The teacher isn’t following my child’s IEP. What can I do?

Q. My son’s classroom teacher doesn’t seem to be following his IEP. What can I do to make sure my son gets the accommodations and services he’s supposed to be getting?

A. The first thing I want to say is that you’ve already done something very important. You’ve stayed on top of your child’s IEP and identified a problem. That’s part of the critical role you play in the entire IEP process.

The second thing is that following an IEP is not a teacher’s choice to make. It’s the law. But if that’s not happening, for whatever reason, there are a number of things you can do. You can start by talking to your child’s teacher.

1. Meet with the teacher.

It’s a good idea to ask to meet as soon as possible. You’ll want to make sure the teacher has a copy of the IEP and that she has reviewed it. Take a copy of the IEP to the meeting so you can leave it with the teacher.

At the meeting, be conversational rather than confrontational. Explain that the IEP helps you understand your child’s needs, and you hope it can help the teacher understand them as well.

Go through each section of the IEP and mention why the information in that section is helpful to you. Assuming you were at the meetings when the IEP was developed, share with the teacher why certain things are included in the IEP.

For instance, “Last year the IEP team noticed that he got confused trying to read his own notes, so the team added an that allows him to get notes from the teacher or another student.”

Try to make this a two-way conversation. As you go through the IEP, ask the teacher how the information in each section might relate to your child’s performance in her class.

It’s possible that this meeting will be enough to remind the teacher to follow what’s in your child’s IEP. If not, you’ll need to take it to the next level.

2. Take it up with school administrators.

If your meeting with the teacher is unsuccessful, your next step is to take it up with school officials. But you’ll need to be able to document what’s been going on before you do.

Start keeping a journal that specifies which aspects of the IEP are not implemented and when. You can attach work samples to the journal entries. For example, if extended time wasn’t provided on a test, note that date in the journal and attach a copy of the test.

You’ll need to have a few entries that show a pattern of not following the IEP. Once you do, ask to meet with the assistant principal or other school administrator.

Before your meeting, think of a few positive things to say about the teacher or the class. Open the conversation by saying something like, “My child really enjoys social studies because he loves history,” or “My child loves the teacher’s sense of humor.” That will set a positive tone for the meeting.

Follow that by pointing out that the teacher isn’t following the IEP, and that this is making things more challenging for your child than they should be. Show the journal as a way to back up your point. Ask if the administrator can talk to your child’s teacher to get things on track.

3. Take it to the IEP team.

If your child’s IEP still isn’t being followed after meeting with the school administration, request an IEP team meeting to discuss your concerns. (To get guidance ahead of time, you can speak to your local Parent Training and Information Center. You can also bring an advocate to the meeting with you.)

At the meeting, discuss your conversation with the teacher and the administrator with the whole team. Provide specific examples from the journal.

Let the team know that it’s unacceptable that the teacher does not follow the IEP. Ask about how the team will intervene to ensure compliance with the IEP, and what concrete steps will be taken. Also ask for a team member to be assigned to closely monitor the situation.

Then schedule a follow-up IEP meeting for a few weeks later. At that meeting you can all assess the effectiveness of the team’s plan together.

If the IEP team is unsuccessful or unresponsive, you can consider filing a complaint with the district’s special education administrator. You can also use your due process rights and pursue dispute resolution options, like mediation. Another possibility is to ask to have your child switched to another teacher’s class.

If the compliance issues are significant, there are other steps you can take. You might be able to seek an independent school placement. Or you might be able to get extra educational services, like tutoring, at the school’s expense.

Another thing you can do is file a state complaint, saying you think the school has broken the law. If it gets to this point, however, you might want to hire a lawyer or contact your local P&A Center to help you consider your options.

It’s always best to begin with a collaborative approach. But ultimately, you need to make sure your child gets the support he’s legally entitled to and that will allow him to reach his potential. You can help do that by understanding his rights under special education law, and tracking his IEP goals and progress.

Download a free IEP goal tracker and communication log to track your conversations with the school. You can include these documents in your IEP binder. If you don’t have an IEP binder, find out how to make one.


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