The Horrors and Joys of the Hubris (arrogance, sense of superiority and self-importance) of some Special Education Administrators

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Our school district’s past special education director was virtually invincible to the consequences of denying services to our disabled daughter, bullying our family, breaking other special education or IDEA laws and otherwise trampling on our daughter’s civil rights. According to other parents in town, we were not the only family subjected to her malevolence.

Although I had gotten used to her bad behavior, it still was infuriating and frustrating that she was able to get away with her unabashed law breaking and violating civil rights.

Until two years ago when her hubris made her over-confident and she stepped just a bit too far. I delight in telling this story.

Several years prior, because I felt the IEP (Individualized Education Program) our district put together for my child was bad, and I was unsuccessful in getting them to make it better, I took my daughter out of school and homeschooled her. After a couple years of successful homeschooling, I allowed the district to re-evaluate my daughter.

As I did not agree with the school’s re-evaluation, I formally requested an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).

According to the law, an IEE is a basic right of all parents of children identified as needing special education, when they are not satisfied with the school district evaluations. School districts almost always grant these, because if they refuse, by law, they must file a due process suit against the child in order to defend the veracity and validity of their evaluations.

Filing a due process suit against a disabled child just looks like bad, bullying behavior so most of the time intelligent school districts grant an IEE request.

I am certain that when I first made the request, our school district was prepared to grant the IEE. In fact, when I sent in the written request, I received a call from the assistant principal’s office saying “We are happy to grant an IEE for your daughter, we just have to meet in a formal PPT (Planning and Placement Team – team that develops child’s IEP) meeting to follow policy.”

Once the meeting was scheduled, the special education director began imploring me to give official notice that I was homeschooling my daughter. I hadn’t given official notice because, if I had, the school would be off-the-hook of providing any services and a good IEP for my daughter.

I wasn’t willing to give official notice until she tricked me.

She wrote me a nice and friendly letter. It was carefully worded to give false assurance that even if I do give notice to the district that I am homeschooling my child, the district will still provide services and work towards a better IEP for my daughter.

So, with this assurance and a new hope of developing a better, more cooperative relationship with the special education director, I sent a note to her stating that I was indeed homeschooling my child but was hoping to develop a good IEP with the school.

At the (PPT) meeting to discuss the IEE, the special education director announced at the beginning of the meeting that since I had given notification that I am homeschooling my daughter, “the school is not obligated to provide any services or an IEP. “ At the end of the meeting the special education director announced that the district would NOT be granting the IEE.

She had cleverly tricked me into writing the note stating I’m homeschooling so that she could deny the IEE without having to file due process against my daughter and look like a bullying jackass.

Here is the hubris: It wasn’t enough to her that the schools evaluations were defective and resulted in a crappy IEP for my daughter. She also twisted the knife in my side by devising a way to further deny my daughter an education by denying the necessary IEE without any repercussions.

I was furious. I thought about what she had done with great anger. She denied an IEE for my child. She was no longer legally obligated to provide a good IEP and services for my daughter.

Then I pondered it dispassionately and developed a plan.

The next day, I wrote a letter to the special education director recanting my previous note notifying the school I was homeschooling my daughter. I told her I was naively mistaken when I wrote it and to please disregard the note and proceed as though I never wrote it.

She then HAD to file due process against my daughter.

When a school administrator causes a suit against a child, the case is officially docketed Town of XYZ Board of Education vs. (disabled child’s name). Our BOE members in town want to appear nice. Filing a due process against a disabled girl made the BOE look like ridiculous bullies.

The special education director then sent me a letter almost begging me to reaffirm that I was homeschooling.

Instead, I immediately sent a letter to each member of our BOE asking them if they were aware that they were filing a due process suit against my 11-year old disabled daughter. My letter was the first time they were made aware of it.

Just days later it was announced that the special education director was stepping down from her position.

The due process hearing took place three and a half months after I requested the IEE. On the day of the hearing, which I insisted be open to the public, the media showed up as well as many special education parents who came to support us.

At the hearing, our town’s board of education attorney, usually an aggressive, rabid pit bull, was very quiet and almost demure. She spoke in a very low voice, almost as if she wanted to crawl into a hole and pull it in after her.

Under such public scrutiny the attorney for the board whispered that the board is withdrawing their case and are now granting the IEE. The hearing officer then pounded her gavel dismissing the case.

Then the board attorney, the outgoing special education director, the incoming special education director and the crooked hearing officer (that is another story worth telling) fled from the room like rats off of a sinking ship. They made no comment to the media.

With public sunshine on their bad behavior, as well as the threat of a civil law suit that they would likely lose, our school district granted the IEE, and has since pretty much done everything the new evaluators recommended and everything we have asked them to do to give my daughter the education she is entitled to and deserves.

My daughter is now thriving – thanks to the Hubris of a no-longer invincible, ex-special education director.

~Nikki Zeoli, Special Education Advocate

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To Win in Special Education you must Put Everything In Writing

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When I first realized the absolute necessity of putting everything in writing when it comes to winning in special education, I was furious and frustrated. Furious because of all the times I would leave a meeting or conversation under the impression that something important was granted by the school for my child – only to find out later that they never intended to grant it.

Frustrated because it is hard enough growing a family with a child with significant special needs, attending meetings, doctor’s appointments, and trying to wrap my head around what will help my child, without having to take the huge chunk of time and energy to document every little conversation and meeting with the school. Who has time for that?

Unfortunately, it is true that “if it is not in writing, it never happened”. So it is absolutely necessary to document every conversation with all school staff if you want to get the education your child is entitled to and deserves.

This is why many parents just give up or hire an attorney whom they hope will document everything accurately and to your child’s best advantage.  That is what I did at first.

Giving up does not help your child, and hiring an attorney is very expensive. Additionally, in all my experience, I have never encountered an attorney who cares as much about your child as you do and who will treat your child’s case with the vigor and passion that you alone can give.

Having written thousands of documentation letters, I have become highly skilled and my letters produce excellent results.  As your advocate, I can take on this burden for you. I quickly write concise non-emotional letters that stymie school administrators and greatly increase your child’s chances of obtaining the best education he or she can get.

It has been my experience that a skilled advocate is fiercer and obtains superior results to attorneys. When I finally challenged my district alone, myself, without any more lawyers billing me for their time, I finally obtained dramatic and swift results for my daughter.

~Nikki Zeoli

 

Welcome to Winning Special Education Advocacy from PPT to Due Process

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As the title suggests, I am a passionate and fierce advocate for special education children and parents

Being suddenly thrust into the world of special education, most parents are overwhelmed, frightened for their children’s future, and unsure how to obtain the best education and preparation for adulthood for their special needs children.

Often school districts do not make the process any easier. Special Education Administrators are Masters at delaying and denying a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for special needs children in their district.

My daughter’s school district is notoriously nasty to special education parents.  However, over ten years of being tortured, denied, manipulated, and even lied to, I have learned how to Take On school districts and compel them to do the right thing for special education children.

We were losing our daughter five years ago.  I say “losing”  her because she was shutting down, tuning out the world that did not understand her at all, that did not understand how to teach her so she would learn.  She was almost permanently “zoned out”.

Over this last decade, I have learned how to fight our nasty district and win! My daughter is now thriving.  By strategically using the special education laws to outsmart our district, they are now providing excellent services and have purchased all the durable medical equipment she needs to succeed in school.

I have since had the opportunity to use my hard and painfully learned knowledge to help many families in my area obtain a better education for their special needs children. This has been one of the most satisfying and gratifying achievements of my life.

Please contact me if you would like help getting the best education for your special needs child. nikki_p_zeoli@sbcglobal.net   (203)400-3127

Nikki Zeoli