Withholding Information: The Dangers Of Holding Back

This article originally appeared on the McAndrews Law website.  Attorney Caitlin McAndrews wrote this and it is very important!  It has pivotal information that parents of students with disabilities need to know about during the IEP process.  Parents, even with the best of intentions, can make mistakes during this process.  I agree with the author: give as much information as you possibly can to help your special needs child succeed!

Parents sometimes withhold information from School Districts, worried that the District will find a way to “use it against them.” This can include privately obtained evaluations, information from outside therapists or medical providers, or changes in medication. Though the instinct to protect your child’s privacy is understandable, withholding this type of information from the educators who work with your student typically does more harm than good.

In the example of an independent evaluation, providing the report to the District only gives them more information about how your child learns, which they should use to appropriately program for the student. Hopefully, the District will use the evaluation to help provide appropriate supports and services; but even if they do not, the family can at least say they provided all available information to the District. If parents have to go to a hearing, and they withheld a private evaluation, a hearing officer may hold that against the parent, and may question why the parent withheld outside information about the child that could have helped the District understand and program for the child.

Additionally, the private evaluation might contain information that would trigger the District’s Child Find obligation – that is, by putting the District on notice that the child has certain needs/diagnoses, and might require special education support.  If the District never saw the outside evaluation, it may be harder to prove that the District knew of the child’s disabilities.

Similarly, Districts often request permission to speak to outside providers, such as private speech/language or occupational therapists, treating psychologists, or pediatricians. This information could help the District program for your child, and withholding it can make a parent appear uncooperative in front of a hearing officer.

In general, the instinct to hold back can be a very natural and protective one, but ultimately, parents should ask themselves, “What am I afraid will happen if I share this information?” and “What good could potentially come from sharing?” In the vast majority of cases, the potential good will outweigh the potential harm.

By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.

Delaware Having IEP Blitz to make September 30th Numbers @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @delawareonline @TheStateNews @Cape Gazette @WBOC #netde #eduDE

September. The first month of fall, football comes back, and schools begin again around the country. But in Delaware, a crazy thing is occurring across the entire state. Public schools are cramming IEP meetings in so they can get their numbers in by what’s known as the “September 30th count”. By Delaware state law, all schools in the state that receive state and federal funding must have their enrollment numbers in by the 30th of September. This becomes especially crazy for special education in the state.

Due to transfers from other schools and annual reviews, as well as new requests, September has become very busy at our schools with IEP meetings. Some feel it is too much. Last night at the IEP Task Force, a speech and language pathologist advised the task force she has had 26 IEP meetings this month, and three more by this Friday. Some school districts are shortening IEP meetings and rescheduling them due to the overwhelming number of meetings. This has an impact on everyone involved: parents, teachers, special education teachers, service providers, school nurses, school psychologists, and the most important- the students with the disabilities.

One district in the state upwards of five or more IEP meetings in a day. With an average school time of 6 1/2 hours, and having approximately 1/2 an hour for lunch, this leaves IEP meetings at an hour and twenty minutes. While some meetings can take less time if there are no major changes, this is hardly the case in many situations. IEP meetings should never feel rushed. This is very intimidating to a parent.

This was a major sticking point at the IEP Task Force last night. Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn asked if this was a federal requirement, to which Mary Ann Mieczkowski advised this is a state thing.  She indicated the full IEP must be completed to determine needs-based funding which indicates how much funding each special education student receives based on the level of severity they are labeled with for services.

To go over six pages or more of a document that basically lets you know what kind of goals and accommodations your son has for a year can be very confusing for a parent.  To be told your IEP meeting is cut short is a smack in the face for any parent.  Furthermore, there are very specific laws in IDEA about teachers leaving an IEP meeting without parental consent and in writing.  So if this happens to you, and you were not given a time when the meeting will end, make them stay.  If they leave, they are in violation of Federal IDEA law.

Discussion is happening about both the September 30th count and the length of IEP meetings.  This report to Governor Markell from the IEP Task Force should be very interesting.