I’m not a parent yet, but if I’m lucky enough to have kids, it’s very likely that they’ll have dyslexia, like I and quite a few members of my family do. Since I tend to think ahead, when I see court cases like the recent Doug C. v Hawaii, I feel the need to look further into the subject.
What happened in this case was that the school district Doug’s son, Spencer, attended held an IEP meeting without Doug, Spencer or a representative from Spencer’s current school in attendance. It happened, because Doug grew too ill to attend the original meeting, and couldn’t guarantee that he’d be able to make the secondary date the school scheduled. Because the school felt it was under a time crunch, it prioritized the availability of its staff over the availability of Doug and anyone else who could represent the student.
Doug then followed the process he should have – he requested a due process hearing. He lost that, so he moved on to appeal the decision with the US District Court, which upheld the hearing’s decision. He then moved on to a step just below the US Supreme Court – the US Court of Appeals, which finally validated his right as a parent to attend his son’s IEP meeting.
In short, the final decision clarified that when it comes down to a question of scheduling, it’s the parent’savailability that trumps all else.
However, the more I read about IEP meetings, the more intimidating they sound. I found at least one case in which the parents and their student advocate walked out because the school district had included their attorney in the meeting. By walking out, the parents waived their right to being present, so the meeting went on without them, and the resulting IEP was considered valid.
I’ve also found cases where the board gave parents next to no notice on when the meeting was going to be, and quite a few accounts of parents feeling intimidated into making choices that may not have been the best for their kids.
There are some state laws geared towards hopefully making the process a little less painful for parents, like this new one in Florida. It dictates that there must be at least a 10 day notice of the scheduled meeting and that the school can’t put the student on a special education diploma program without the parent’s express permission, amongst other things.
Since there is only so many protections that the federal government gives, everyone needs to check with their state to see what laws are in effect for IEP and accommodations. If you would like the help of an advocate, COPAA, or Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, looks like a good resource.
If you do decide to bring in an advocate or your attorney to the meeting, don’t be surprised if the district brings one in of their own. Instead of leaving in protest, use that lawyer as a resource for any legal questions brought up during the course of the meeting.
If anyone would like to share their experiences or advice for fellow parents, feel free to comment, either on this entry or on Facebook. The more information and life experience we share, the better.