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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Parents, Schools, and Meetings

At the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Kim Davis explains the tensions between school officials and parents. One source of friction is the threat of lawsuits:
Sometimes tensions become so high that parents want to involve an attorney. The threat of a lawsuit creates incredible stress between and among school staff and family. Honest relationships will suffer and ultimately the child loses. Although legal alternatives are part of the due process guarantees of special education law, it should be used as a last resort.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to threaten or start legal action. In his excellent book, Distinguishing Disability, Colin Ong-Dean tells an all-too-typical story:
What it takes to make these claims work is not just the threat of a hearing, although even that first step is something many parents find daunting. When Sharon made her hearing requests, the school refused, both times, to enter mediation and pursued its case all the way to the scheduled day of the hearing. Both times, the hearing officer ordered them to meet briefly one more time to try to reach an agreement, which resulted in agreements favorable to Sharon. "I came with guns loaded," Sharon explains. She had an attorney and expert witnesses lined up to support her claims. Only then, after Sharon had spent many hours and thousands of dollars preparing her case, did the school meet her demands, understanding that she would be a formidable opponent at the hearing.
Or to quote a line from The Untouchables: "You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word."