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Story Time……… 

Many years ago I worked at what I like to call an “opportunity school.” This was a school that was low  performing but had so much potential to excel and the students were an absolute joy! I had a student that was  in the third grade but reading on a kindergarten level. This was my first year as a principal at this school, so I  needed to read their cumulative file and become more familiar with the student’s academics. After reading the  student’s folder, I noticed that they had been referred for special education services for the last two years but  the parent refused. Even though the student was reading on a kindergarten level, the district continued to  promote the student. As a result of this, the student’s reading level did not improve and the student starting  to show signs of discipline. This change of events caused me to set up a meeting with the parent. 

The parent and I met, and during the meeting the parent shared with me why they had some many  reservations about special education. The reservations were all valid! Here’s the parent’s story. When the  parent was in elementary school, they were referred for special education services. The parent (student at the  time) and their parents were guaranteed that even though the child was enrolled in special education services now, it would not be indefinitely during the child’s education journey. This proved not to be true, and the  parent was enrolled in a self-contained class for the duration of their education journey. The parent talked  about what it was like to not interact with their peers, eating lunch in the class, the constant bullying, and  being tucked away in a section of the school not known to others in a small classroom. 

Eventually, we were able to get the parent to approve the student going through the evaluation process and  receiving special education services. This took a lot of trust and the implementation of a contract with the  parent. The contract included regular check ins with the parent and teacher to discuss how the student was  performing as well as how the parent was feeling about the services. We also included in the contract that at  any moment, the parent could call a meeting to discontinue the services. This sounds simple right? It really is that simple, the school was not required to do anything that was abnormal or special (for lack of a better  word) pertaining to the contract. The school was actually following protocol/regulations but because this did  not happen to the parent when they were receiving special education services, they did not know that these  rights existed.  

We have come a long way in special education and IDEA has ensured that students receiving special  education services have the opportunity to learn, glean, and interact with their non-disabled peers throughout  the instructional day. However, what we have not done a great job with is teaching all parents the importance  of advocating for their children. We have also failed to provide parents with concrete examples of what  advocating for your child looks like in action. Educators, the school year is coming to an end, and you are  probably trying to complete those last minutes IEPs and evaluations. Don’t forget the impact and role that  parents and guardians play in this process. Help them, listen to them, and then work with them to co-create the best education for our children. Let’s continue to educate all students! 


Lead Learner

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