The majority of teachers are more than willing to work with parents to help ensure the success of their students. Occasionally, however, teachers do not cooperate with parents in providing information regarding the student. Parents may want information on progress, assignments or other academic information. This information is essential to parents wanting to request an evaluation or to help determine what accommodations or services worked well and which ones did not and should be adjusted. It is also beneficial to the child for parents and teachers to work together.
When children are covered under an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504, communication should be addressed at the initial meeting. In addition to discussing methods of communication between teachers and parents, specific goals should be made. The communication method, whether by notes, email or phone calls, should address the progress of the goals on a regular basis. In a recent interview, student advocate, Dawn Trautwein of All About Kids Advocacy, tells parents that any time a child is not making progress, the IEP (or Section 504) team should meet to make adjustments to services, accommodations or modifications.
If a teacher is unwilling or unable to provide information to a parent, or is otherwise uncooperative, parents can take some steps to help resolve the situation:
- When parents have a specific problem with a teacher, the best place to start is with the teacher. Set up a meeting to talk with the teacher, either before or after school hours, when both you and the teacher can focus. Let the teacher know what concerns you have, without being adversarial. Calmly explain what you perceive as a problem and offer suggestions to help correct the situation.
If a meeting with the teacher does not resolve the situation, decide whether the problem is a result of or relating to your child's disability. If the problem is a school problem, or is a situation you would feel compelled to complain about regardless of your child's disability, it is probably best to contact the principal. One measure of this, according to Ms. Trautwein, would be whether this issue would matter if your child did not have a disability. For example, if you have a child without a disability, would you feel the teacher's conduct required meeting with the principal? If so, the principal would be the place to start.
If the issue you are concerned with is a teacher not following or failing to implement the accommodations or modifications as spelled out in the IEP or Section 504, and a meeting with the teacher does not resolve the situation, Ms. Trautwein suggests contacting the Director of Special Education. He or she would be best able to look into the situation and talk further with you and the teacher and hopefully determine why the IEP or Section 504 is not being followed.
If, after contacting the Director of Special Education, the issue is still not resolved, parents have several additional options;
Contact your state Department of Education and find out which department would cover Special Education. You can file a complaint with this department. Once this is done, an investigation should occur. This is a good place to start as filing a complaint does not cost the parent any money and will allow the school and parents to present their perspective of the situation.
Request mediation. When the IEP was first issued, parents should receive information on how to file a complaint or request mediation. If you no longer have that information, you should be able to contact the school and request a copy. This information will provide the details of how to request a mediator to help resolve the situation.
Hire an advocate or an attorney. Some parents find having an advocate or an attorney can help then there are issues with the school not implementing or following the IEP or Section 504. Sometimes, however, hiring an advocate or attorney can make strained relationships between parents and schools even more strained. Your children, however, should be your first concern and if the school is not being cooperative, an advocate or attorney may be your best choice.