Jennifer’s son was on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for seven years due to a diagnosis of ADHD and an LD (learning disability) in writing and reading. During her son’s most recent team meeting, the school personnel stated they would like to remove his services since he was doing well in school. Jennifer felt that if the services were removed that her son would not continue to receive good grades.
According to the National Center for Statistics, the number of students receiving special education services has increased, from 6.4 million to 7.0 million between 2011–12 and 2017–18. The National Educational Association states that nationwide the current average per student cost in public schools is $7,552 and the average cost per special education student is an additional $9,369 per student (total average cost is $16,921 per special education student). This additional cost might be a reason school personnel would want to remove services for IEP students who are receiving high grades.
“If a child is improving and meeting goals that does not mean declassification is the answer. In my practice, 99% of the time a child’s performance improves due to the IEP services. Removing the services could lead to regression,” says Dr. Kimberly Williams, a Pediatric Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist.
When the school recommends removing your child’s IEP services, here are some suggestions to follow:
Enable Your Right to Stay Put
Many parents don’t realize that if a school tries to remove IEP services, they can enact their legal right to “stay put” which means the services must stay in place.
Under the law, parents are a member of the special education team (even though it may not feel that way at times). You can submit a letter requesting that the services “stay put” which means that the IEP cannot be removed.
Get Documents Time Stamped
Any letters such as a “stay put letter” that you submit needs to be time-stamped to prove that the school received the letter. If your case moves to mediation or due process, then you will need documentation to prove your case. If it isn’t stamped as received, school personnel can state they never received it.
Request Meeting Notes
You can request meeting notes from every IEP meeting. It is recommended that you do this for every meeting, even non-contentious ones so that you have a record of everything discussed.
Speak To Free Organizations
A Parent Training and Information Center is an organization that provides free information to parents of children with disabilities. This organization can provide you with free advice regarding the next steps to take.
By federal mandate, every state must have a Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities. Ohio’s program, Disability Rights Ohio, can be accessed at disabilityrightsohio.org or by calling 800-282-9181.
Research Non-Compliance Issues
If the school indicates a plan to remove IEP services, the school might not be providing the accommodations.
Often the district wants to declassify because the child “does not use” the IEP accommodations. This may be the fault of the school and a non-compliance issue of the district. Children may not use services because they are stigmatized and/or child may not be a good self-advocate. Using services is not the responsibility of the student, it’s the responsibility of the school team to enforce.
IEP’s Don’t Expire
An IEP does not “expire.” It remains in effect until a new one is written, or [parents and educators] agree that an IEP for specialized instruction and related services are no longer needed. If you write a “stay-put letter” then the last IEP remains in place until the disagreement with the school is resolved.
Check if the Student
Achieved the IEP Goals
Parents must ask if the IEP goals and the objectives have fully been achieved. “Almost there” or “we anticipate improvements” does not count. If goals have not been achieved an IEP cannot be terminated.
If it is determined that the IEP goals have been 100% achieved, then new goals may be necessary.
Often the IEP goals and objectives are improperly written and the means to objectively measure success is inadequate. Parents should closely review the IEP goals and, with the ssistance of an organization like Disability Rights Ohio, consider having a neuropsychologist review them.
Parents can say, “Based on the information presented, the child has not met his goals so the IEP has not been met.”
Request Additional Testing
If you don’t agree with the school’s evaluation, parents have the right to request additional testing. Parents can ask for an evaluation if one has not been completed within three years by the district. If an evaluation has been completed within three years and the parents don’t agree with the findings, then they can request that the school district provide an Independent Evaluation. Normally the parent is given a list of experts in the area and field to choose from and the amount the district will pay for the evaluation.
If your case goes to mediation or court, then they will want to see data such as official state test scores and evaluations. School grades are subjective and do not count as grounds to remove an IEP. Also, one data point (or evaluation test) is not enough evidence to remove an IEP.
Sometimes schools respond to data and evidence. A parent can research and explain that ADHD is a lifelong disorder. Although children’s symptoms can improve, as curriculum demands change, they can still require accommodations. In the situation of the student receiving an IEP for seven years that already implies longstanding needs for support and if changes must occur, it should be gradual and not all at once.
You can also provide other types of data such as a record of the number of hours, it takes to complete homework.
Parents can present information that teachers wouldn’t necessarily see, such as a log of how late a student stays up completing homework or the stress they express to parents or other trusted adults. Often, school personnel see high grades and a student well prepared for class without understanding the effort it took to achieve the grades.
Parents are a mandatory part of the IEP and so their evidence of how the student functions outside of the school is critical information that must be considered and written into the present “levels of performance” section of the plan.
Parents can state, “Based on the data presented, there is still a gap in the child’s academics/behaviors that can only be addressed through specialized supports and services.”
Try to Collaborate
with the School
It may feel challenging to work with the school, but it is important to try to reach a middle ground because that is usually the best option for your child. It is important for parents to work with their school districts. Often, the best outcomes for kids occur when parents and school districts work together in a collaborative manner. While that is not always possible, that should be the goal.
Hire An Advocate or
an Education Lawyer
If you are unable to make any progress with collaborating with the school regarding your child’s special education services, it might be necessary to hire a professional. Special education attorneys and non attorney parent advocates can highly effective. Contact the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West at 419-245-4150.