Across the States
Special Education Perils
Millie Denning* is a physically disabled child who used to spend a lot of time every day in the “resource room” (a special room for children with disabilities) in her public school. Everything changed for Millie when her parents decided to teach her at home—everything but the paperwork. The public school kept Millie’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) on file and invited her parents to an IEP planning meeting, even though she was no longer receiving public services.
The IEP team met anyway (as required by law) without Millie’s parents, wrote up a new list of public services, and notified the Dennings, “Your child’s IEP is changed as noted. The school district will proceed with this change unless you object in writing within 14 calendar days of receiving this notice.” The district paperwork offered the family two choices: they could “give permission to the school district to proceed as proposed,” or they could object. If they objected, however, the matter would proceed directly to mediation or a “due process hearing.”
Distressed, the Dennings called Home School Legal Defense Association. Staff Attorney Scott Somerville told them they could amend the form to add an option besides “yes, we accept services” or “no, we demand a hearing.” The Dennings wrote in a different choice that would satisfy state and federal law without triggering further proceedings and mailed it back to the district.
The school called to ask them to check off one box or the other, but the Dennings didn’t want services and they didn't want a hearing. Special education officials reviewed their form for weeks before they finally agreed that the Dennings had met all the requirements of the law. Millie is still learning at home, without help—or hindrance—from the local public school.
— Scott W. Somerville
* Name changed to protect family’s privacy.