There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel-I Hope It Ain’t No Train
This has been an extremely difficult time for school systems, and in particular for school personnel who work with disabled students. The needs of the children are immense and the demands are often unattainable. Sometimes it seems that people who make the demands live in the clouds. But now that vaccines are on the horizon, we see that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. That does not mean, though, that there is not in the interim a train at the end of that same tunnel. So this is an opportune time to remind everyone of how to handle virtual IEP meetings so you don’t get hit. Some things to remember:
- Parents and their attorneys and advocates are still taping meetings.
- Read and reread the Prior Written Notice and your notes from the meetings. It is harder to remember what happens in virtual meetings than when the meetings are held in-person.
- Get those 5 day documents out in time.
- If you are provided with parents’ documents at the last minute, you may need to schedule another meeting to review the documents. But hold the meeting you were going to hold; don’t just cancel it.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Too often during the virtual meetings, staff speak at breakneck speed, as if they were reading off a teleprompter. When the meeting is over, you wonder what was said.
- Don’t let the parents’ attorneys/advocates hijack the meeting. The IEP Chair needs to keep to the agenda and learn to override the person who wants to sidetrack the meeting. You can always get to another topic at the end of the meeting.
- Two (2) hours is long enough for a virtual meeting. Schedule the next meeting before you exit the virtual meeting.
- Learn to say, “we will have to agree to disagree and note your disagreement in the PWN.” There are some attorneys/advocates who have learned that if they do not give up, you will eventually give in, even if you totally disagree. End the conversation.
- When you speak, state your name. This is true whether your picture is on the screen or just your name or telephone number. It can be very difficult to identify the speaker.
- Be prepared with data.
- Remember to evaluate and perhaps change reading interventions when the student is not making progress.
- If the student is not making progress because the student is not “attending” school, note that in the PWN.
- IEP teams are being confronted by parents who say it is not their obligation to get their children in front of the computer for virtual learning. Your answer has to be that during the unique times of the pandemic, it is their obligation to do so, just as it is a parent’s obligation to feed and dress a child and get the child to the school bus. However, it may be that the parent really needs some help in this area and you should try to work with the parent on a plan of action to get the child to the computer.