attention they need because all I do is meetings and paperwork. Please advise.

    • worried, do you have paras or assistants in your room? I teach in a small district so am in same boat (teacher, cm, et al) and what I have found works best is making data charts that ANYONE could follow and fill out or that only require a simple tally or check mark for the date. It does take some legwork upfront but it has made benchmarking so much easier and i find i am able to check off data organically as it happens too.

  33. I am a 3rd grade classroom teacher in a large Title I elementary school. I am concerned because there are students in my class whose IEP’s state that they will be receiving self-contained math or language arts and this is not happening. Is this a violation of IDEA?

    • Put your concerns in writing back to school administration and the special education teacher assigned those students and ask for clarification of the services the students are suppose to receive.

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