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Is it legitimate to include school avoidance within the IEP?


Our MS student has been diagnosed with ADHD, major depression, and generalized anxiety. She became increasingly school avoidant over the course of this year. School staff counseled us to take a hands off approach, allowing her to miss her first three classes of the morning. (Electives and PE) Here we are seven months into the school year and she has attended only 40% of her classes.

She was not in special Ed in the fall term. finally finally finally, after five months off delays and 10 days of last minute testing, they determined that she was special ed and we have started the IEP process. We had our first meeting which started late and was interrupted so we have another one planned.

The district representative has said that the school avoidance is the family’s problem and the district has no obligation to help this child until she can get herself to school on time. I said that she has three diagnoses which contribute to her school avoidance and therefore it should be included in the IEP. They should not make her solving this problem a prerequisite to getting help. We don’t believe it’s appropriate for the district to be involved in how she gets to school but we feel that her school avoidance is at least 50% about what happens once she gets there and that the school has some responsibility to help address this.

we talked to a special Ed advocate, but she agrees that it is the family’s responsibility to solve the school avoidance. I’m wondering what other peoples experience is with this, does it seem reasonable for us to expect the school to help address this problem especially when they have enabled it for seven months?

What ideas/strategies can you suggest a school cd try, to help a middle school student who is school avoidant?

Also, Is it acceptable for the school district to expect families to sign a very rough/incomplete draft IEP they’ve never seen before, at the conclusion of a one hour meeting where they mostly talked in special ed speak? What are our options if we need more time?


Thank you!

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At the very least they need to provide accommodations for her disabilities.  Does she need a graduated start due to her disabilities?  Does she need transportation other than the regular school bus?  Does she need a person with whom she has established a relationship to meet her at the door?  Walk her to her first class?

I would request an FBA.  How can the school make the argument that they have no responsibility unless they know WHY the student is having school avoidance?  Also, once the "why's" are determined, then and only then can a decision be made as to what can be included in an IEP (and maybe a BIP) to help.  If they refuse any of this, they are withholding FAPE due to her disabilities.

No, it is absolutely not acceptable for the school district to expect families to sign an incomplete/draft IEP at the conclusion of a meeting in which they have agreed needs to be continued on another date.  First, make sure your state even requires a signature on an IEP.  Second, a draft should never be signed.  Third, the only thing parents have to sign at a meeting is the attendance sheet and releases for any guests they have invited to the meeting.  Anything else should have a 10 day time frame (check your state law).

Avoid this in the future by insisting that the school district provide the parents with a draft of the IEP 5 days before the meeting (you could negotiate down to 3, which is acceptable).  If they don't, say you'll have to reschedule the meeting so that the parents can time to review the draft and that this is necessary for them to be able to participate meaningfully (IDEA requirement) at the meeting.

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If school avoidance is due to school related anxiety or difficulties with meeting expectations within the school environment due to her disabilities, then addressing those issues (as you suggested) could help.  An FBA is a good idea--it hopefully would at least provide information that would stop the school from enabling the behavior, and ideally help the team develop a goal and plan for improving attendance.

My son experiences this as well, and would have easily gotten to the point of your daughter if I had believed their excuses and followed their suggestions and advice. I heard excuses like "everyone has problems with Mondays / rainy mornings / coming back from vacation / when their big left toe hurts, etc etc."  I have been asked to pick him up from school when he was at the nurses office wanting to come home.  At one point they made a plan with him where he could take days off for his mental health (without my permission, and outside of the IEP team of course) and told him that if he didn't think he could retain information that day he should stay home.  Well, my kid with generalized anxiety, depression, and EF issues could almost always feel that way...and avoidance almost always increases anxiety symptoms in the long run.

What I keep reminding them is that he needs to be educated in the least restrictive environment, and that home is the most restrictive environment.  He should only be home if he is required to stay home due to illness per their handbook, and that students have an extensive amount of vacation time built into their calendars so he shouldn't need to take additional days off just to get through the school year.  Plus, when he gets the appropriate supports for what is expected of him at school, his avoidance behaviors improve.

My son has benefitted from counseling outside of school, in addition to the counseling minutes he gets in school.  Some of what they tell him needs to be "corrected" so to speak.  I've found this website to be really helpful for this as well:  https://schoolavoidance.org

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