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The Contentious IEP Meeting

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1 The Contentious IEP Meeting
Preparing for and Conducting a Legally Compliant IEP Meeting Juliann Greene

2 Objectives Highlight laws which guide our special education practices
Clarify models to resolve complaints Identify useful and objective strategies to be prepared for all IEP meetings

3 Parent participation, it’s the law.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL ) Active Parent Participation (a right to participate) 1st law to guarantee Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

4 Parent participation, it’s the law.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) developed in 1990 “Handicapped child”“child with a disability” LRE less subjective – maximum extent appropriate . . .educated with children without disabilities Schools + parents to collaborate in development of IEP

5 Collaboration Defined (Friend and Cook, 2003)
A style of direct interaction Between at least 2 co-equal parties Engaged voluntarily in shared decision-making Work towards a common goal for students

6 3 Formal Procedures for Resolving Disputes (IDEA)
Due process hearing, mediation, and formal complaints Reactive in nature there are serious limitations to each.

7 Due Process Hearing District and family participate in a legal procedure Focus on the evaluation and resolution of an issue of dispute Includes standard elements of discovery, presentation of evidence, sworn testimony including expert witnesses, and cross examination are presented in front of a hearing officer Hearing officer acts as a judge, objectively listens . . .decisions strictly adhere to the law Costs accrued per hearing can range between $50,000 to $100,000 (CADRE, 2008) School districts across the United States spend more than $90 million a year in conflict resolutions (CADRE, 2008) Due process is costly, combative, and leaves the resolution to an outsider.

8 Mediation Mediation = first step to due process hearing requests
Potential alternative to due process procedures Often offered after due process is threatened May be viewed as a procedural delay to obtaining a formal hearing Attorneys are allowed to attend mediations (argumentative strategies)

9 Formal Complaint “Resolution Sessions” (IDEA 2004)
Formal procedure – offered after written due process complaint LEA, parents, and all relevant school staff to meet (<15 days of receiving notice) of a due process complaint Without the presence of an attorney Intention is to give the LEA an opportunity to resolve the dispute that is the basis for the complaint

10 Outside Facilitator Paid facilitator (outside) assists with the overall organization of and conduct at the IEP meeting Objectively maintaining order and focus during the meeting. Provided at no cost to the family Often less expensive for the district than going through a due process or mediation Facilitators ensure that IDEA regulations and IEP procedures are followed, all team members are able to participate, and the group remains on task

11 Stephen Covey (1989) “Seek first to understand . . .
then to be understood.” Perspective Activity – look at the next page, be prepared to discuss what you see.



14 Where are these disagreements coming from? Perceptions of the problem . . .
Families of children diagnosed with autism were interviewed (all had negative initial experiences) . . .treated with more respect when brought an advocate (Fish 2006). Couples of children with autism were interviewed Initial eligibility/IEP meetings: confused, lost, couldn't process all of the information (Stoner et al 2005)

15 More parent perceptions . . .
Parents of students receiving special education services reported. . . overall IEP experiences were viewed as positive. Input valued, treated with respect, equal decision makers (Fish, 2008). Increased family satisfaction with increased collaboration – student centered IEP (Childre & Chambers, 2005)

16 More parent perceptions . . . room for improvement (language)
Families with language barriers (Spanish, Chinese, and Korean) All indicated feeling isolated during meetings LEA meet with interpreters before the meeting to review special education terminology Educators to speak in short sentences, accurate translation LEA educate families on how to prepare for IEP meetings (Salas, 2004; Lo, 2008, Cho & Gannotti 2006)

17 Teacher and Parent perceptions
Teachers expressed more positive perceptions of the IEP process than parents (when both parties asked the same questions). (Simon 2006). How parents can improve the IEP process (Fish 2006): - taking the initiative to educate themselves about special education issues, law and the IEP process. -be persistent in requesting needed services for their child -speak up during meetings, and be unafraid to ask questions and make suggestions.

18 Parents and Educators . . .same vision
We share the same goal – the best education possible for the child Understand perspectives of the “other side” Open communication, research based and effective intervention practices, and an individualized service delivery model that meets the child’s needs.

19 Reframing (Childre & Chambers, 2005; Esquivel, Ryan, & Bonner, 2008; Weishaar, 2010).
Share knowledge of the child as an individual and avoid defining the child by his disability Describe the child as having unique needs, abilities, interests and weaknesses Strength-based IEPs emphasize reframing : new perspective and vocabulary “Unable to read”  “follows along attentively while the class reads aloud.” Describe the behavior in observable terms rather than as the personality of the student “He is violent and a danger to his peers,”  “he threw a chair at another student.” Intent of reframing is not to be dishonest about a student, but to look for strengths in the characteristic.

20 Reframing Activity Choose one student with a disability from your class. Write a list of five terms or phrases you use to describe this child with disabilities. Now make a list of five positive attributes (“Can” statements) to relate to each term or phrase you listed. Try reframing by using these phrases for the next IEP meeting.

21 A good idea for all IEP meetings . . .
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin

22 Preparing and Staffing Before the IEP Meeting
Good preparation is the most important means of avoiding a conflicted and tense meeting and increasing the odds of a positive outcome. School staff faced with a potentially contentious IEP meeting must prepare for the meeting in an organized manner.

23 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.)
Anticipate and identify issues most likely to create conflict between the school and the parents Often clear . . .change of placements, informal statements to staff about a general education teacher not making required accommodations If unclear Investigate (call, ask, review previous IEP conference notes/parent input)

H.B.v. Las Virgenes Unified School District (Student returning to district from private school placement) “Predetermination occurs when an educational agency has made its determination prior to the IEP meeting, including when it presents one placement option at a meeting and is unwilling to consider other alternatives.” “School district violates IDEA procedures if it independently develops and IEP without meaningful parental participation, then presents it to the parent.” “Although an educational agency is not required to accede to parents’ desired placement, it must maintain an open mind about placement decisions and be willing to consider placement proposed by the parents.”

25 PRE-DETERMINATION (Learning from others’ mistakes . . .)
T.P v. Mamaroneck Union Free School District (2nd Cir. 2009). District’s autism expert reviewed outside evaluation, prepared chart comparing her evaluation results with the outside evaluators . . .ruling for district, no pre-determination because parents actively participated in the meeting. Deal v. Hamilton County Board of Education (6th Cir. 2004). The district “pre-determined” that a child with autism would not be provided with an ABA program Yell and Drasgow (2000) evaluated due process hearings and revealed that the quality of collaboration is significant (parents need to be equal participants). Many districts made procedural errors by not making parents equal partners in the IEP.

26 Avoiding Pre-Determination . . .
Doyle v. Arlington County School Board (E.D. Va. 1992) “School officials must come to the IEP meeting with an open mind. But this does not mean that they should come to the IEP table with a blank mind. . .it can, and should, have given some thought to that placement.” IDEA principle of parent participation means parents have meaningful and full participation as partners in decision making/development of IEP

27 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.)
Preparatory activities O.K. (informal, unscheduled conversations involving public agency personnel – methodology, lesson plans, coordination of services, response to parent proposal that will be discussed at a later meeting) Brainstorm and develop a variety of options for anticipated issues Each option must represent different means of reaching the same result FAPE

28 3 Components of the IEP process
Preparation Presentation Documentation

29 Preparation Practice reframing (Weishaar, 2010)
Talk to parents when arranging an IEP meeting: -purpose -how to prepare (review current IEP, think about priorities, school concerns . . .) -free to bring someone -any concerns the school should be aware of Suggested use of parent checklist (pre-meeting)

30 Sample parent checklist -can be sent home before IEP meeting (Kroth and Edge, 1997)
How to get ready: Make a list of questions and concerns Ask your child if he has any questions for the teacher Arrange for a babysitter for small children Questions you may want to ask: What subjects does my child do well in/struggle? Does my child get along with others? Does my child listen to the teacher? How can I help at home? Questions you may be asked: What does your child like about school? What type of discipline works well at home? (Brainstorm these questions with the IEP teams in your school)

31 Sample parent checklist -can be sent home before IEP meeting (cont
Sample parent checklist -can be sent home before IEP meeting (cont.)(Kroth and Edge, 1997) The day of the conference: Arrive on time. Bring a pen and paper to take notes. Share information regarding your child’s strengths and your concerns. After the conference: Talk to your child about the conference. Follow up with the teacher. Put IEP in a safe place (or file) for future reference.

32 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont
Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.) (Fish, 2008; Klor, 2007; Simon, 2006; Weishaar, 2010) Drafts are OK Share draft goals in advance when possible Make changes to the draft at the meeting in response to parents’ input Clearly mark goals as “Draft”, “Draft subject to IEP discussion” . . .indicate the document is a work in progress until the meeting/parent input is obtained

33 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.) DATA, DATA, DATA
If a parent perceives that the behavior of a child with and emotional disorder has deteriorated, and believes that this is due to a lack of appropriate training of the teacher on behavior supports, Then campus data on the day to day behaviors should be collected, categorized and studied carefully against older data. Close study of the data may reveal that the patterns of behavior are similar to past years, or patterns of increased or decreased frequency can be identified … allowing the dispute to be resolved informally and peacefully.

34 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.)
Ensure attendance of all IEP team members and participants (IDEA) -Parents -General education teacher -Special education teacher -LEA Representative (ie. administrative or supervisory representative strongly recommended-knowledge about curriculum and resources) -Other individuals (at the discretion of parent or school . . .including related service personnel) -Child with disability, when appropriate Ensure appropriate site for the meeting

35 Preparing before an IEP meeting (cont.) (Klor, 2007)
Reasonable time limits; write times in the IEP meeting notice Meetings that last for several hours can work against collaborative approach that IDEA seeks to promote during meetings. Tempers can flair, mistakes can be made Set reasonable time limits (all participants can schedule day accordingly) At the beginning of meeting, restate limits, and indicate when time is close, team can press to finish or reconvene at earliest convenience.

36 Presentation at an IEP meeting: (Klor, 2007; Wieshaar, 2006)
Use an agenda Nametags/introductions Seat parent next to note taker (avoid distraction) Provide the parent with paper/pen to take notes Be respectful, avoid calling parents “mom”, “dad”, don’t describe child as “kid” Ask parents often if they have any questions (not at the end). Ask input regarding goals/priorities. Discuss what the child can do and will be able to do

37 Documentation (Weishaar, 2010)
Make changes to draft at meeting Take time to review private evaluation data Focus documentation on what the child can do now, and what the child will be able to do. (Difficult to be accountable when there is no clear statement of what the child can do prior to intervention) Documentation should be in observable, measurable statements. Decisions should stress careful planning If you run out of time . . .reconvene (rushing leads to errors and potential conflict).

38 A well run IEP meeting Both parties come to the meeting prepared to discuss the student’s education Reduces conflict Reduces teacher and parent anxiety Breeds respect May shorten meetings Positively impacts parents’ perceptions of schools

39 Dealing with difficult moments
Preventing a meeting from deteriorating is easier than getting it back on track once it has fallen apart Take a break Remind participants of the need for collaborative attitudes Remind team members that disagreement can and must be resolved Focus: problem solving task/planning for resolution


41 Dealing with difficult moments
Restate, out-loud, the specific area of disagreement Keep the meeting moving (avoid side discussions, refer to agenda, suggest parent meet with individual privately about side issues) Allocate staff members with specific tasks/timelines Even difficult meetings should close on a positive note

42 General rule for schools:
Don’t let the meeting conclude in non-consensus unless: It is worth fighting over The school’s position is legally defensible School staff is unsafe

43 What if we can’t agree? The IEP team should work towards general agreement, but if it is not able to do so, it is the school district which must determine the appropriate services. The school district must provide the parent with prior written notice of the school district’s determination regarding the student’s educational program and the parent’s right to seek a resolution (due process hearing, mediation, and formal state complaints.) Letter to Richards, 55 IDELR 107(OSEP, 2010)

44 Post-meeting planning
Follow up with all professionals . . .make sure no one is confused about “who is going to do what” Deadlines for task implementation Monitoring duties/schedule Document issues for follow-up meetings

45 Stephen Covey: Circles of Influence and Control (1989)
Proactive: being “response-able”; take responsibility for your life and choices Reactive: impacted by physical environment; external forces predict outcome Circle of influence: focus on the things you can do something about (health, children, problems at work) Circle of concern: focus on conditions where you have no control (weather, economy, administrative changes, other teachers behavior) You can increase your circle of influence and decrease your circle of concerns by being proactive Activity


47 References Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE), (2008). Part B – Three year annual report summaries for written complaints, mediations and due process. Eugene, OR: Author. Childe, A. & Chambers, C. (2005). Family perceptions of student centered planning and IEP meetings. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 40(3), Cho, S. & Gannotti, M. (2005). Korean-American mothers’ perception of professional support in early intervention and special education programs. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 2(1) 1-9. Covey, S. (1989). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York: Simon and Schuster. Esquivel, S., Ryan, C. and Bonner, M. (2008). Involved parents’ perceptions of their experiences in school-based team meetings. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 18(3), Fish, W. (2008). The IEP meeting: perceptions of parents of students who receive special education services. Preventing School Failure, 53(1), 8-14. Fish, W. (2006). Perceptions of parents of students with autism towards the IEP meeting: A case study of on family support group chapter. Education, 127(1), Friend, M., & Cook, L. (2003). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (4th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Hardman, M. & Dawson, S. (2008). The impact of federal public policy on curriculum and instruction for students with disabilities in the general classroom. Preventing School Failure, 52(2), 5-10.

48 References (cont.) Klor, G. (2007). Leading successful IEP teams: A guide to managing the people and the process. Horsham, Pennsylvania: LRP Publications. Kroth, R., & Edge, D. (1997). Strategies for Communicating with Parents of Exceptional Children: Improving Parent-teacher Relationships. Denver, CO: Love Publishing Company. Lo, L. (2008). Chinese families’ level of participation and experiences in IEP meetings. Preventing School Failure, 53(1), Mueller, T. (2009). IEP Facilitation: A promising approach to resolving conflicts between families and school: Council for Exceptional Children, Salas, L. (2004). Individualized educational plan (IEP) meetings and Mexican American parents: Let’s talk about it. Journal of Latinos and Education 3(3), Simon, J. (2006). Perceptions of the IEP requirement. Teacher Education and Special Education, 29(4), Stoner, J. B., Bock, S. J., Thomson, J. R., Angell, M. E., Heyl, B.S., and Crowley, E. P. (2005). Welcome to our world: Parent perceptions of interactions between parents of young children with ASD and education professionals. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20(1), Weishaar, P. (2010). Twelve ways to incorporate strengths-based planning into the IEP process. The Clearing House, 83, Yell, M. & Drasgow, E. (2000). Litigating a free appropriate public education: The Lovaas hearings and cases. The Journal of Special Education, 33(4),

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