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A Pediatrician Has Questions about Special Ed – Can You Help?

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As a pediatrician, I get all kinds of questions from my patients.  Can you help me answer these two questions about special education?

1. A teacher wants to sit in on the IEP meetings as the student (family’s) advocate (not as a county employee). Can the school system refuse to allow this, saying it is a conflict of interest?

I think there is a legal answer and a practical answer…

Legal answer: The parents and school district can invite individuals with knowledge or expertise about the child to be members of the IEP team. The decision about who has knowledge or expertise is made by the parents or school district. The law does not allow the other side to veto this decision.

Practical answer: The parents, not the school, invited the teacher to attend.

School districts are intolerant of employees they view as “disobedient” or “free-thinking”. The teacher risks losing her job if she makes a decision to advocate. If she is fired, she is like a whistle-blower. Years later, she may (or may not) be honored for taking a stand and doing the right thing. But that won’t pay her rent, put food on the table, or her childcare expenses over the years.

When a teacher acts as an advocate, they must expect fallout and perhaps lose their jobs. The teacher needs to document everything conveyed to her in letters and a log.

A similar situation happened in Oregon in the Pamella Settlegoode case. A teacher was fired for advocating for her students. Ultimately, a jury awarded her one million dollars because the school violated her rights under Section 504. Most people don’t have the stomach for litigation, nor a husband who is a federal court litigator.

2. Are charter or Choice schools required to provide all the accommodations in an IEP or 504 Plan?

I think charter schools have to provide accommodations in IEPs and Section 504 Plans because they are publicly funded entities. If they refuse, this would be discrimination.

From Wrightslaw: The Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) published Q & A documents that answer questions about the rights of students with disabilities who attend public charter schools under Section 504 and IDEA.

Feast your eyes and download!

Section 504 Charter School Guidance
IDEA Charter School Guidance
Know Your Rights in Charter Schools



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