Let’s say you have a 7 year old child who struggles greatly with reading, spelling and writing and has been diagnosed with a learning disability (e.g., dyslexia).
The school has classified the child for special education and an IEP (Individual Education Plan) is being put into place.
As a parent, though, you’re not thrilled with the way the school has been handling things. So you look into a specialized private school about 20 minutes away that has everyone buzzing that it is the perhaps one of the best ones in the country, the Dyslexia Nirvana School, commonly referred to as “DNS.”
Dyslexia Nirvana School comes with a pretty hefty price tag of $48,000 per year, so you want the public school to either provide what DNS does or to pay for your child to go there.
You come to me for support to run your ideas by me. “Don’t you think the school should either do what DNS does or send her there at their cost?”
I know this is going to be one of those tough conversations where the mom wants to kill the messenger, so I breathe deeply going into my meditative mode and then offer the following answer –
“Nope, I do not.”
“What do you mean,” she exasperatedly responds, surprised I am that blunt and direct. “Do I need to get a lawyer?”
From there I go into my understanding of special education and how it all works to try to get the mom on board (not my favorite conversation).
“Here’s the deal – the school is required by Federal Law to provide children who are given IEPs what’s called ‘FAPE’ (i.e., Free and Appropriate Public Education). (The operative word in FAPE being “appropriate.”) They are not obligated nor do they have the resources or the wherewithal to provide what a highly specialized private school such as what Dyslexia Nirvana offers.”
I continue, “Here’s the guiding principle. Think of Dyslexia Nirvana as one of the best most expensive cars you can think of – maybe a Lamborghini. Schools do not offer a Lamborghini and are not expected to by law. It’s not that they are supposed to provide a mediocre product, but they can’t offer what a specialized private school offers.”
“Well, we want her to have the best,” says the mom.
“Then, at least for now, you need to enroll her in the Nirvana School and pay the tuition on your own.”
“What do you mean ‘at least for now.’”
“Look,” I continue, “I’m not a representative of the school and I’m just sharing my understanding of how it works, but at this point the school has barely worked with her. The program they are suggesting is ‘appropriate’ meaning it is an acceptable program supported by reasonable research.
Let’s say some time goes by with this method and their approach and she makes very little progress. Then you are in a position to say they are not providing FAPE and you can make a good argument that she should attend the Nirvana School at their expense. Let’s hope she makes progress, though . We need to watch it closely.”
FAPE is the guiding principle, with the operative word “appropriate,” being open for interpretation. Before you go for the Lamborghini and expect the school to pay for it, you need to go a step at a time.
Copyright, 2019 www.shutdownlearner.com
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