I so wish I had a magic wand to get schools to say yes when the child clearly needs services but the schools are obviously manipulating the situation to make sure they can say no. Special education advocates know that the law is the way to get schools to change their mind. The following questions are key to making sure the school is complying with the law, and proving that they are doing so.
1. Where is the data that supports this change?
Schools are not allowed to give or take away services unless they have measurable data to support their decision. When they want to make a change based on “we think…” statements, ask for the data to back up their statement. They are not allowed to remove services based on opinions. Not even the teacher who teaches the child every day can offer their opinion as a reason to make the decision to change services. Get the data that proves the service needs to be changed.
2. Can you put this in writing?
In chapter 33 of my book, Special Ed Mom Survival Guide, I emphasize how critical it is to track EVERYTHING! If you have a conversation, if you do not have confirmation in writing, it’s as if it never happened. Schools often count on this, changing the story down the line when you really need them to back you up. When they are telling you something that does not jive with the law or your intuition, ask them to put it in writing. Also make sure you keep track of all this writing in your IEP Binder.
For example, if they say they cannot provide your child extra support in a class because they do not have para-educators in general education classes, ask for that statement in writing. You see, if they know it goes against the law, they will refuse to write it down. They know they will can get in trouble if they have a written statement that goes against providing your child FAPE.
3. Where is the policy that states this rule?
If they tell you it is not their policy, rule, or law to do what you are requesting, ask for the policy in writing and what governing agency created the policy. Sometimes the district will have a written policy, but you should verify it against state and federal law. Just because the district put it in writing doesn’t mean they are following the law. If they say it is a state or federal law, ask them for the number and entity who created law. If it is based off case law, ask them for the case name.
So just remember D-W-P: Data, Writing, Policy
These three questions help you navigate the school’s manipulation and ensure they are complying with the law.