Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Wily Fox”

Published on May 15, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Wily Fox”

From the perspective of a parents’ special education attorney, this is the most dangerous of all IEP Team members.   A Wily Fox is a person, usually a high level special education administrator, who has been studying the IDEA.  Often, they have attended a number of conferences on special education law, and sometimes they have even been trained by their school district’s attorney.  If they have been through numerous Due Process Hearings, they are empowered by having been through a proceeding which most parents of children with disabilities find daunting.

These are the people who have more than a working knowledge of the IDEA; they know enough about special education law to circumvent it.

Don’t get me wrong; I actually think that some of the best special education administrators out there are those who have familiarized themselves with their legal obligations to kids with disabilities.  In fact, most of the really good special education administrators I have encountered are effective because they understand what they are supposed to do.  Moreover, I credit any school district attorney who takes the time to educate their clients as to their legal obligations, provided it is done properly.

It is not the well-intentioned public school special education administrators that worry me.

I am often asked which is worse:  incompetence or evil?  While they are not mutually exclusive, the fact remains that it is far easier to challenge an IEP developed by an incompetent district than it is to fight one created by a Wily Fox.  These individuals become expert at crafting IEPs which appear not only appropriate, but excellent.  Unfortunately, the Wily Fox has no intention of implementing this IEP; rather, their goal is to appear to implement it.  It is just window dressing.

This is the worst kind of special education adversary, because they actually know better.

The saddest thing about the Wily Fox may be that these administrators are intelligent enough to comprehend the legal obligations of the IDEA.  And yet, rather than using that knowledge to embrace the process of designing appropriate special education programs for kids, they choose to use it to obfuscate.  Having litigated many special education cases in Connecticut, I am always amazed at how much energy and strategy a school district devotes to defending themselves in a Hearing, when everyone would have been much better served if they’d used that level of planning in develping the child’s IEP.

2 Responses to Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Wily Fox”

  1. Rochelle Dolim
    May 16th, 2009 | 11:27 am

    That’s what’s been happening to us for years. It took over 14 months to receive services they’d offered… still no support to make it work. My girls are 19, Legal obligations will be circumvented until 22. My girls’ education has been ripped from them!

  2. Ruby in Montreal
    September 3rd, 2009 | 10:41 pm

    Wonderful series, Jen! Thank you so much for sharing these valuable insights.

    I have to say I’ve seen a number of these characters over the past few years. Unfortunately, one highly placed staff member has significant traits of several unseemly IEP team members.

    We’ve started the year off with several staffing changes & are building on some good foundations we worked hard to lay down at the end of last year. So far, so good! I do feel a little better armed now that I’ve read your articles, though, and also reassured that many of the strategies we were employing have worked for you.

    Thanks again!
    Ruby