Sheila or Martie...

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by mistmouse, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member

    Please, can you tell me if there is a basis to complain about the school district continuing to have an attorney present at IEP meetings when they know I cannot have counsel present?

    As you may remember, we have been in litigation almost constantly with the school district since 2002. However, we are no longer in litigation. I have written no complaints of any sort regarding the IEP not being followed this school year. In October we had an IEP meeting to clarify some points on the BIP. school district invited counsel, I objected beforehand, to no avail. Counsel was not only present, but ran the meeting. I had to argue with the SpEd director regarding my parent input stating I felt intimidated and therefore unable to meaningfully participate in my daughter's IEP. The director wanted to take that out of the IEP. I got to keep it in, as I reminded him it is parent input. I then wrote another letter stating that I was intimidated further because the attorney ran the meeting.

    Now, it is time for my daughter's annual IEP meeting, and again the school district has invited their attorney. Is there no way to put a stop to this? Am I going to have to face the school district's attorney, and be intimidated in every IEP meeting for the next five years?

    What do I do? Is my only recourse to file a state complaint? I consider this retaliation for fighting for FAPE in the LRE for my daughter, and I also feel discriminated against, as there is no way they can make me believe that they have counsel present at all their IEP meetings.

    It is stressful enough to always have 15-20 school district personnel in the meeting against me, the parent. Add to that the fact that the SpEd director is more ODD than my daughter ever thought of being, and I think he could benefit from a dose of Adderall himself. He goes off on tangents and it is hard to reign him in.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  2. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    Check the federal IDEA law. If the school district has counsel present, then my interpretation is that you are also allowed to have counsel. Your SE lawyer from prior litigation may also be able to answer this question.

    I agree that having the school district have so many people there is intimidating. There are some agencies, such as your local NAMI chapter, may have Special Education advocates that can attend a meeting with you. Even though our difficult child's aren't qualified for their services, your local agency that deals with autistic and developmentally disabled children may also point you in the direction of an advocate that can help. There are some agencies that provide the service for free or for a low fee.

    Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
  3. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member


    unfortunately, I do not have the services of an attorney available to me. My attorney was through Protection and Advocacy and once the case closed, they aren't available to me. I would have to submit an application to show I needed another case opened, and I am afraid that just the school district having counsel present isn't enough. I am aware that if the school district has counsel present, then I am entitled to have counsel as well, but of course I cannot have counsel present.

    Due to the number of years and the level of involvement with attornies and advocates already, they consider me to be qualified to be my own advocate at this point.

    I am just trying to find a way to prevent the school district from having counsel present for the next half a dozen years.

  4. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    I am sorry you are continuing to have this problem. It may be a small consolation to you that I use your situation in classes as an example of what NOT to do to parents.

    Here is the answer: the law is silent but the regs PREFER that neither party be represented because it interferes with home school collaboration and as you note, is intimidating. Therefore, you cannot stop them. I would go on noting in writing in the IEP and by post-meeting memos that you feel this is inappropriate as there is no current DP or litigation, and that you feel intimidated.

    I hope you are not going to meetings alone. I would NEVER do that myself. Taking someone is better than going alone. Is there any chance you can get a local advocate? Sometimes this is more helpful than an att'y in terms of getting a good IEP. Finally, review SMART IEPs on Wrightslaw and get REALLY insistent about objective measurement. This is the ONLY way I know of to hold a school district accountable.

    Best to you,

  5. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member


    I was afraid that is what you would say. I will continue to write my letters objecting to the attorney every time I get my invitation to the IEP and am aware they have invited an attorney. I will make sure it gets into the parent input of every IEP that I feel intimidated to the point of not being able to meaningfully participate in my daughter's IEP, then I will write my post-IEP letter stating I feel this is retaliation, discrimination, and intimidation.

    I am still going to request mediation so that I have that record that they are bringing an attorney to the meetings when they know full well that I cannot have counsel to represent me.

    As for going alone, well, I have nobody to go with me, so the last two meetings since we were no longer in litigation, I have gone alone. There are no local advocate groups. However, I do have the psychologist who has been seeing my daughter for years, and who by the HO's order has to be a part of the IEP as the behavior consultant, and she has my daughter's best interests in mind. At the last IEP meeting, she asked for a break when the attorney was railroading things and she could see I was overwhelmed (partly because I was sick, and partly because I had no idea they were going to push for a BIP that would remove my daughter to alternative school if she could not meet their demands).

    Thanks for replying, and I wish there was something I could do to put a stop to this. It is small comfort that our situation is used as a teaching tool, but if what we have gone through can be used to stop even one more child from having to suffer the same fate, it is good.

  6. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    The only place I've seen in the regs that prohibit attorney attendance is Resolution. comments regarding IDEA 2004:

    Comment: A few commenters
    expressed concern that IEP Team
    meetings are being used by parent
    advocates to train parents of other
    children, and by attorneys to train their
    associates about the school's IEP
    process. In order to prevent this, these
    commenters stated that the regulations
    should identify the specific knowledge
    and expertise that an individual must
    have to be included on an IEP Team.
    One commenter expressed concern
    about confidentiality rights; the lack of
    credentials for advocates; and the lack
    of authority for a parent or school
    district to prevent advocates from
    participating in an IEP Team meeting.
    Discussion: Section 614(d)(1)(B)(vi) of
    the Act allows other individuals who
    have knowledge or special expertise
    regarding the child to be included on a
    child's IEP Team. Section 300.321(c)
    provides that the determination of the
    knowledge or special expertise of these
    individuals must be made by the party
    (parents or public agency) who invited
    the individual to be a member of the IEP
    Team. We continue to believe that this
    determination is best left to parents and
    the public agency. We also believe that
    it would be inappropriate to regulate on
    the specific knowledge and expertise
    that an individual must have to be
    included on an IEP Team because it
    would be burdensome for both parents
    and public agencies.
    Additionally, nothing in the Act
    prevents parents from consenting to
    have an observer who is not a member
    of the IEP Team present at the meeting,
    as the parent can consent to the sharing
    of confidential information about the
    child. With that exception, it should be
    emphasized that a person who does not
    have knowledge and special expertise
    regarding the child and who is not
    requested to be present at the IEP Team
    meeting by the parent or public agency
    would not be permitted to be a member
    of the IEP Team or be permitted to
    attend the IEP Team meeting as an
    Changes: None.

    I'd go at this from a different angle -- via OCR. If you feel this is an intimidation tactic, Section 504 may help. (I doubt they can prove that a school district attorney attends every IEP meeting.)
  7. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member

    Thanks Sheila, How do I get more info on OCR and Section 504 complaints? I think I am going to have to do something drastic to put a stop to this intimidation. I have already put it in writing in more than one letter that I feel intimidated by the school district having counsel present when they know I cannot have counsel present.

  8. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    I hope the following links are still good -- haven't had to file a complaint in a while. lol

    But if not, it should give you some leads:

    How to File a 504 Complaint with the US Department of Justice

    OCR Complaint - Timeliness of complaint

    OCR Complaint Resolution Manual

    How do I file a complaint with OCR?

    OCR 504 and Title II prohibit retaliation for advocating or filing a complaint

    504 complaint

    OCR Complaint by

    The Court of Appeals reviews the elements of a retaliation claim under Section 504 and the ADA. (1) the mother or student was engaged in a "protected activity." (2) the person or persons alleged to have retaliated were aware that the mother or the student was engaged in a protected activity. (3) An adverse decision or course of action was taken against the mother or the student. (4) A causal connection exists between the protected activity taken by the student or parent and the adverse action taken by the school personnel. Thus the Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the parents had alleged a viable claim that the school district had engaged in retaliation, intimidation, coercion, threats, and interference with their advocacy efforts. The Circuit Court also found that Rose was denied a Free Appropriate Public Education because all the retaliation by the school district denied her any chance of "meaningful educational benefit." The parents had sought damages for the school district’s misconduct, under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, prohibits "retaliation" [at 42 U.S.C.12203(a)], "interference", "coercion," "intimidation" or "threats" [at 42 U.S.C.12203(b)] against an individual who is "opposing any act or practice made unlawful by" the ADA or who "has aided or encouraged any other individual" in the exercise of rights protected under the ADA. You should complain to the state education agency (which has duties to oversee this misconduct under the IDEA, 504 and the ADA) using the language prescribed by the Supreme Court in the Gebser case, and demand that the state order the local school district to stop violating your rights, and the parents' rights, in regard to participation in educational planning for that child.

    Remind the state education agency in those complaints that the state cannot lawfully pass federal dollars through to a local educational agency that the state now has been notified is discriminating in violation of Section 504 [see 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(v) and (b)(4)]. So you should complain to your state that they have only two lawful options: to force the local district to correct their misconduct, or to withhold the federal dollars to that local district that refuses to end its noncompliance.

    retaliation cases
  9. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member

    Thanks Sheila,

    Most of the links are still good. I am most grateful to you for this info. I hope the director of SpEd will just decide to forego having an attorney present and I won't have to take it further.

  10. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    Just an update. I spoke to a Special Education teacher at my school, and he said that if the school district has an attorney present, he law is that you get to be represented at the school district expense. You are legally allowed to have an advocate there. His advice was to call the school district Special Education office and tell them that as long as they have an attorney present, that you want them to provide an advocate at their expense. He did not know where exactly this is in the law, but that was his understanding. I would try and find out more anyway.
  11. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    I am almost certain that if you are correct (Special Education teachers generally are NOT a good source of legal advice), then it is state law or school district policy. It is not in Federal law.


    The deal about attorney's not being preferred was in the Q & A implementation questions accompanying Section 300. I may be misremembering and that commentary applied only to IDEA 97...With this additional information, does it ring a bell?

  12. mistmouse

    mistmouse New Member

    Well, I just received word that the school district is refusing to have mediation. I was contacted by an employee from the State Department of Special Education who says they had talked with the director of SpEd and he refuses to submit a joint request for mediation as there is no reason to mediate them having their attorney there as they are within their rights to have her there. I understand all of that. So, will a fascilitated IEP meeting just be refused as well. I mean, does that have to be agreed on by both me and the school district, or can I request a fascilitated IEP meeting and they have to comply? If they can refuse both the mediation and the fascilitated IEP meeting, then that only leaves a parent one recourse, which is the state complaint or higher. This is ridiculous. I suppose I am going to have to file something so that they can be forced to prove that they have an attorney present at other IEP meetings besides my daughter's. Of course I know they will falsify records if that is the case to show she was at IEP meetings she never attended.

    On the plus side, the employee from the state department of SpEd said the director of SpEd must feel I know the IDEA as well or better than he does in order for him to feel he needs an attorney at the meetings to be on level ground. :faint::crazy1:

  13. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    I believe the facilitated IEP step used in a limited number of states -- yours may be one. Check your state regs for requirements. It may be optional, therefore, the school district would decline.

    Couldn't help but to lol.:devil2: On the other hand, it tells you that the State knows they have compliance problems.....