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My child needs more services, but the principal said no.

posted Aug 19, 2011, 9:36 AM by Diane Willcutts   [ updated Nov 13, 2012, 6:09 PM ]
What do I do now?  

Consider the following:

1.  Did you request the services in a PPT?  If not, the request doesn't "count," and you should request a PPT.  Only the PPT can make decisions about a child's program, and the PPT includes lots of people (parents, regular education teacher, special education teacher, etc.), not just the principal.  PPTs also come with procedural safeguards that are unique to PPTs.  E.g., when the school team says "no" to a request at a PPT, they have to document their (child-based) reason why the action was refused, list what other options were considered, etc.  This is called "Prior Written Notice."  See your procedural safeguards for more information.

2.  Did you review the IEP in order?  You can't just jump to services.  The PPT should first determine the student's needs ("present levels of performance"), then develop goals (based on needs), and THEN make decisions about what services are needed to meet the goals.  

Why would services need to increase?  Sometimes they increase because the child's needs have changed, maybe the child is not making adequate progress on existing goals, or perhaps there are additional goals added to the IEP.  Just a few examples.

3.  Did you put your request in writing?  "If it's not in writing, it never happened."  If the PPT has met to consider changes to the IEP, follow up with a polite letter to the director of special education (or principal or other administrator at the meeting) to thank them for the PPT and to document important areas of agreement and disagreement.  What did you request?  How did the district respond?  Sending a letter helps to minimize miscommunication and also provides a "paper trail" to document what you discussed.  Yes, the school is supposed to document all requests and refusals, but sometimes this doesn't happen.

4.  If you have done 1-3 and still have a "no" about something important, consider filing for a hearing, requesting mediation, and/or filing a state complaint.  These are formal and informal dispute resolution processes, which are reasonable ways to resolve disagreements between families and school teams.  Some information about dispute resolution processes is included in the state's Parents' Guide to Special Education in Connecticut.  More detailed information about the state complaint process is here.  

And if this seems confusing, don't worry; almost everyone feels that way in the beginning.  If you have any questions, just let me know!