Resolving Parent-School Disputes – Write a Letter

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I attended the first IEP meeting for my child.  I don’t agree with the school’s proposed IEP.  What should I do?

Before the school can place your child in a special education program for the first time, you must give your informed consent. Check the statute and regulations about consent: 20 U.S.C. 1414(a)(1)(D); 34 C.F.R. 300.300.

If you disagree with the school’s proposed program, you should not consent to the IEP. To eliminate misunderstandings, always describe your concerns and objections in writing.

You have the right to disagree with the school about your child’s needs, appropriate services, educational placements, and other issues. You can negotiate, and try to resolve your dispute informally through the IEP process.

Request another IEP meeting to discuss other solutions. Write a “Letter to the Stranger” that describes your child’s history and your concerns.

Writing the “Letter to the Stranger”

This is the “Letter to the Stranger” by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright that was originally posted on the ADD Forum. Learn how to make requests that make decision-makers want to help. Meet the pipe-smoking stranger who is looking over your shoulder when you put pen to paper.

Once you have described your concerns in this letter, you can discuss your concerns with the school members of the team.  Try to reach an agreement.

The agreement may be temporary.

For example, you and the school may agree to try a program or placement for a specified period of time, and meet a few weeks later to discuss how your child is doing.

We advise trying to resolve the dispute informally through negotiating with the school.

If you disagree with the team’s plan, you do have other options for resolving disputes –  requesting mediation, filing a complaint with the state department of education, requesting a due process hearing.  We’ll save these for another post.

You will find more FAQs in an entire chapter about Resolving Parent-School Disputes in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs, Chapter 14.

  1. When the parents that I advocate for challenge placement when the district denies homebound services, and if need be remove their student from the school, based on the physician’s recommendation due to the negative impact that going to school will have on the student’s health, the district charges the parents with truancy. How is this fair? How is it legal? They are violating the procedural safeguards, making unilateral decisions, and even committing medical neglect, but no one seems to care that the student’s health and mental state are steadily deteriorating while the school is rampant and unapologetic in its violations. So, writing a letter does not help when there is no desire to act in the best interest of the child and school districts lawyer up; then the lawyers run the meetings and overrule the doctor’s recommendations.

  2. W have disagreed with the IEP and have not been able to come to any compromise. The school says they will do what they see fit. The information we have brought to the table has been consistently ignored by the school and they say their information is what they will work from.. They will not take into consideration anything my son’s therapist or psychologist have told them. We have spent $30,000 on lawyers and nothing has happened that has been positive or productive for my son.. The school refused to bring in an impartial facilitator for the IEP meeting, and says they do not “do negotiation.” We are not part of this IEP team, and our lawyer only says that unfortunately the system is broken. My son is going back into a severe depression, and will not attend classes. Now what?

  3. As usual, make sure you are aware of your rights/safeguards as a parent too. If you disagree with the IEP, that doesn’t mean you are revoking consent to special education as you revoke pretty much all of your IDEA safeguards when you do. Just remember reaching an agreement may take longer than one meeting or one day, so take advantage of the 10 day notice requirement to think about proposed changes to an IEP or placement.

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