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Expert Q&A

What does a special education teacher do when the school system won’t follow the IEP and insists on an inappropriate placement?

I am a special education inclusion teacher. There is a first grade girl who has been found eligible for services under the category of Emotional Disturbance. She is below grade level in all subjects and when upset, she hits, kicks, scratches, name calls and runs away from school. For this reason, her IEP was written for a self contained ED placement.

The IEP team felt that this was what was best. It would allow her to be in a small class setting where she could receive more individualized and intensive instruction and learn some strategies to deal with her emotions as well as some replacement behaviors.

The school system where I work said that they did not have a self contained ED placement for her because all of these classrooms were over capacity. As a result, this child sat in a general education classroom for nearly three weeks, even though her IEP called for a self contained setting. Her IEP was not being followed and we were out of compliance.

Although I brought this to the attention of administration numerous times, nothing was done. They finally decided to have me re-write her IEP for a class/program that was in our building, although this is not the right placement for her. She continues to be disruptive, physically and verbally abusive, attempts to run when angry and is not learning because they let her do what she wants to keep her happy.

I am concerned about the long term affects this will have on her. What should I do?

Your question seeks help in relation to a student in your class who was supposed to be placed in a self-contained class, but was denied the placement due to a lack of room. Further, when you complained about this, the administration rewrote the IEP to provide for a different placement that was available, but was also not appropriate. Schools are supposed to make placements based on the child’s individual needs, rather than based on space availability or other administrative issues.

If the proposed classroom was full, the school should have considered alternative ways to meet the child’s needs that would have provided the structure and services that the child required per the IEP, rather than placing her in a general classroom, where the child has evidently been unsuccessful.

Given your concerns, one step for you to take would be to make sure that the child’s parents are fully aware of their rights under the special education laws, including the right to an appropriate education, the right to an individualized program, the right to a due process hearing if they disagree with the change in placement, and even the right to maintain the then current placement, while the hearing is pending, if they do request a hearing.

You could also provide the parents with information on the nearest Parent Training and Information Center for information about their rights and assistance on how to work with the school to resolve the problem. Information about Parent Training Centers in each state can be found at The Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers.

Obviously, the steps you can take, whether openly or privately, to advocate for the child, may place you in a conflict with your administration. If you wish to pursue some action on your own, you could consider either filing a grievance with your union or filing a complaint with the State Education Department for IDEA/special education violations or with the Office for Civil Rights for the US Department of Education for a violation of Section 504, alleging that the child’s rights under Section 504 are being violated and that the school is not following appropriate special education procedures.

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