There aren’t many things that make me feel as physically ill as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. I always hope to go in and get the help my sons need but it tends to feel like the school has other ideas. I understand that everything my boys need costs money and resources; I try to understand where the school is coming from.But my kids deserve an education just like anybody else. Before every one of these meetings, I try very hard to believe that the school district has my sons’ best interest at heart. After the meeting is over, though, I am always dismayed by what’s gone on.
AJ’s last meeting was especially bad. I had his BCBA with me and we were talking about all the progress he’s made at home and the school basically didn’t believe us. I had all kinds of documentation and we had tests performed using the exact same standards the school uses, but they still didn’t accept any of it. They wanted to leave AJ back a year because he’s falling behind and supposedly doesn’t do his work. There was no talk of how to catch AJ back up or why he’s not getting assignments done that he can routinely do (and do correctly, without supervision) at home. I am not proud of this, but I will admit that there was some name calling. Finally, I had heard enough. I stood up and told the school that we were either going to have another meeting or I was going to report them for several FAPE (free and appropriate public education) violations. Of course, they immediately agreed to another meeting. When I walked out the door, I felt like a character in a movie—the guy who gets an anonymous call for a meeting where answers to all his questions will be revealed, but when he gets there, it’s clearthat it is a complete setup; the guy is ambushed and shot a bunch of times. It was that bad.
That was when I called a lawyer.
We had the new meeting yesterday. The school knew I had counsel coming this time and they were already in the room when we walked in (hello—violation!) but I forced myself to keep an open mind. That’s when something really weird happened: the meeting went fine.I would ask for something and they would ask for justification. I would provide documentation and they would agree. Then we would add the language to the IEP. Mind you, I was asking for the same things as last time and it was the same documentation as last time. It was like being in the twilight zone. Apparently, when you do these things in front of a $300 an hour lawyer, all of a sudden your requests are completely reasonable. We walked out of the meeting with every single thing that AJ needs to finish the year on grade level and move up with the rest of the kids in his class.
I truly hate that it came to this. I like his teacher and I know that it isn’t all her fault that things have gone so poorly this year. His support services just weren’t where they needed to be and she can only do so much with each child. I am truly hopeful that we can all just wipe the slate clean now and give AJ a real chance to succeed.