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Monday, February 28, 2011

Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Lawless Renegade”

Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Lawless Renegade”

Published on May 13, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Lawless Renegade”

IEP Team Meetings can and should include a wide range of educational professionals. Unfortunately, every once in a while they include a “lawless renegade.” This is a person who either does not know about, or does not care about, the school district’s legal obligations under federal and state special education laws. Scarier still are those who think they know about the IDEA, but really, really don’t.

The Lawless Renegade is prone to making grand proclamations about a child with special education needs or their program which fly in the face of the IDEA.

Some of the more astounding examples that I’ve encountered:

• When I pointed out at the end of the school year that the 1:1 paraprofessional support that had been agreed upon and was written into the IEP was not happening, the school principal loudly states “I make the decisions in this building and I will not allow another adult into that classroom.”

• Upon notifying the school district that the parent is extremely concerned about their child, who has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, the school psychologist states: “oh, well, Asperger’s is the new ADD, everybody has it now!”

• After asking why my client’s standardized test scores in math are extremely low, I am informed that I should not be alarmed by this because “all of the kids in this district have low math scores because we give them all a calculator in third grade.”

A tell tale sign that you are dealing with a lawless renegade is that the special education director, or their attorney, is jumping in to “rephrase” what they have said.

I have to admit it, I LOVE attending IEP meetings with lawless renegades. I especially love repeating back to them what they’ve just said and watching the reactions of the people on the Team who know better. I will just calmly say: “So let me just make sure I understand you correctly, okay? You’re saying that you will agree to do the evaluation that the parents are requesting, but you can tell us right now that the IEP will not change regardless of the results?” And, confident as can be, the lawless renegade will say: “that is EXACTLY what I am saying.” Me: “okay, great, thank you, can you just make sure you include that in the minutes?”

As one of my clients once said about one of my favorite repeat-offender lawless renegades: “he’s clueless and he’s vocal about it.”

What isn’t funny, though, is that most of the time these people are making statements to parents who are not special education lawyers, and who don’t know that the IDEA is being violated. Worse still are cases when the lawless renegade IS the Special Education Director, which does happen.

My advice for how to handle lawless renegades? Either tape record your IEP meetings (with their knowledge) or take copious notes, and then send a letter documenting what happened.

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