Harder Than It Should Be

This morning, our official state complaint dropped into the mail.

I’ll admit that I’ve been dragging my feet about getting it done – despite how my getting angry gets results, filling out the form is not really a time for my being angry.  Instead, it was a time for me to write it the right way, and that meant doing my research and quantifying what the school is doing wrong, and therefore, why we’re complaining.

To me, it’s fairly straight forward what they’re doing wrong:

  • Twice now, they’ve given us reports/assessments on the day of the meeting.  (Both sides are required to provide all documents five business days in advance.)
  • Both times, the interim IEP chair has pressured us to meet anyway, which she’s not permitted to do.
  • Further, because of the document issues, they violated the rule for having the assessment meeting within ninety days of ordering the assessments.
  • Finally, the late notice of rescheduling the IEP meeting from 9:30 to 11:30.  (Yeah, I understand it was a delayed opening, but emailing me at 9:29 to tell me that you’ve taken the liberty of rescheduling the meeting on your own to 11:30 and that you “hope” I can attend?  No.)

But what’s problematic to me is the part where the state wants you to tell them what you’re proposing as a remedy.

Part of me is actually appalled that they’re asking a question like that – what am I supposed to tell them I want as a remedy?  And part of me thinks that’s likely an easy-out for them to say that a parent is unreasonable and simply toss the complaint.

So… our remedy is fair and actionable – a repeat of training for the staff to ensure they know what they’re required to do, sanctioning the interim IEP chair for knowingly violating parts of IDEA and state law (because, let’s be honest – she’s not just making mistakes at this point), and requiring a review of the team’s proceedings to ensure that others haven’t been similarly treated.

To be honest, though, this process is actually really difficult.  My wife and I are both college educated and have time and the will to go do online research to know what we can and can’t protest, to know what our rights are and then to download the complaint form.  How many parents in our district (and indeed, state/nation-wide) who have special-needs kids don’t have that ability?  How many of them don’t have access to the complaint form to fill it out?  And worse, how many of them don’t even know it exists?

I know that some of you, who also have special needs kids, are going to mention the “procedural safeguards notice.”  Can I be honest?  Every IEP meeting notice I get has the box “Provided parents with procedural safeguards notice” checked off… and we haven’t gotten a copy since the Monster transitioned to the schools.  I’d wager a dozen donuts that most parents don’t know where their copy is, haven’t even gotten a copy in a while… and that the majority of parents in the Baltimore City Public Schools have never read the thing.  (Think about it for a second – what color was the cover of the last copy you got?  What was its revision date?)  Yes, you can download it from the MSDE website, but… again, that requires Internet access, knowing that it exists and that it is there.

The whole process, in fact, seems like it’s engineered to suppress any complaints from parents about issues with their child’s education.  And it shouldn’t be like that.  I’m not saying it should be easy – you’d end up with every parent deluging the system with every last complaint – but it shouldn’t really require having internet access and a college degree to figure out how to address problems.

Since both the MSDE and Board of Education are here in Baltimore, I figure they should get the letters tomorrow.  We’ll see what, if anything, has happened by our next IEP meeting on Tuesday…

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