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Some psychologists say the most important human emotion is trust. As infants, we learn to trust our parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and other caregivers. As children, we build trusting relationships with friends, religious leaders and our teachers. As adults, these “social contracts”, based on mutual respect and understanding, support our relationships and every day expectations. We trust our cell phone provider to ensure service-as long as we pay the bill. We trust our first-responders to show up when we dial 9-1-1. And we trust our schools to protect and educate our children. It can be devastating to a parent when this trust is shattered.
Many parents of special needs children are worried and frightened because they believe they can no longer trust their school district. Often after years of relying on school authorities, they find that their child is in the 10th grade but still reading at a 3rd grade level. Or that their school district is now bringing lawyers to every meeting. Some school districts withhold reports and testing from parents for years. Other school districts falsify information in an attempt to hide past mistakes. Several school districts call CPS on a routine basis and hire private investigators to unnerve parents. District officials have admitted under oath that they have placed children in racially segregated classrooms where other students “look like” them. Other school districts turn a blind eye to relentless bullying and sexual harassment, even after parents have repeatedly complained. The district labels these parents as “overprotective”, “babying” or “helicopter moms”. But parents have very good reason to be vigilant when it comes to the education, safety and welfare of their children each day that they are in the school system. What should parents do when they have lost trust in their school district?
- Trust but verify.
See for yourself. Often, school officials will recommend a placement for your child that sounds perfect. Never place your child in a classroom or at a school that you have not had an opportunity to observe. Speak with the teacher about your child’s special needs. Often teachers are very helpful in explaining why their class is (or is not) appropriate for your child.
Read your child’s IEP. Never agree to a special education program or label that you don’t fully understand. It is the school district’s obligation to explain this to you. Also, you do not have to sign your agreement to the IEP under pressure. You can sign as to those portions that you agree with (like speech services for instance), and note your objection to other parts (like a segregated classroom).
Volunteer your time. Particularly in elementary school, there are lots of opportunities to be a room parent, bring in cupcakes for birthdays or holidays, volunteer for playground duty before school or during recess, or as a driver on field trips. If you cannot do any of this, appoint a relative (this is good grandma or grandpa duty) to volunteer for you. This helps to build positive relationships with the teachers and paraprofessionals.
Review school records. At least once every year, make it a habit to review your child’s entire school file. You may want to schedule this review for a week or two before the annual IEP meeting. Don’t forget to request a review of all computer-based records as well. Don’t be surprised to find other children’s information erroneously entered into your child’s file. Immediately demand that it be expunged from your child’s records. Then verify that this was done.
Do your homework. Research the school district and your child’s particular school on-line and in social media. Find out what other parents (and former students) are saying. This can sometimes help to verify school district claims.
- Don’t expect miracles. Expect results.
Special education will not provide a “cure”. The law is meant to guarantee a basic floor of services and is not designed to maximize your child’s potential. Regardless of your child’s disability, he or she should be making more than minimal progress in all areas of need. Parents must participate in the education process-they cannot trust school districts to set yearly goals and objectives on their own. Compare the IEPs from year to year to ensure that your child is making progress on goals. Then continue to set higher goals and objectives.
Do not expect the school authorities to know or understand special education law. Many parents do their homework and learn their rights-only to discover that teachers and school administrators have no idea what to do. They have not been trained in the basics of special education law and many officials have not even read (and therefore cannot follow) their own district policies and procedures. It is sometimes helpful to appeal directly to the top school psychologist or special education administrator at the school district if you are unable to resolve your concerns at the school level.
- Don’t panic–plan.
Make a habit of confirming every important promise made by the school district in writing. It can be in the form of a nice thank you note, text or email. But make sure you keep a copy for your records. One parent placed a note in her child’s file putting the district on notice that all meetings were subject to audio recording. Request a hard copy of your child’s school records (including computer-based records and standardized test scores).
Learn your rights. Start with the school district’s policies and procedures which are usually posted on its website. Then branch out from there. Seek advice from other parents, experienced advocates and when necessary, attorneys. Please check out our ADAMS ESQ website for a list of resources or like our Facebook page to receive frequent posts.
Boys Town of Las Vegas is offering a FREE 6 week “Common Sense Parenting Class” for interested families starting on September 12th. All classes are on Saturdays and will be provided in English and Spanish. Workbooks, class materials and refreshments will be provided. Click on the below link for more program details:
Common Sense Parenting Classes can help with:
* Balancing discipline with affection
* Praising your child’s good behavior
* Reducing a child’s problem behavior
* Power struggles between you and your child
* Effective communication
English Classes – September 12th, 19th, 26th & October 4th, 10th & 17th
9am – 11am
Boys Town Nevada
821 N. Mojave Rd. Las Vegas NV 89101
Please rsvp to: Jennifer@featsonv.org
Spanish Classes – September 12th, 19th, 26th & October 4th, 10th & 17th
11:30am – 1:30pm
Boys Town Nevada
821 N. Mojave Rd. Las Vegas NV 89101
Please rsvp to: Lynnette.email@example.com
(For those needing childcare please inquire about our FEAT R&R Respite program by calling: 702-368-3328)
We appreciate your continued support and referrals. ADAMS ESQ now has offices throughout California and Nevada to serve you. If you believe you may need legal assistance as your child transitions to the new school year, please contact us toll free at: 800-785-6713 or visit us on the web at:www.AdamsEsq.com.
— Jean Murrell Adams
“Making a difference…one child at a time.”
Disclaimer :The information and materials on the ADAMS ESQ newsletter do not represent the opinion of our attorneys, employees, clients, or any other viewers of our newsletters.Materials in the newsletter do not constitute legal advice.Although information is updated periodically, there is no guarantee that it is accurate, complete, or current.We recommend that all users seek the advice of their attorney before acting on any of the information available in this newsletter..