Finn’s Transition to School District – Part IV


When last I updated, we had sent a letter to the school district outlining a number of concerns we had regarding the manner in which the school district conducted its assessments of Finn, and the fact that we were (are) being rushed through the transition process.  In that letter, we also restated the request we had made at the so-called Transition Meeting (which had turned out to actually be the first round of assessments) that the school district get draft assessment reports to us a week before the IEP, which at that time had been unilaterally scheduled by the school district for June 28.  After our letter went out, I received a phone call from the Director of Assessments (or Program Coordinator – she has identified herself as both), who informed me that the draft assessment reports would not be available to us a week before the IEP, but that they would be mailed to us on Thursday, June 23.  I told her that, given the fact that that would mean we wouldn’t receive them until Friday at the earliest, and we would be out of town over the weekend, that was not enough time for us to review the reports and request any changes we might think appropriate, so we would need the IEP to be rescheduled.  She told me during that phone conversation that the school district would send us a letter to reschedule the IEP, and would also be addressing the concerns we outlined in our letter.

Here is a summary of what has transpired since then:

  • The draft assessment reports were not sent to us until June 24 (Friday – according to postmark date), via certified mail.  The package came on Saturday, but since we were out of town, I was not able to pick the package up from the post office until Monday, June 27 – one day before they had originally planned to conduct the IEP.  With the reports was a letter informing us that the school district is “required to assess in all areas of suspected need” (my emphasis) and urged us to consent to the assessments we had previously declined;  included was a new consent form checking all the boxes for the assessments we had previously declined.
  • Under separate cover, also by certified mail, and also not received until Monday, was a letter from the school district, informing us that the IEP must take place prior to Finn’s third birthday, which is July 7, and that the IEP would be conducted on either July 5 or 6 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., and we were to choose one of those dates.
  • There was nothing addressing any of the concerns we outlined in our letter.
  • After receiving this deluge of paperwork and being asked to reconsider consenting to the additional assessments, and wanting an opportunity to carefully review the draft assessment reports and make changes and/or possibly request an independent evaluation, and after reviewing our respective calendars, it was clear that July 5 and 6 were neither reasonable nor possible.  Additionally, it’s summer break anyway and we’re just not in any hurry to get Finn enrolled in any type of program during the summer.  In a phone call with the Director of Assessments, Michael told her that we are willing to waive the timeline to have the IEP conducted by Finn’s third birthday.  He also asked her how it would even be possible to conduct the IEP in such a short time if we did end up consenting to the additional assessments, and she admitted that it wouldn’t be possible, in fact, to conduct the additional assessments and the IEP by July 7.  We followed this phone conversation up with a letter, confirming in writing that we would waive our right to have the IEP conducted by Finn’s third birthday, and that it would benefit everyone involved if the IEP were postponed.
  • In response to that letter, which was emailed this past Tuesday, the Director of Assessments called me at home on Wednesday stating that the school district would not, in fact, postpone the IEP any further, and that it must take place prior to July 7.  I asked to speak to her superior at that point, but when she put me on hold, I hung up because I was so pissed.  So I called Michael at work at that point and told him about the phone call.  He then called her and was told the same thing – that the school district would not postpone the IEP past Finn’s birthday next week.  She said that if they did, then the school district might be sanctioned by the state.  Michael asked her for the statute on which the school district was basing its position.  She responded by telling him that she would not discuss the law with him.  He told her that by stating that the school district “could not” postpone the IEP past Finn’s birthday, she was in fact discussing law, and he wanted a cite to a statute.  She said she would have her director call him back.
  • After the phone call, Michael said in passing to one of his colleagues, “You don’t happen to know any educational attorneys, do you?”  His colleague said, “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do.”  He gave Michael the name and number of someone who, it turns out, is not actually an attorney, but who worked for a number of years as a director of a local SELPA (now retired).  Michael was able to talk to this guy on the phone who had a lot of valuable input, including advising us to stand our ground on declining the assessments we already declined, as well as advising us that while we can’t actually waive our right to have the IEP conducted by Finn’s third birthday, we can inform the school district that we are just not available on either of the dates they proposed, in which case they will have to reschedule the IEP.  He also said that he will put us in touch with an advocate with whom he has been very impressed.
  • We emailed another letter to the school district yesterday morning informing them that we are not available on either of the dates they proposed next week and, in fact, due to various previous commitments and childcare issues, we will not be available for an IEP until August, and we proposed three dates.
  • Michael received an email late yesterday afternoon in response to our letter of yesterday morning, which states:
Dear Mr. Morguess: Pursuant to your request for legal education code regarding the postponement of the IEP, please refer to your procedural safeguards which was included with the initial transition paperwork sent to you by Kellie White and again was enclosed in my June 24, 2011 letter.  The IEP team will be proceeding with the IEP meeting next week in order to meet the mandated timeline.  In the event that you do not attend the meeting, a copy of the proposed IEP will be sent to you for your review.
Attached please find two revised IEP meeting notifications as our District legal counsel has been added to the notices and will be attending.
So that’s where things stand now: the school district apparently intends to conduct Finn’s initial IEP next week without us, and they will now have their legal counsel present.  Also, apparently, those additional assessments aren’t “required” after all (ya think?), seeing that they now intend to go forward with the IEP not only without the additional assessments, but without our input/requested modifications to the existing assessment reports.  Needless to say, I am so pissed I can hardly see straight.
Here is the bottom line:  The school district sat on this for too long, for whatever reason, and they are now attempting to make us bear the burden of that by rushing us through a process that normally takes months.  We were told in February at Finn’s last IFSP meeting with our service coordinator that the process of transitioning Finn to the school district had already begun and that a Transition Meeting would take place in April (and according to my research, Regional Center and the school district were legally obligated to conduct the Transition Meeting by the time Finn was 2 years and nine months of age, or by early April).  This was confirmed in writing by Regional Center.  April came and went, and finally in early May I contacted our service coordinator to find out what was going on and she said that she had made no progress in obtaining potential dates and times for the Transitional Meeting from the school district.  It wasn’t until mid-May that the school district finally contacted me and gave me three dates in June for the Transition Meeting, all assessments, and the IEP to take place.  The school district put itself in the position of being under the gun and trying to cram the whole process into a little more than 30 days.  Bear in mind that the law says that parents have 15 days to review the Assessment Plan, and then the school district has 60 days to conduct the assessments and develop an IEP.  So, clearly, the process is typically expected to reasonably take at least two and a half months!
There is legal authority stating the parents’ right to be present at the IEP, so how the school district intends to conduct the IEP without us (and with their legal counsel present??) is beyond me.  Needless to say, we are strenuously objecting today, in writing, to the IEP being conducted without us.
I am so floored by how badly and how quickly this whole thing has spiraled down into such an adversarial situation.  There doesn’t seem to be any collaborative effort on the school district’s part at all.  It seems like all they care about is getting through the process at whatever cost (even at the cost of Finn’s and our rights), and covering their asses (but in actuality, by depriving us of our rights, they are exposing themselves to liability).  Who is looking out for Finn’s interests here?  Certainly not the school district.
And you know what’s really disheartening?  This is the “team” we are likely stuck with for the next 15 years.
Advertisements

, , ,

6 Comments on “Finn’s Transition to School District – Part IV”

  1. Stacey
    July 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I would suggest contacting your state representatives’ offices. They need to know how well the school system that they represent is working, or in Finn’s case failing. This is a huge failing and you are right to be pissed. Your reps work for you, and the schools are part of their responsibility, so give them the opportunity to do something for you and Finn.

    I might also try the PTA, both at the school & state level, just because there might be someone there who can help in some way. Good luck, and a big Happy Birthday to my birthday buddy!

  2. esther
    July 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    lisa, this question may be an ignorant one since i do not know much about this subject (although i am learning from you!): what if you enrolled finn at a private preschool/school? would you still have to go through the state? would a private school be a possibility for finn? (even if it’s pricey, let’s say)… either a “typical” school or one intended for children with extra chromosomes, etc. Or am I totally off base here, sort of speak/

    • Lisa
      July 2, 2011 at 4:25 am #

      Esther, excellent question. Let me say first, as I’ve said before, that we are really torn about sending Finn to preschool at all at this time. We didn’t send our other kids to PS at age 3 (except the twins, but it was just a “Mom’s Morning Out” program because I needed the break, not because I wanted them to get anything academic or even socially developmental out of it), and I’m leaning towards waiting another year for Finn. However, we can’t really make a fully informed decision until we see what the school district will offer us. Yes, I would most definitely like to enroll him in a private preschool (which is what we’ve done with all our other kids, and yes, it’s pricey, but that’s okay), but he will almost certainly need some type of support, which is where the school district comes in. Before age 3, children with special needs have their supports and services (i.e., therapy) provided by the State through their local Regional Centers. At age 3, responsibility for providing these supports and services transfers to the school district, and this is the transition process we are in the midst of now. We could just decline the whole transition process at this point and revisit it in a year, but I figure we might as well do it now. Once an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is developed for Finn, we can agree to all of it – which would be preschool placement and services (like speech therapy), or we can agree to part of it (like just services but not preschool placement). We could enroll him in a private preschool (and I assume it might be tricky finding one that would be able and willing to accommodate him, so that’s a worry as well) and still have him receive speech therapy, etc. through the school district. I’m just not sure at this point what we will end up doing, but like I said, I don’t feel that we can make an informed decision until we know what the school district is going to propose.

  3. Lisa
    July 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    I’m so thankful that at least you now have some really good leads on people who can support you and help advocate for Finn. It sucks that it comes down to needing a professional advocate (and potentially an attorney down the line).

  4. Sherry Blanco
    July 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    Hi, just so you know-it happens all the time here in Florida. I can tell you that transition is supposed to start 2yrs 6mos-there should be a special service coordinator that only does transition. Your service coordinator, the special service coordinator are supposed to bridge the child to the public school system. If they have had your son’s case for six months, I would say that they for sure dropped the ball. Actually, your service coordinator should have been at your first transition meeting. That is when they decide on testing, assessments, parent input, etc. Then a second meeting is scheduled for a follow up to discuss findings, placement, parent input, etc. When I worked for the Part C program here in Broward, I know there was a specific person from the district that was in charge of transition. If this is the person you are dealing with, the person above her may be the superintendent. The problem here, as well as in other places is accountability. They are trying to cover up an error, to the detriment of everyone. I want to say, there should be some kind of state law that covers when this happens. Schools usually shut down for summer regarding ESE, except for ESY-so there would be a percentage of children turning three during that time. I want to say, if memory serves-that the IFSP is equivalent to an IEP and if current would not be a violation. Check it out-also get copies of his records, especially the paper trail between the school district, part C program and the service coordinators.

    Sherry

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Finn’s Transition to School District – Part V | Life As I Know It - July 13, 2011

    […] Last I wrote, the school district had informed us under no uncertain terms that they would be holding Finn’s IEP before his birthday, with or without us – and with their legal counsel present – despite our protests that we were not going to be available on either of the dates they said they were going to conduct the IEP.  We followed up with this letter to the school district. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: