Disclaimer: Though we are choosing to advocate against a self-contained placement for Rowenna at this time, this is not a judgment on anyone who has chosen that for their child. We simply do not feel it is an appropriate placement for our daughter at this time based both on our observations at home and the school’s data and observations.
We had the IEP meeting yesterday. After nearly 3 hours we had no resolution and scheduled a meeting in June.
Never before have I sat at a table with such passive aggressive individuals. Not a single person was there to listen to us. Not a single person was there to discuss options. Not a single person saw Rowenna as a capable human being worthy of an inclusive education.
The team started with a lengthy (over an hour) presentation of Rowenna’s current skill set. I feel they painted an accurate picture of her abilities.
We disagree on what those abilities mean. When it came time to discuss placement, no one would actually name the placement itself. We had an awkward presentation of why they recommended the placement, but I had to actually say “And where is this placement?”
Dead silence. The team couldn’t even own their own recommendation. They just stared at each other with sheepish puppy dog eyes, each silently begging the other to say it. I let them sit in that silence because I already knew the answer and in those long, silent minutes I knew they had been warned about us.
I truly feel that their entire plan consisted of “make it seem like there is no other option and they will just agree” because that’s pretty much all they tried to do.
Using buzzword after buzzword, they tried to change our minds. It was like every conversation we had over the last year never happened, like we had never built any sort of relationship at all. If they thought buzzwords were going to change my mind, we were never on the same page to begin with.
I want substance. I want facts. I want proof. Don’t just rattle off “individualized instruction” and expect me to agree to a school placement that is inappropriate at this time. Don’t expect me to agree to the vaguest possible IEP plan and still believe that my child will actually see a regular ed classroom at any point.
They kept saying there were other options, but when I asked point blank what they were, they again explained why the self contained option is best. I know what our legal options are, but I wanted to know what those options would look like in practice. No one could tell me. They were entirely unprepared.
I asked why she couldn’t repeat 4K and received vague statements about it not really being the district policy and Ro needing to stay with same age peers, despite their recommendation placing her in a K-3 room. I asked point blank how a K-3 room is staying with same age peers. No answer. I asked point blank how a district wide policy is an individualized plan based on my child’s specifics. No answer.
We were told things that are incorrect on their face – things like Rowenna should not have a one on one aide to assist her in the regular education classroom because that is a “more restrictive” practice than the segregation they are recommending. We were told things we know are not true because I witnessed them myself – things like the “cognitive (CD) program is flexible and Rowenna will spend most of her time with regular education peers.”
No one would make a clear statement. No one would give a clear description. They were completely unprepared for all of our questions, and by the end visibly frustrated by our unwillingness to place our child in a segregated environment based solely on “it’s what’s best.”
We were accused of being too anxious about the kindergarten transition and that was affecting our decision making. (Not even close.) We were accused of not trusting the district. (Yeah, because they’ve given us oh so many reasons to do so, right?) We were accused of not having high enough hopes and standards for our child. (And this, right here, is where they lost me completely.)
They spent nearly three hours saying a lot, but ultimately nothing. They spent nearly three hours talking out of both sides of their mouths – that she had to be with same age peers but they recommend a K-3 placement. That there are options, but the only one available is the CD room. That Ro thrives when observing and interacting with peers, but her best placement is away from them.
They gave me the same song and dance I’d originally heard about the CD room and program, and every single point they made I knew was not true because I had seen the reality myself. I have spoken with staff in the building and knew the picture they painted is an absolute fantasy. And their only response to my pointing out that these things were simply not true? We’re just supposed to trust that with no staffing or policy changes, the program will “just be different” next year. Rowenna will miraculously be the kid that leaves the room for instruction and recess and lunch.
Frankly, that’s just insulting.
And to turn around and become visibly frustrated with us when we asked for what is legally due our child: clear answers, a clear plan, and a placement based on her needs rather than the district’s? Unbelievable.
I don’t know where Rowenna will attend school next year. That discussion is certainly to be continued.
But what I do know is this: we will get what Rowenna needs. We will not let her down. She is worth the fight.