So last week I posted a letter that I sent to the superintendent of schools, some of his subordinates, as well as some members of the board of education. I poured my heart out, pleaded for help and looked to have them intervene after our IEP meeting at Dayna’s school proved to be a failure. We were looking to have Dayna placed in a specialized non-public school and we were getting nowhere with the IEP team. I thought I would try one more time to ask for help right from the top, as a parent, for my special needs child who can’t speak for herself. I sent that message at 8:09pm on Wednesday night. At 7:18am the following morning the superintendent replied. Three short parts to his message. The first part confirmed that he received my email and would respond on behalf of the entire board of education. The last part a small gesture to look into my displeasure at the behavior of some of the staff in the meeting. The middle part…..well, here it is:
I read your email with interest and certainly understand the emotional turmoil you and your family are going through with your daughter. However, neither I nor the Board of Education can overrule the IEP team’s decision on the best educational placement for Dayna.
Yep…..that was it. After all I wrote, a quick message stating there would be no help. It was so early in the morning it was obvious there was little to no discussion amongst anyone I sent that message to. It took me close to two hours to put together that letter, making sure I covered both the facts and the emotions Deb and I were feeling. I read his reply and pictured it being typed with one hand while the other held his morning cup of coffee.
I wasn’t quite ready for that to be the only word, I wanted to be clear what was being conveyed in his reply. I sent another email, making sure I did not let emotion take it down a dark path, but rather to seek some clarification. I had some questions, so I asked:
…..If you could just clarify a couple of items based on your response, I think it would help my wife and I to understand the process, and what our next steps should be to help our daughter. Am I understanding the following statements correctly?
1. The superintendent of schools, the staff reporting to the superintendent and the board of education have zero ability to intervene in the IEP process or IEP team on behalf of a student or the student’s parents, even if it may be in the best interest of the student.
2. The IEP Team, made up of many people including outside consultants and attorneys paid for by the school district, hold the superintendent and the board powerless in decisions made regarding a student’s placement or program. They are the sole decision making body for any special needs student that holds an Individualized Education Program.
Pretty straight forward…..and assuming the quick response to my first long and detailed message, I waited for an even quicker reply to these two seemingly simple questions. Around three hours later, a much more detailed and legally developed response that a hardened politician would be proud of:
Thank you for your follow up questions for clarification. The best way I can address your concerns is to point out that the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and Maryland law set forth a process for providing services for eligible students with disabilities.
These state and federal laws also set forth a process for deciding disputes regarding the school system’s implementation of these laws. My understanding is that you have been provided with a copy of the Parent’s Rights booklet, developed by the Maryland State Department of Education, which summarizes these rights. Under these laws, decisions are made by the IEP team. If parents disagree with the decision of the IEP team, they may file for a due process hearing. In Maryland, these hearings are held before Administrative Law Judges who work for the Office of Administrative Hearings, which is a State agency.
The superintendents and local boards of education are not empowered under State or Federal law to hold these hearings.
It is very important to me, as Superintendent of the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS), to know that our staff is implementing the IDEA and providing our children a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). CCPS employs trained professionals to perform these duties. Like all school systems, the CCPS has a Director of Special Education and other certificated, qualified staff who oversee the implementation of services for our disabled students.
Ultimately, all of these employees report to me, and I report to the Board of Education. So while it is true that in matters of due process hearings, the superintendent and local boards of education do not play a role, we play a significant role in ensuring that a FAPE is provided to our disabled students.
I hope this answers your questions.
He hoped it answered my questions….yea, thanks. He should have followed that line up with “While you’re at it, hope in one hand and crap in the other….see which one fills up first.”.
All it answered was that it was obvious that it was written by someone who attended law school, and that we were up against the government bureaucracy people are so irritated with lately. This is not about the child, it is about the process. We are not parents, we are subjects. And this isn’t about the school doing what’s right, its about doing what’s cheapest.
This has been one hell of a run these past few months here at the Wilson house. I have to admit….I’m not quite the jokester I usually am, not quite as happy. I’m worn out, and pissed off. I remember my first post when I started this blog, I said I didn’t want it to be about complaining. Unfortunately, when reality punches you in the gut its hard not to. I just have to channel that a bit, and put the energy towards our goal of getting Dayna into a proper program. We have to keep pressing on and use every avenue possible. Its not going to be an easy task, and its not going to be a quick process. Strap in folks, this is bound to be a rough ride.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go wash my hands of the superintendent’s last response…..