Jump to content
  • 0

NY - Rural - EVERY SpEd Family Desperate for Help

Jennifer Spears


Wow, so I don't even know where to start. My school district is in Northern NYS - we have a school District of 247 students (K-12), approx 20% are students with Special Needs. The next closest school district is 40 minutes away. I am a former Special Education teacher in a former life, out of Education for over 20 years. When I moved to this town from Nashville, TN I heard stories from parents who were struggling to get services for their child, IEPs not being followed, services being removed, etc. So, I took courses to educate myself in SpEd Advocacy so I could try to help her.

I now have about 15 families that I'm helping. And I'm doing this for free. We are a small town and these families have been struggling and fighting for basic services for YEARS. I am the only advocate in the area and many of the families don't want "outsiders" who don't know them, their child, or our school to be advocating for them. These families need help and if it's not me, then they just won't get help and the school will continue steamrolling these families.

I was supposed to have an IEP meeting today with a family. The child is currently in the 8th grade, at the 3rd grade level in reading and 5th math. In the "Extremely Low" classification for Visual Spacial, working memory, processing speed, written expression, and reading fluency. 

For the 8th grade school year, his IEP states his needs of:

  • modified grade level work in all areas
  • essentialized curriculum in all classes
  • requires assistance with initiating or starting assignments
  • supplemental direct reading instruction  

His placement this year was in the gen ed 8th grade class with a co-teacher in ELA and Math, Resource room for direct reading instruction, and resource room for essentially monitored study hall, reteaching, assignment help. His program modifications of "prioritize instruction in all subjects and assignments," "additional adult assistance" in Social studies, science, technology, ELA, Math, and other things like copy of class notes, simplified directions with multiple examples, reteaching, wait time, check for understanding, speech-to-text and text-to-speech, calculator.

The parent received a phone call from the Special Ed. Chairperson 2 hours before the IEP meeting to give her "a heads up" that due to budgetary constraints the administration has decided to no longer offer co-teaching in high school. Her child is the only student in his grade that would benefit from the model and they just can't afford that for one student. However, of course the school will still make sure that they are offering consulting with the gen. ed. teachers on essentializing and modifications. So they will continue to try and meet her child's needs.

We have been fighting all year to show through many examples of work that is coming home that in the classes where he does not have a co-teacher that there has been NO essentializing or modifications per his current IEP. The parent was told that essentializing in science this year couldn't happen because essentializing is "taking out the fluff" and there was no fluff in 8th grade science. So they have instead, used white out on multiple choice questions so there are only 3 answer options.

Gen Ed teachers have told me directly that they have received little or no help or guidance on how to essentialize curriculum.

So...I could be writing this about any one of my students in middle and high school. In most cases, there is 1 student with significant special needs in a given grade and we are constantly being told by the school administration that they simply can't do this or that for one student.

How do I fight this? Family's have already tried moderated IEP meetings and that did not work or at best, the school put the words on the IEP but still did whatever they wanted in the class. The Special Ed Chairperson has withheld or modified progress reports that didn't support the narrative she wanted to share with the parent. And teachers will share this with me in confidence but they are reluctant or refuse to go on record for fear of losing their job if they are untenured or retaliation if they are tenured. The administration is TOXIC and have re-assigned SpEd teachers and aids in retaliation and they will do everything in their power to fight the parent and beat them into submission because they know most can't afford a lawyer. And if the family can, they will drag it out as long as they can to make the parent pay through the nose or give up.

Please, I need advice. We are desperate. Our school budget is up for vote and their is a good chance that it won't pass. I would not at all surprise me if they cut the special ed department drastically to force the special ed students to be bused to other placements. For many that is at least 40 min one way and would take these kids out of any after school activities because the bus gets back too late. 

Thank you in advance for any ideas, suggestions, recommendations. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 0

Dear Sp Ed Chairperson-

Thanks for the heads up that XYZ School District will not be offering co-taught HS classes.  My child, XXX, has had these in the past and it was a services he found helpful.  I appreciate that you let me know this is not an option for 9th grade.


Have the mom write an email like this ^.  It gets the phone conversation into writing because there is a saying in sp ed:  If it's not it writing, it didn't happen.  This verifies that the mom recalls the conversation correctly.

If co-taught classes are FAPE, the school has to provide them.  Yes, it's expensive to provide this to one student but the school still needs to provide FAPE even if it bankrupts them.  If they don't want to do this in-house, the other option is to send the student to another school that can provide this - can either be a public school in another district or a private school.  (You can force them to provide FAPE but you cannot force them to do it the way you want it done which I'm assuming is in-district.)

There should be a way for families to force the school to provide FAPE w/o hiring a lawyer.  If you have 20 families in a district with 247 students writing the same complaint letter to the state, they will help the families - or at least they should.  https://portal.311.nyc.gov/article/?kanumber=KA-01487  or try  https://www.justia.com/lawyers/education-law/new-york/legal-aid-and-pro-bono-services  or https://www.drny.org/  You might want to talk to families about a class action suit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0
  • Moderators

Wow.  This is so sad.  And so wrong.  Thank you for trying to help these families.

I agree with JSD24.  The state needs to get involved.  I would suggest that you make an informal call to the state explaining the situation and asking for their advice concurrent with the families writing a complaint letter.  And yes, a paper trail in this situation is critical.  After any phone conversations, follow up with an email setting forth the conversation.  Put all parent concerns in an email that is sent prior to any IEP meeting.  Ask for a Prior Written Notice for any parent concern that is denied during an IEP meeting.  Record meetings if New York is a one party state, or at a minimum follow up all IEP meetings with an email outlining what occurred, what was agreed to, and what was refused.

Other observations:

1.  As JSD24 pointed out, budget issues are not an excuse to not provide FAPE.

2.  What is the "supplemental direct reading instruction?"  Do some of these students need a multi-sensory, structured literacy due to dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies?

3.  An 8th grader who is at a third grade level for reading (and 5th grade for math) needs way more than a co-taught class to catch up.

4.  I would have any family who is not satisfied request an IEE, which will hopefully provide recommendations that the school will at least have to consider.  And will hopefully get the school district's attention.

5.  What are the state requirements and is this district following them?  For instance, is RTI or MTSS required for students who are behind?  If so, is the school district tracking progress and providing reports to the parents?  If not, this needs to be included in the state complaint letters.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Answer this question...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use