Friday, June 12, 2009

When schools interfere with parents

Do schools have the right to interfere with a parent's inquiry into a student's educational progress?

Parents turn over their children to schools for major parts of a kid's life. We expect them to educate our children and to be fair in their treatment and decisions involving the students.

What happens when a staff person at a school interferes with a parent who is seeking information about the services required to be provided to his student?

In my case, I am the ex-step-parent of a 20-year-old student in the Age 18-21 Transition Program here in Woodstock. I say "ex-step-parent", because his mother and I divorced nine years ago. I'm sure the District would prefer that I would had abandoned him and left Woodstock in 2000, but I didn't. For all practical purposes I'm his dad.

For legal purposes he signed a very broad Authorization recently that permits the school district to give me anything I ask for in terms of records and reports about the school year. It was unlimited in scope. It did not give me the authority to make any changes in his Individualized Education Program (IEP), but I could get the reports which were not presented at the Annual Review required of every IEP.

One week before the IEP I requested the reports, in order to study them and be able to ask questions. Not only did I not receive the reports, I didn't even receive an acknowledgement of my request!

At the IEP the Case Manager's supervisor ran the meeting and jumped right over any discussion of what had transpired during the past nine months.

After the meeting the Authorization was presented to the school district and I requested the missing reports. And so what happened?

The student got called into the Case Manager's supervisor's office and asked if he really wanted me to have what I was asking for! How's that for undermining a parent's role in a student's life??? What she should have done was provide the information. His Authorization was complete.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a school district cannot unilaterally refuse or fail to provide a service or program of instruction that the IEP Team has agreed to.

In this case the student refused to participate in a special reading program. I don't have all the details about it yet, but I understand that it was well below his reading level, rather than being structured to advance his reading level. They should have selected an appropriate program and administered it correctly. And then, if he still refused, an IEP meeting should have been called to discuss the problems. As a last resort, the program could have been removed from the IEP.

But a school cannot just decide, on its own, to drop a program that is in the IEP. And that's exactly what they did.

I'm not done with my complaint about the actions of the district's special education administrative supervisor in this case. We're going to get to the bottom of it, and in a way that such an action is never repeated.

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