Handling IEP Disagreements

By Pamela Wright, MA, MSW


It’s not unusual for an IEP meeting to become contentious • If you find yourself at odds with your child’s team over the program they suggest, there are clear steps you can take to ensure that you are well prepared to continue your advocacy efforts for what’s in your child’s best interest

If your child’s team presents you with an IEP that is not appropriate for your child, speak up. Be polite but firm, letting them know that you dont think the IEP provides your child with enough help or the right kind of help. If the program suggested is a continuation of her previous IEP, cite her lack of appropriate progress as proof that the program is inadequate.

What if the team pressures you to consent to the IEP regardless of your expressed concerns? Do not back down. Write the following statement on the IEP document: “I consent to the school implementing this IEP because something is better than nothing, but I object to the IEP for the reasons I stated during the meeting.” Then sign your name.

You are a member of your child’s IEP team and a participant in the process. The law requires you to make your objections clear.

The IEP is the best document to use if you need to clarify your objections.

Someone on the team may suggest that you aren’t allowed to write on the IEP because it is a legal document. This is not true. Parents can write on their child’s IEP (though the person objecting may not know this).

Record Meetings

If you anticipate problems with the IEP team, record the meeting. Make sure your recording device is out in the open.

You advised the team that you don’t think the program they offered is appropriate for your child (even if you didn’t write on the IEP). You consented to the program but made your reservations clear.

Stay calm and cool. Take your copy of the IEP, thank them for their time, extend your hand to shake theirs. Gather your notes and recording device and leave.

Re-State Your Position in a Letter

When you get home, write a polite thank you letter in which you re-state your position: You consented to implementation of the IEP because an inadequate program is better than no program (“something is better than nothing”). The proof that the program is not appropriate is clear in your child’s inability to make progress to date. You assume the school will implement this program over your objections.

Transcribe your recording of the IEP meeting.

If you take these steps, the school will likely want to avoid a due process hearing. Why? Because you have key pieces of evidence: your letter, the recording of the meeting in the form of the transcript, and the IEP.

This article is adapted with permission from the Wrightslaw Website. Pamela Wright is a psychotherapist who works with children and families. She and husband Pete Wright are co-founders of Wrightslaw, the leading resource for special education law and advocacy; they are also co-founders and faculty at the William & Mary Law Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA).

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