While most of the schools in California are using remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) and 504 plans are obsolete. In fact, due to remote learning and the pandemic many students are experiencing increased problems with learning and need IEPS and 504 plans as a result. Unfortunately I have been contacted by many families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Additionally, some children who didn’t have difficulties when they were in class are having difficulties with remote learning and increased anxiety due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed. Legally the school districts must complete a student’s IEP. The pandemic does not allow them to legally abandon IEPs and 504 plans. Also until they finalize the new IEP, the district legally must comply with the existing IEP on file. Furthermore, for parents who have children who need an IEP due to the remote learning or anxiety due to the pandemic, you can still legally request an IEP for your child. Additionally, school districts must comply with the existing IEP guidelines and laws. The pandemic does not allow a school district not to comply with the IEP and 504 laws.
It should be a straight forward process if your child needs an IEP, but many school districts play games with the process because it cost them money. However, they have enough money for IEPs. It comes down to a school districts priorities and how they choose to spend their money. Therefore, don’t be afraid to demand what your child is entitled to.
In order to help you understand how severe the schools play games with the process, here is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.
The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.
Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.
However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.
Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.
This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.
This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.
Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.
As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”. How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information? I don’t know. But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives. The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults. And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?
Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.