Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Liar”

Published on June 20, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Liar”

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Let me start by saying that, while I have unfortunately seen my share of dishonesty on the part of many IEP Team Members over the many years I have been practicing special education law on behalf of children, usually it comes in the form of misleading comments, convenient omissions, or minor misrepresentations when the individual feels cornered by the parent or the special education director.  This isn’t the type of dishonesty I am talking about when I refer to The Liar.

The Liar is blatantly dishonest, willing to not only switch positions 180° from what he told the parents privately to what he says in the IEP Meeting, but to deny ever having taken the opposite position in the first place.

It is extremely difficult for me to sit still when I witness The Liar slither around an issue of dispute at an IEP Team Meeting, but my discomfort does not even compare to the reaction my clients have.  Connecticut being a small State, I can at least sometimes warn my clients in advance if I know I’m walking into a meeting with a notorious Liar.  “Don’t lose your cool,” I’ll tell them, “just write me a note giving me the truth, or tell me we need to step out into the hallway to talk.”  Even with these warnings, I sometimes have to physically prevent some of my clients from jumping out of their seats and yelling “YOU ARE SUCH A LIAR!!!”

When I talk to new clients, or to people outside of the special education legal community, and tell them that there are serious Liars working in our public schools, they sometimes don’t believe me.

Sometimes I’ll be on the phone with a prospective client, who will say “even the special education teacher told me that she completely agreed that he needs 1:1 speech therapy.”  And after getting the details of the exchange (estimated date, name of the teacher, context of discussion, where it took place) I will usually say “well, that’s good to know, and I hope she is willing to admit that publicly or under oath.”  When the response is “well, you don’t think she’d lie about it do you, that’s exactly what she told me!” a part of me winces.  I tell them that I am jaded and cynical, and I really hope I’m wrong, but that I see it all the time.

When “push comes to shove,” when a statement is made to a parent that could genuinely harm the school district’s case, in my experience, the person who made denies it 90% of the time.

Now, don’t get me wrong; parents can lie too, and I’ve had a few experiences over the years where I’ve discovered that it was my own client who was the source of dishonesty.  When that has happened, I’ve often terminated my representation of them.  In addition, there are misunderstandings in life.  Sometimes a caring teacher will make a comment to a parent like “I understand why you think he needs to be in a private placement,” and in fact, she does.  That does not necessarily mean that the teacher believes the school district’s program is inappropriate.

Yet, when a school district is exposed to potential litigation, all bets are off, and flat-out lying does occur.

I have been doing this long enough to know the kinds of questions to ask, and to get a feel for people; not always, but most of the time, I can tell if someone is lying to me.  In addition, I sometimes represent a number of children within the same district, even within the same program in the same district.  So when I am at one IEP Meeting and the staff is telling the parents that none of the other students in the class use augmentative communication devices,  and I happen to have a client in that very classroom who uses an augmentative communication device, I KNOW they are lying.

Thankfully, the full-fledged Liars are in the minority in our public schools, but they do real harm.

It really is an outrage, and it is part of why I tell parents to document all important discussions they have with the school district staff.  I can’t tell you how many parents I have witnessed undergo shock and disappointment when they hear the school staff lie to their faces at an IEP Team Meeting.  Worse still is the realization that someone who is working with their child is willing to outright deny their conversations with them.

The truth is, if you are unwilling to be honest about the needs of children with disabilities, you have no business working with them.

5 Responses to Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Liar”

  1. Theresa
    July 7th, 2009 | 6:34 am

    What is even more frustrating is when you know the person is lying and could easily prove it with a phone call but there is no time. Once the momentum builds to the denial of services at the IEP meeting, there is no stopping it and then it is too late. At my daughter’s IEP eligibility meeting a team member lied saying that he had talked to my daughter’s psychiatrist by phone and that he was assured by him that my daughter had been placed on home bound instruction by him only to allow her to catch up on her work, not because he was concerned about her mental health. When confronted with two letters from the doctor stating that the reason was that the lack of support in the school for her disability was causing debilitating anxiety, he just repeated what the doctor had “told” him. Later, when I called the doctor to ask about the conversation he said that he had never talked with this individual and that he would never pull a student out of school to “catch up”. He was furious! It was too late, though, because the decision that she was not eligible was made and, in large part, it was made based on that lie.

  2. Cathy
    September 10th, 2010 | 1:00 am

    I have definately dealt with “the Liar” during IEP meetings with my 6th grader. My child wore a voice recorder for 5 months to his school and never once was caught with it. wore it in the door captured every word until he walked out. We caught this teacher in more than 7 lies…she still teaches today. She even had the desire to diagnosis our child in a 504 stating there was nothing wrong with him not even his dx of ADHD was correct. After further evaluation by a professional not only did we find he was ADHD but also on the autistic spectrum. Its a shame the lies these teachers will go to so they can excerpt some of their power. Just ask me…I know…I listened to multitude of lies over 5 months and this teacher still teaches school.

  3. Linda
    September 30th, 2011 | 8:16 pm

    We have several of these liars in our district. They try to discredit parents by lying about them. Most recently we have been arguing over transportation reimbursement. We were told at an IEP meeting (that was taped) that the district would not be able to transport my daughter home from her NPS due to her program finishing too late in the day. We agreed to transport provided that the district reimburse us for the cost. Later they decided that they would only reimburse us for one way of the trip, and their justification is that we “refused” transportation. Of course we refused nothing, and that isn’t justification for their position anyway! Heck, even reimbursing appropriately for both ways, they are saving money since they don’t have to pay me a salary on top of the mileage. This is just the latest in their lies to and about us.

  4. Elizabeth Morse
    October 22nd, 2011 | 6:41 pm

    Unfortunately, I know The Liar well. The school social worker and psychologist lied about my agreeing to the IEP, for one thing. They wanted my son out of the school and in a therapeutic setting based on their own evaluation, discarding evalustions by both a psychiatrist and psychologist. They initiated the evaluation and I agreed to it. Then, they stated in their documentation (which I specifically had to request after doing on the wrightslaw website to get imformation) that I was dissatisfied with his present program and in fact I wasn’t. I had only agreed to the evalluation.

    Then they lied that I had consented to a therapeutic setting placement and a classification of Emotionally Disturbed. These recommendations were not backed up by independent clinicians. I wrote a letter to the school stating that I did not agree to the IEP. I got baffled phone callls from District representatives who had been told that I’d agreed. They asked me for a statement in writing that I did not agree to a placement in a self-contained class or a placement in a private school for emotionally disturbed children. I emailed them one immediately.

    I was shocked that they lied so blatantly. Oh, and I was told by the school social worker that they were not going to change my son’s placement, even when I asked a direct question and stated that I was opposed to it..

  5. Christine
    June 7th, 2013 | 2:26 am

    The funniest thing I ever saw was a teacher telling us a bold face lie in the meeting. My husband called her out and she emphatically denied she had ever said any such thing. My husband paused the meeting and pulled up his email on his blackberry. I happen to have this email dated XX/XX/XX written by you where you quite clearly say ….. was handed to me, handed to the advocate, handed to the director of spec. ed for the county, and the principal. I wanted to say ‘So now that we have clearly established you as a liar…..’ I love having things in writing. We started recording meetings after this.