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Monday, February 28, 2011

Unseemly IEP Team Members: “The Regular Education Teacher Who Doesn’t Want to Be There”

Unseemly IEP Team Members: “The Regular Education Teacher Who Doesn’t Want to Be There”

Published on May 8, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Regular Education Teacher Who Doesn’t Want To Be There”

The IDEA requires that an IEP Team include a “regular education” teacher if inclusion within the general education environment is part of the child’s anticipated program. Therefore, school districts will invite a regular education teacher to the meeting to make sure that the IEP Team Meeting is duly constituted, as required by law. This can sometimes mean that a teacher who has had no involvement in the child’s special education program is invited to the meeting to meet those requirements. Sadly, the attitude of a lot of these teachers is a combination of ambivalence and disdain.

Sometimes, these teachers will even ask if they can be “excused” from the meeting after being there for the preliminaries and introductions.

The message parents of children with special education needs receive from this kind of behavior is loud and clear: “your child is not as important as the other things I would rather be doing right now.” It is so unfortunate that such attitudes serve to further ostracize and polarize children with disabilities, and their parents, from the larger school community.

The reason the law requires regular education teachers to participate in IEP meetings is, in large part, to give the Team information about programming within the general education environment which might be useful when it plans for a child with special needs.

If the teacher who is charged with that role attends the meeting as a token representative, rather than a fully participating member of the Team, then that legal requirement has been met only in letter, but not spirit.

Having attended many IEP meetings on behalf of my clients where it was clear that the regular education teacher was chomping at the bit to get out of the meeting, I have even begun to think of these poor souls who are dragged out of their classroom in order to meet the legal requirements of an IEP as RETWAPS: “Regular Education Teacher with a Pulse.”

School districts would do a much better job of meeting their requirement to have a regular education teacher at the IEP meeting if they reached out to those non-special education teachers in their district who are accommodating and understanding of children with special needs, rather than blindly inviting the first regular education teacher they ran into in the hallway.

We don’t need more RETWAPS, we need teachers who come to the IEP meetings ready to roll up their sleeves and brainstorm about how we can properly include children with disabilities. Otherwise, what is the point of having a regular education teacher at the meeting after all?

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