Monday, November 15, 2010

Delay Tactics Part II

These delay tactics become even more maddening when you consider the fact that our district personnel gets trained by special education law firms in how to do this, and how much districts pay to learn this information.  This most recent training cost the district about $200 per person to register, and our district sent at least one person to the training, probably two.  Then I'm told the building charged the usual rate of $600 for the room for one day, the same rate they would charge any other group to use it.  It's interesting though they used the WESELPA office for the training, and the WESELPA charged for it and paid for it, so they charged themselves.  The WESELPA also put out snacks and both hot and cold drinks as well as paying for a catered lunch.  All of this was done at the tax payers expense.  So, not only do we pay for our district personnel to go to these things, we pay for them to have snacks and lunch, and we pay for them to use the building that we paid for in the first place.

Now, if you or I want to rent the room there for the day and give a training on something helpful to our students we would have to pay about $600 for the room.  And that wouldn't include hot and cold drinks and a catered lunch.  So how is it, when FF&F has a training at the WESELPA, the room is paid for by the WESELPA?  Shouldn't FF&F be paying for the room?  And how do snacks and lunch get included?  And then our districts pick up the tab for the training.  Our districts are funded by us, the building is owned by us, the people going to that training are paid by us, and all to learn how not to give the services and education our children are entitled to, and that we are entitled to their receiving!  I could see why WESELPA would pick up the tab for the room if FF&F was giving the training for free, but when they are charging the districts to come that seems a bit unethical on the part of the WESELPA and FF&F.

This is just one way the WESELPA plays around with finances from my understanding.  There is so much to look into here, but although they are subject to the Brown Act and are supposed to respond to letters requesting information as a part of the Public Records Act, they don't.  Last spring I requested information on agreements between the WESELPA and different families (with names redacted) but was denied a single record.  I was told this information is confidential and therefore they cannot share it.  Mind you, it is not the parents that request this confidentiality, it is the WESELPA.  They don't want the other parents to find out what they have given to those who have gone to mediation or resolution sessions.  When we signed our mediation agreement we were told that if we shared what we got in our mediation, the district could pull out of the agreement.  In whose best interest is this?  As a parent I want other parents to know what I have won, and i want to know what other parents have won.  That way I have an idea of what and how far to take bargaining.  If someone else's child gets services that mine should rightfully receive I want to know about it.  I don't want my child to be left without only because I'm not a very good negotiator.  All children in similar circumstances should receive similar services.

Another interesting bit of this records rule that the WESELPA adheres to, is that they put a version of the agreements on the internet.  It is a washed out version, because they take this information to the Superintendent's Council, and it seems they don't want to be completely forthcoming with the Superintendents.  But one can look and get some general idea of what is being given by looking at old Superintendent's Council agendas.  I was looking for more in depth information than what is shared on the internet, but if it is so confidential, why is any of it put on the internet on a regular basis?  That doesn't seem to be as confidential as confidential implies.

A friend just told me today that she had called for an emergency IEP meeting, and in response the Vice Principal at her child's school called her into the office and asked if they could just put off the entire meeting for now and bump up the child's Triannual early.  Now, this child's Triannual isn't even due until May, so that's a large bump.  The reason for the request for an emergency IEP is that the child is regressing and exhibiting new behaviors brought on by the current school environment, does putting this off for a couple of months make ANY sense?  The child's aide is sitting by as another child bullies him, along with another aid and a teacher, but thanks to the FF&F training, the school is doing just what they were taught to do at that conference. Suggest evaluations when a parent requests an IEP.  Slow it down.  Throw the other team off their pace.  Just like you see professional basketball teams do when they other team is ahead of them and moving at a pace they can't keep up with.  The difference is, that is a game, our childrens' education is not.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Delay Tactics

I have learned over the years that the number one tactic used by the school district is delay tactics.  They have so many ways of doing this that seem legitimate but aren't that it would be impossible to name them all.  I will put down the ones I've encountered or heard about and I hope that those who read this will add to them with what you've faced.

The primary way this is done is to avoid telling you the rules.  They don't have to live up to time lines if what you have not made requests in writing.  So, we must put every request in writing, from evaluation for special education or for speech therapy or whatever issue concerns you.  It doesn't have to be fancy, just a little handwritten note will do, though I do suggest dating it and making a copy before turning it over to the district to be sure that you have proof of your request.

Secondly, if you are coming up on an IEP I have heard, "Why don't we just wait for the regular IEP date?"  We don't wait because we don't need to delay anything any longer than it already has been delayed.  If we are talking the difference of a week, we might wait, but a month?  No waiting, let's have a meeting. 

Another tactic would be to spread the IEP out - not have answers so have to meet again in a month and in the meantime, nothing happens.  Then deciding an evaluation is needed, so another 60 days goes by, and on and on.  Unnecessary evaluations are often a delaying tactic, make sure they explain why an evaluation is necessary, who should do it, and when.  Watch the time-lines, they will use them if they can to delay, most often scheduling meetings at the end of a legal time-line rather than earlier, if they can.

We asked for an evaluation for assistive technology, a speech device, and after the initial time period was done, they told us they had evaluated for one device, but now they needed to evaluate for another, this went on for a year, all the while we were being told it was important not to hurry the process since she needed to get just the right device.  We finally went out and got an outside expert to evaluate and she was able to do the evaluation in a couple of hours.  Still the district had another idea for another device, thus delaying everything by another 6 weeks since we couldn't just choose the device without the entire team getting together again, and that took 30 days to organize.  Once the district received the device we had to wait another three weeks for staff to be trained on the device.  This kind of delay cost our daughter over a year and a half before she got the device.  They were already late at even looking into a communication device, using the excuse that she wasn't using PECS, when in fact she finds the device interesting, but finds PECS boring.  By the time she got the device (thanks to all the delays) it was already outdated for her.  Then when we told them we had purchased an iPad and wanted them to get one for her for at school, the response was, "we need to do another evaluation".  Pretty rich! 

Most recently, our district has told us they cannot discuss placement for when my daughter returns from Home and Hospital instruction until she returns, which makes no sense.  For one thing, she is out on HHI because the school keeps messing around and she doesn't get what she needs at school and in fact they do what they do so badly that she actually develops behaviors and learns almost nothing useful at school.  We asked the doctor to to put her on HHI so we could find the right school and then request that she be placed there, now they say they can't discuss it until she comes back.  So we get a doctor's note, but they want another note - they don't feel we got the note from the right doctor.  These are all delay tactics.  They don't want to talk about placement because they know they are going to have to pay for her to go to a Non-public school because they don't know what they are doing.  It was so gratifying to go to the doctor today to get the second note and have her comment on how much better my daughter's behaviors are now that she hasn't been in school for a while.  She very happily wrote whatever we needed on our note to the school.    

A noted school district attorney group, Fagen, Freidman, and Fulfrost is known for their trainings, one of which is on how to avoid doing what the district is supposed to do "legally".  I correspond with a woman who went to one of their "trainings" in which they belittled parents by using nasty little nicknames such as Mr. Suesalot and Mrs. Evalstoomuch that sort of thing.  The entire training was on how to delay within the law.  So, if it feels like your district is just trying to delay - don't be surprised, they probably are.  They just try to avoid until the child is out of school.  They've probably been trained by attorneys on how to do it.  No wonder so many people have such bad impressions of attorneys.  The only way to deal with this sort of thing is to call it out.  You can call it out directly and see if they decide to stop, you can file a compliance complaint, or you can file for due process.  Even though they are trained to delay 'within the law', it really isn't within the law.  They get away with this because they can and we let them, not because they are right in doing it.  If you take them to court they aren't very likely to be able to keep delaying - because that isn't what education is about.  

Should the public school pay for a private tutor? Part 2 - National special education

Should the public school pay for a private tutor? Part 2 - National special education

This was an excellent post, with more to come. I highly recommend it to anyone who is starting out in advocating for your child. Or for anyone facing adversity in getting your child's needs met through the school district. If you don't end up facing unethical school personnel, great!  If you do, you will know what is happening, and you will have some ways to deal with the situations that keep your child from getting the education they deserve.

We've have recently changed our methods, and this post explains our current methods and why we ended up here very clearly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Check, Check, and Recheck (the paperwork that is)

We had some issues around our last IEP meeting - specifically the district had a "pre-IEP meeting" which isn't necessarily a problem, but in this instance it probably was.  Especially since we know they had one before our last Triannual IEP meeting and made some pretty significant changes to what the district personnel was going to recommend.  We saw a report from before the meeting that suggested she maintain her current speech and then another report dated two days later (right after the meeting) that recommended a decrease in services by 75%.

This time our lawyer sent a letter and confronted the situation and they swore up and down they were allowed to do what they were doing, except that they were discussing current levels and that was supposed to be discussed with us, the parents, there.  They were also probably discussing placement since that was what the meeting was about - though they deny it.  They also deny that they took any notes or received any reports over a two hour meeting.  The worst offense was probably discussing how to change reports or how to present information in a way that makes it sound like things are other than they are.  This whole thing seemed pretty fishy to us given that we knew what they had done at the last meeting.  Does that sound fishy to you?  It sure did to us.  They also deny that they generated anything in writing or electronically (like e-mail) though we were told that there was an e-mail sent out.  
So, I requested all paperwork for the last eight months, and amazingly, there was only one e-mail in the whole pile of paperwork - it was from me to them - and I can guarantee I sent and received at least 50 e-mails in the last eight months. There were no notes about phone calls or pre-meeting notes, nothing.  Also strangely absent were Megan's behavioral evaluations.  So I started looking at what I already had, and I had not noticed that I had two copies of the report dated 2/28/2010.  Under summary and recommendations there were two different sets of writing.  The one said that the aide working with my daughter was not sufficient, that she should be replaced with a person who had been trained by the ABA company.  The second basically said everything was just fine.  Then, in June, the next report (which was not included in the paperwork but should legally have been included) said again that the company's aide should be in the classroom since the classroom aide was not getting the job done.

Doesn't this make you wonder what else may have been changed without our knowledge to be more district friendly?  Doesn't it also make you wonder what else is missing from our records since those reports and almost all e-mail that I KNOW of is messing?

I'm constantly learning about things that I need to be checking more often, and now, paperwork is on that list.  I suppose it would be wise to request updated paperwork every 6-12 months, just to keep up on what is in the file.  It will also be vital to me that I check everything handed out at the IEP against reports I have been given previously.  Apparently you never know when things will be changed.  Check, check, and recheck.