As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis. But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.
Such statements mislead or misrepresent the school’s legal obligations, and always in a way that benefits the school district.
After hearing so many of them, I decided to add a separate category to my blog just for this purpose, where I will post these ridiculous comments and explain why it likely violates IDEA. Hopefully, if you’ve heard similar things from your district, next time around you will know better!
Today’s Ridiculous Comment
I have a theory: when I start to hear the same violation of the IDEA out of the mouths of a number of special education administrators within a short period of time, I have to believe they all just attended a conference together or something. Nothing else would quite adequately explain why, out of nowhere, I will attend a handful of IEP meetings in different school districts over the course of a few months, and hear the same exact responses from each of them on similar factual scenarios. Not long ago, I heard this one:
“Yes, I see where the psychiatrist diagnosed him with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and has recommended that he needs an IEP, but we don’t identify ODD kids for special education services.”
Huh? My initial response the first time I heard this was one I have more often than I’d like. I thought to myself “okay, this administrator is clearly unaware of their legal obligations and their attorney will set them straight when we get to Mediation or threaten Due Process.” But then I heard it again from another director in another town: “If all he has is ODD we can’t identify him.” By the third administrator who said this, I was convinced. Yup: recent conference of special education directors was held from which overly broad conclusions were drawn.
Whenever your school district starts a sentence with “we don’t,” your ears should perk up and you should start taking notes.
The cornerstone of the IDEA is that decision making about children with special education needs, from evaluations to programming, should be made on an individual basis. The unique needs of that child are what is important. And yet, I hear school staff make bold proclamations almost every day about what they, as a district, “do” and “don’t do,” without regard to the individual needs of the child in question.
There is nothing in the IDEA which excludes ODD, or any other diagnosed disability, from consideration as triggering eligibility for special education and related services.
Just as having been diagnosed with a particular disability does not guarantee eligibility for special education and related services, neither does having a particular disability exclude a child from services. If you have been told this, it’s just plain wrong! The question is not whether “all kids” with a certain diagnosis will require special education services under the IDEA; the question is whether the child in question does.
As a general rule, be wary of general rules when it comes to special education.
There are, of course, some well-settled aspects of the IDEA, about which it is fair to make global statements. But there aren’t many. Therefore, if your school district is making generalizations, and telling you things like “we don’t do home services in this district” or “only kids with a speech and language impairment get services from our speech pathologist,” it’s probably a good time to speak with a special education advocate or attorney.
In the meantime, if you’re told something like this, ask to see a copy of the policy which states it. I can almost guarantee you, it doesn’t exist.