What is your worst special education experience with a school district?

In the Comments describe your worst experience advocating for a child with a disability with your school district.  Did they fail to adequately find or evaluate a disability?  Did they design a poor IEP?  Did they fail to take your suggestions for the IEP?  Are you unhappy with the placement or classroom for your child?  Did the school district not provide the services they agreed to in the IEP? Is your child with a disability being bullied and the school district is not doing anything about it?  Something else?

Please stick to FACTS and not just namecalling.  Also, include your city, state, and name of the school district so that others can be aware.  If you don’t feel comfortable publishing that with your name, you can either post anonymously or only include your state.  We’d love to hear from you.

If you need a special ed lawyer to help you, visit the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates at www.copaa.org and start your search there.  If you are in NJ or PA, we at SchoolKidsLawyer.com can assist you.


4 thoughts on “What is your worst special education experience with a school district?”

  1. From 2012-2015, our son (diagnosis of ASD) attended Okawville Grade School in Okawville, IL (aka West Washington CUSD #10). This district is served under Kaskaskia SpEd Dist 801. The following is a (very condensed!) list of the problems we encountered:
    Poorly written IEPs (for example, the present levels of achievement read thus: “[Student] is a nice young man who likes to have fun with his friends.”)
    Bullying that finally resulted in injury, ignored by administration.
    Retaliation by staff/administration toward child and parents because of parent advocacy on child’s behalf.
    Dishonesty by administration re: teacher training, surveillance camera policies, availability of services, and more.
    Superintendent retaliated against us by refusing to allow our son to attend his own IEP meeting. We filed an OCR complaint. The district attempted to require us to sign a gag order in exchange for them allowing him to attend future IEP meetings. We refused to sign it. OCR sided with us.
    Illinois State Board of Education cited the school in 2014 for multiple IDEA violations, including “systemic” placement of students in their alternative school based upon diagnosis and age, lack of accommodations/modifications/supports in classroom practice, and insufficient teacher training. Superintendent told local news outlets that “ISBE gave us a very good review,” following the issuance of findings. This was a blatant lie, which was undiscovered until we requested a copy of the ISBE report through the FOIA.
    In addition, the school allowed two staff to attend the parent meeting during the ISBE inquiry, despite providing written notice to parents stating that staff would NOT be in attendance. Parents complained staff presence intimidated them from speaking as openly with ISBE as they would have otherwise.
    School board referred questions from us to the superintendent against whom we won the OCR complaint, evidently oblivious to the conflict of interest.
    Administration attempted to push our son into their “alternative school” (Bronson Center), which is identical in description to the GNETS schools in Georgia that were the subject of a Dept of Justice investigation. The handbook lists “mechanical restraints” (illegal in Illinois) as a discipline option, along with the usual restraint and seclusion and other abusive practices. We can provide the handbook, photos, and more information on the conditions we observed at Bronson Center if requested.
    School did not hold a Manifest Determination before attempting to change our son’s placement.
    Our son was subjected daily to hostile treatment from school staff, to the point he developed symptoms consistent with PTSD.
    The school makes a practice of hiring only locals to teach, most of whom are alumni of the school and/or related to one another, to administrators, and to school board members. Ex: our son’s SpEd teacher and the SpEd classroom aide are sisters-in-law. This systemic nepotism practically guarantees that staff are never held accountable for their behavior.
    We are in possession of emails between staff which include disparaging remarks about our son and his parents.
    Our son’s OT blamed his handwriting difficulties on the length of his hair (yes, we have this in writing also).
    During an IEP meeting, the school nurse made excuses for lack of student supervision (after our son was injured by his longtime bully and “no one saw anything”) by claiming “Well, we have over 200 students out there and some have ADHD and we can’t watch them all the time!”
    The school brought their attorney to IEP meetings after the OCR complaint was made (and had been decided in our favor), although we (the parents) did NOT bring an attorney. This was obviously done in an attempt to intimidate us.
    Our son was repeatedly suspended for “shutting down” in class after being berated by teachers for “not doing work” for which they refused to provide accommodations as directed in the IEP. In one case, a teacher refused to let him retrieve his pencil, which led to a two-hour meltdown.
    Parent questions/concerns were not noted in the IEP, although those by staff were included in detail.
    After the school attempted to change his placement, we filed mediation in order to invoke “stay put” to get him through the last few weeks of the school year. The school’s representatives consisted of the KSED 801 coordinator, the school’s attorney, and THAT superintendent. The mediator from ISBE separated us from the school reps, talked to them for over an hour, then came in and told us that it couldn’t be resolved and our only option was to proceed to due process. He never even heard our side of the story.
    We ultimately had to move into the next county just to get our son out of that school and SpEd district before the start of the next school year. Happily, he is now an eighth-grader and has been thriving at his new school for the past two years. The new district has been wonderful to work with.

    1. I’m very pleased that this story has a happy ending. It is tragic what you had to go through. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. In November 2009, I moved to Foxborough MA with my two children. My then-fifth grader has ASD. Three and a half years later, he was in 8th and his sister was in 5th, both at the same middle school. His sister had been experiencing severe separation anxiety for months. I was advocating strongly for both. The principal, unwilling to learn about anxiety and appropriate interventions, threatened to file against my 12 year old in juvenile court. I took her to the ER and eventually she was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric program. After she was there for 3 weeks, child protective services became involved. About a month later, the principal fabricated a story that lead to CPS taking custody of my daughter and moving my son to his abusive father’s home. My daughter was returned to my care, but my son, being 15, stayed with his father and rejected any of my further attempts to advocate on his behalf. In June, 2017, he graduated from the local high school. He was accepted to an excellent college but never set foot on campus. I believe that the middle school principal lied in order to discredit me in my advocacy for my children and in retaliation for filing a state-level complaint that found the district systemically out of compliance. Her lies resulted in my daughter being traumatized by the CPS system and my son failing to receive the transition services that he needed. Congratulations, Mrs. Abrams. It worked.

  3. Yay! A chance to tell my favorite story!

    My then 14 year-old daughter had been diagnosed with ADHD just before high school, is gifted, and was suffering (as we later learned, impaired long-term) from the effects of a second concussion in 6 months. She was only evaluated for a 504 plan in May of her freshman year even though I asked at the beginning of school. I spent the summer reading the Office for Civil Rights website.

    When I asked for a copy of the Section 504 procedural safeguards, which we hadn’t received at our preliminary 504 meeting, the Section 504 coordinator/head of special education for the entire school district sent me an email stating I had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to receive a copy. Through a FERPA request I later learned the superintendent reviewed the email and said it looked good.

    At our first 504 meeting in the beginning of her sophomore year, we had a brand-new principal (gym teacher for 20 years before getting the administrator certificate) at his second job with one year of experience under his belt, the 504 coordinator, the school counselor, the head of counseling, a teacher.

    It started off typically with grade reports. Mostly Cs and an A. And the statement we had heard the previous year; because she was passing, everything was fine. And, as parents of gifted kids do, we pointed out that Cs were not an accurate representation of her learning or her ability to learn.

    The 504 coordinator was quick to point out that not all of the grades were Cs, “She doing great! She has an A in gym.”

    My daughter replied, “Gym doesn’t count. It’s not academic. All I have to do is show up to get an A.” We had all four employees of the ex-gym teacher-turned-principal clamoring to defend gym class as an important and meaningful class that includes a unit on health. (Nothing against gym class–but it wasn’t a concern.)

    We asked for reduced homework as an accommodation.

    The 504 coordinator said reduced homework was a modification. We were concerned that we were misunderstood and pointed out that we expected the work to be on the same level–but perhaps less problems. The 504 coordinator said they had to contact the teacher to see if she thought it was a modification. I said I thought we had the right people in the meeting to make decisions for what my child needed to prevent disability discrimination.

    The principal said (on a recording), “I don’t like to tell my teachers what to do.” I think you could have heard a pin drop. Of course, I had to state the obvious–a 504 meeting is where we decide what the teachers need to do because my daughter is a child with a disability.

    The principal said, “If you had sent your requests before the meeting, we would have an answer.”

    Because of exhaustion and inability to concentrate at all at the end of the day, we requested her last period algebra class be moved to earlier in the day.

    The principal said, “I get a lot of kids who want to get out of the class at the end of the day,” as a denial. We pointed out that we were in the meeting because my daughter is a child with a disability. She piped up and stated she has a really hard time in the class because of her ADHD and really can’t think at all and other kids weren’t having that problem.

    The principal looked right at her and said, “How would you know? You have ADHD.” My 14 year old daughter stared at him and said, to her brand new high school principal nearly 30 years older than her, “Are you saying that because I have ADHD I can’t understand how ADHD affects me and I can’t observe how other people who don’t have ADHD act?”

    In the end, the principal took a majority vote, complete with raised hands, for our accommodation request. My daughter said, “There are five of you and three of us and you’re their boss.”

    Oh, and of course, he kicked us out.

    He’s never been to another 504 or IEP meeting since four years later. Yep. I did that. OCR complaint still hanging over their heads.

    *not word for word quotes since it’s been 4 years.

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