Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Control Freak”

Published on May 8, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Control Freak”

This can be a teacher, therapist, service provider, or an administrator, really anyone who completely over-reacts whenever their opinions, responsibilities, recommendations, or expertise are questioned or challenged.

Sadly, The Control Freaks of the special education world are largely responsible for the number of disputes between parents and school districts.

These are the people who really, truly believe that they have learned everything they need to know about their area of expertise. Therefore, if a parent implies, or states outright, that their child’s special education needs perhaps cannot be properly evaluated or met by this person, they cannot handle it. One of the biggest problems I see when I am brought into a dispute by a parent is that some educators simply cannot allow themselves to admit that they made a mistake or don’t know everything about a particular child or disability.

Good professionals, in any field, know that they will always need to learn more. Control Freaks, however, see any new information as a personal affront.

So, when a parent presents an outside evaluation indicating that a child was improperly diagnosed, or wasn’t receiving enough or the right kind of services, instead of saying “well, we did not realize that Matt had Asperger’s Disorder, we really thought he had ADHD, but now that you’re bringing this evaluation to our attention, let’s rethink his IEP,” instead, the Control Freaks dig their heels in. The result: a huge dispute between the parties that could have been avoided simply by acknowledging new information.

It is tough to know how to handle the Control Freak, but in general, I suggest this: don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a heated debate with this person. You may be right, but they will never, ever admit it.

4 Responses to Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Control Freak”

  1. Michelle Bidwell
    June 21st, 2010 | 9:20 pm

    The control freak (sped director) in our district is entirely responsible for creating severe havoc in our district this past year. This is the end of her 3rd year in the district. I’ve never seen anything like this. She makes unilateral decisions,predetermines services, programs, and placements. She is seriously misinformed about sped law. She refuses to consider parents concerns, refuses to consider outside evals provided by parents (has even been known to refuse to consider outside evals funded by the district that she does not agree with). She draws lines in the sand, refuses to budge, refuses to negotiate, and totally discounts parents concerns (see my comment re: cheerleaders). I believe all staff in the district has been coached to be a cheerleader—“these kids are doing just fantastic” (doesn’t matter if there is no data anywhere to support this). Gotta say it’s an ugly mess here.

    Our tiny little district has only 83 sped kids identified (of 532 student K to 8). We’ve had at least six DP hearings filed this school year. And we’re not done . There are two other parents I know who have hired sped advocates and two other families who’ve hired attorneys. So my question is: how do you stop a control freak b/c we seriously have one who needs to be stopped.

    Michelle Bidwell

  2. Jennifer Laviano
    June 21st, 2010 | 10:18 pm

    Michelle…sadly, in my experience there are only two ways to stop the Control Freak. 1) successful litigation, and 2) getting them fired. The latter happens through non-legal channels (for example parents complaining en mass to the Board of Education), while the latter happens through, well, lawsuits. I hope the ones your district is facing prove successful for the parents. Thanks for reading the blog, Jen

  3. Jodi
    September 30th, 2011 | 9:17 am

    This is my son’s current teacher. We moved here in July, and started school August 22d. My son is having a lot of issues in his class, and displaying a lot of regressive behaviors. The teacher keeps thinking that he is “try to get out of something.” For example, he is no longer allowed to wear pants, due a behavior, we live in FL. They were making him go outside for gym in 90 degree weather with pants on, when we had only been in FL for a few weeks. When I told her he was heat sensitive, and that the medication causes sensitivity to heat and sunlight, she said well, “he’s just being naughty and pulling one over on you.” He got frustrated the other day and banged his head 15 times on his desk, teacher said, again he was trying to get out of something. I was never called during the incident, I was told when I picked him up, and I was told he lost vision in his eye for 1-2 minute after the tantrum.

  4. Peter Attwood
    September 30th, 2011 | 6:51 pm

    This medicine thing is clearly a 504 violation. Having tried to work it out with the teacher, I would take it up with the principal and superintendent. If they fix the problem, you’re all set. If not, write a Gebser letter to the superintendent with a copy to the board members. The least that will happen is that your kid will be out of her class, which with this kind you need anyway.