Sunday, February 5, 2012

When Parents Disagree With CSE Decisions

What do you do when parents disagree with decisions made regarding special education eligibility and programming at Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings?

We recently had a case where the CSE recommended a more restrictive setting for a student. A is having a hard time maintaining appropriate behavior within her Integrated Co-Teaching classroom, and her grades are suffering. She exhibits a lot of tantruming, controlling/adultified, and noncompliant behavior. There have been a lot of interventions put in place, including a classroom management plan, Check-in, Check-out, and weekly individual counseling with a mental health counselor in our building, but there hasn't been much response. At the CSE table, we discussed behavior, cognitive skills, academic knowledge, etc and recommended A for a 12:1+1 Special Class placement. Dad was on board, as he wanted to do anything for A that would help her succeed.

Within a day, there were rumblings in the building that Dad was no longer in agreement with the decision. He didn't want her to move schools (we don't have a 12:1+1 placement), didn't want her to have transition in the middle of the year, didn't want her in special education, and didn't want her labeled. All very valid concerns. He felt that much of her behavior was due to the other less than well-behaved students in her class, and that she was watching them and acting out. He wanted us to try more interventions in our building to help her instead, though we felt we had exhausted them all. He was even considering pulling special education services completely, as he never signed consent for them, A's mother did when she was still in her custody.

Lots of meetings with Dad, our building parent advocate, the teachers, and even the principal ensued. As a CSE, we stood by the decision we made to move her to the 12:1+1. Oftentimes when parents disagree with or question a meeting outcome, they are referred to an impartial district CSE team to appeal it. I am uncomfortable changing a decision made in a CSE meeting, as I do not recommend classification or program changes without careful consideration of what is best for the child, gathering of data, consulting with relevant school personnel, and lots of time spent writing the report and Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Ultimately, Dad was recommended to contact the district CSE team to appeal our decision, instead of revoking all consent for services. He also wanted her placed in the other classroom at her grade level, which is not an Integrated Co-Teaching classroom, in order to get her away from any students who might be affecting her behavior. It would also give him information to see how she would do without ICT supports, should he wish to revoke consents for services once he has the meeting with the district appeal team.

It's a very slippery slope trying to make teachers, parents, and administrators happy with decisions, while ultimately keeping in mind the best interest of the child. At the end of the day though, I always remember that my duty  is to serve the student, and support them with whatever they might need to be successful, no matter if it goes against what another party wants. Administrators can be reasoned with and will get over it, parents can appeal a decision, but the kid usually has no say. The primary client of the school psychologist is always the kid. (Note: this is not to say that the parents', teachers', and administrators' views, opinions, and information are to be ignored. They are extremely valuable in decision-making, and those parties should always be consulted with.)

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