School Is Not Helping Child Who Needs Special Ed.

Our expert spells out what to do when the school is doing nothing to help a child who is in special education, but is failing everything.
A neighbor just moved here (Kentucky) from Florida. Her son is in special education, but the school does not seem to be doing anything to help him out and he is failing everything. She hasn't had an IEP meeting yet and has repeatedly requested one with his teachers to discuss his special needs. She's been repeatedly put off about the meeting and can't get anyone to help her.

I'm helping her to put her request for a meeting in writing. I know that there are laws or guidelines for how long the school has to schedule a meeting when the parents request one, and I would like to cite that in the letter. But I can't find the information that explains what the legal time frame is for them to respond. Can you help?

What a good neighbor you are! Putting the request in writing is a good idea, but you should first have this mom give the building principal a call, and let him or her know about her frustration. Give the principal a chance to get this moving. If you don't get a response in a day or two, sit down and write that letter! It should be sent to the administrator who oversees special education in the school, with a copy to the building principal. This administrator might be called the Director of Special Education or Pupil Personnel Services. A call to the Superintendent's office should get you the right title and address.

You should also have a copy of a parents' rights brochure, which you can get (in several languages) in Kentucky by calling the special education office of the child's school. Incidentally, if this child is on an IEP, the school was required to provide this booklet at the IEP meeting.

If the school is not responsive to your letter, you can contact the Local District Services Branch Manager at the state level by emailing her directly from the Kentucky Department of Education website. If this approach does not resolve the problem, which I think it should, then you may want to consider contacting a special education advocate or an attorney to help you.

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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