By Doug Goldberg
May 3, 2015
Every year there is one IEP meeting where, no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep my emotions in check. I work as an advocate in one of the largest school districts in the country where, in my opinion, the administrative designees have limited authority to bind the district and to consider the requests of the parents. While this would mean the IEP is invalid, it is very difficult to prove.
I encounter three types of administrative designees in IEP meetings:
- The tortured soul – This is the administrative designee that really wants to help but is stuck between doing what’s right for the child and keeping her employer happy;
- The smiley face – This is the administrative designee that remains smiling throughout the entire meeting and is all business. They have a job to do and want to get that job done as quickly and painlessly as possible; and,
- The intimidator – This is the administrative designee that runs the IEP meeting with an iron fist. Their demeanor is sour and threatening and is meant to limit input from the parents. In my case, this is the rarest of administrator, but at least once a year I meet one.
With most of the year behind us, and too many IEP meetings to count, I finally met with this year’s “Intimidator”. This year’s run-in had to do with predetermination.
Predetermination means that the school makes unilateral decisions prior to an IEP meeting, and then refuses to listen to parental input during the meeting. In my most recent experience, the Intimidator had been directed by the school district to offer a predetermined service.
How do I know this? The Intimidator told us in the meeting!
After which, the parent and I were accused of being non-collaborative with the IEP Team when we would not accept the predetermined offer and tried to add our input into the decision. When we pointed out that you can’t be collaborative if the team decisions are already set in stone, it was suggested by the Intimidator that we end the meeting. Not being easily intimidated, we choose to stay and finish.
So what do you do if the school has already decided, or predetermined, what placement or services will be offered?
Most likely you are going to want to file for due process. Parents cannot force the school to allow you to participate if they adamantly refuse. You should speak to an experienced special education advocate or attorney to determine if you have enough evidence to prove predetermination.
Predetermination can be proven by:
- The school district making few if any substantial changes reflecting parent input from the draft ones they provide;
- The school district having a pattern of doing the same IEP categorically, or maybe just at a specific school;
- The school district failing to identify any substantive reason or data in the prior written notice given the parent for refusing parent requests; or,
- Recorded admissions that this is the way it is going to be, whether the parent likes it or not.
Due process is an important part of the procedural safeguards, which is why the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has it in place for parents to protect the rights of their children with disabilities. Don’t be afraid to exercise those rights in the face of predetermination or other violations!