IEP Uh Oh or OK

By Fran Goldfarb

What do you do if thereís a problem?  Problems with IEPs can take several forms.

One type of problem is scheduling an IEP.  For an initial or three-year IEP, the district has 15 days to devise an assessment plan and 50 days from the receipt of your signature on the assessment plan to do the testing, write the report and hold the IEP.  If it takes longer than that, the district is out of compliance.  To help the district stay within the timeline, request the IEP in writing.  If 50 days have passed and nothing has happened, again contact the school district in writing (a certified letter is a good idea and keep the dated receipt) and ask that they respond to you in writing as to the timeline.  You have the option of filing a compliance complaint if the district is out of compliance.

The second type of problem is disagreeing with the assessment.  If you feel that the assessment is inaccurate or incomplete, you can seek an independent assessment at public expense.  Once again, please explain your concerns in writing and inform the district of your plans to seek an independent assessment.

The third type of disagreement is with the placement or services your child receives.  If you disagree with your childís IEP, you do not have to sign it, or you can sign that the IEP was held but you disagree with the plan offered.  If this is the case, you have several options: 1) You can appeal the plan.  If you appeal, you will most likely meet with the same people but you can offer new information or listen to new information offered by the district and see if you can reach an agreement. 2) You can ask for mediation. If you request mediation, a neutral mediator (trained by the state) will sit down with you and the district representatives and try to reach a mutually acceptable solution.  Many people who go into mediation choose to work with an advocate. 3) The third option is due process.  In this option you will meet with a hearing officer and both sides will present their case and the hearing officer will decide on the outcome.  Anyone going into due process should have an advocate or an attorney.  Many times the hearing officer will require that mediation be tried before going into a hearing.

If you agree with most of an IEP, but disagree with one or two sections, you can sign off on what you agree with, but note that you do not agree with everything.  This way your child can receive the uncontested services while you are working on the other ones.

 The fourth type of problem is when you have an acceptable IEP, but it isnít being implemented.  Maybe you are told that there is a waiting list for that service.  This is not acceptable.  This is an issue of compliance.  A compliance complaint is filed with the California State Department of Education (CDE) and is then investigated by the CDE.  If the CDE finds that the district is "out of compliance" it will order it back into compliance and may ask it to submit a plan describing what the district will do to rectify this problem.

 Remember, anytime you have a concern submit it in writing and ask for a written reply.  You are trying to establish a paper trail and if it isnít on paper you have no way of proving that the conversation took place.

[For more on IEPs from Coleen Tomko's perspective, click here.]

[For the all-important views of Dr. Seuss on this subject, click here.]

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