Rochelle’s Special Education Tips
All I’m Askin’ is for a Little Respect
Have you noticed a remarkable deterioration in the way educators are treated at IEP team meetings and in communications outside of the IEP meetings? This occurs only in a minority of situations, but those cases eat away at the morale of staff. It is just not parents who act this way, but their attorneys, advocates, educational consultants, and even expert witnesses also engage in disruptive behaviors. The other day, a neuropsychologist came to an IEP team meeting and was so verbally inappropriate that a team member was brought to tears. In another meeting, a parent brought a team member to tears by making unfounded claims of poor teaching. The teacher had to leave the meeting. This is ugly, not productive, and must be halted. While this problem has been discussed previously in Tips, here are some thoughts on how to handle these problems.
Start the meeting with a short opening about the need to treat one another with respect. State that if this does not occur, the team will need to take a break.
If you have taken a break and the rudeness continues, stop the meeting and reschedule. (Of course, if you are dealing with a timeline, such as a review of a report, or determination of ESY eligibility, then try to finish that part of the meeting.)
If a parent bullies the team by saying that If you do not agree on a particular issue the parent will leave and the meeting will have to end, advise the parent that the parent may leave but the team will continue to complete the business at hand.
Do not sit too close to one another. Keep a little space. Otherwise, the animosity of the rude person will feel intimidating to the persons sitting next to her. You may need to move the meeting to another building to get a larger room.
Stay as formal as possible. Never call the parent “Mom.” Call each other “Mr.” and “Ms.”
Some people say things that are not true to get the statements on tape. Make sure to refute erroneous statements when made. You may even say, “That is not accurate. Are you saying that just to get the statement on the tape.?” Otherwise, the repetition of the erroneous statements becomes the truth and is thrown at the team over and over. We find that these tapes are being turned over to MSDE and OCR, whose employees tend to believe what they hear without the benefit of knowing all of the background or watching the body language of the speakers.
When the discussion at an IEP team meeting over a particular issue becomes repetitive, the Chair should say, “We will note your disagreement and put it in the PWN.” Don’t allow the meeting to become unduly tied up in an argument.
As soon as someone uses a curse word, stop the meeting. Take a break. Likewise, if a parent stands up during the meeting, direct the parent to sit down. If the parent does not immediately comply, stop the meeting. Take a break.
When these types of incidents occur, notify the administration so they will be prepared when a complaint is made.
When you are dealing with difficult people, keep the meetings to 2 hours. State ahead of time how long the meeting may take. If you have to go beyond 2 hours, be sure to take regular meeting breaks. People need to eat lunch and visit the restroom. It is unhealthy, physically and emotionally, to sit in one place for too long.
Rochelle’s Special Education Tips (“Tips”) are designed to be helpful and thought provoking, but should not be considered legal advice as they may not be accurate for use in all situations. Tips are based on my opinions and positions in accordance with federal and Maryland law and my over 35 years of experience in the special education legal field. – Rochelle S. Eisenberg, Esquire
Copyright © 2018 Pessin Katz Law, P.A. All rights reserved.
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