Agreeing to Disagree...With the School District
It is bound to happen at some point. Whether your child is in public or private school; whether it relates to their IEP, evaluation, or class placement; at some point you will find yourself disagreeing with the District. How you handle these situations when they arise can have a major impact on your child's case going forward; therefore, it is important to do so carefully, in a way that preserves your child's rights.
Never let your frustration inhibit your duty to cooperate
You have a duty to work cooperatively with your child's school district, and not impede the District's process of providing your child with a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). Cooperate does not mean agree, however, and you absolutely have the right to respectfully express your disagreement with or point out mistakes in your child's program, placement, progress reports, evaluations, etc.
Instead, follow these three guidelines to get your point across, build your case AND remain cooperative:
1. Put it in writing, but stick to the facts: Rather than get into an argument in the moment, agree to disagree, and put all of your concerns in a letter to the District as soon as possible. Though this process is understandably emotional, try to keep the letter as fact-based as possible. Putting everything in writing and remaining objective will also prevent you from getting into a back-and-forth with your District. Remember, rather than getting frustrated, keep it all documented for a future case.
Tip: fax your letter to the District. This way you will receive an immediate delivery confirmation. Click here for fax numbers and contact information for each CSE at the NYC DOE.
2. Consult your attorney if you have one, and consider hiring one if you don't: If you have any attorney, always check with them first, and forward them a copy of any letter you intend to send the District, so they can propose any necessary revisions. If you are considering seeking funding for a private evaluation, services, or placement, your letter must contain certain language to put the District on notice. Therefore, if you have reached this point in the process, it is advisable to engage an attorney if you do not have one.
3. NEVER sign, write, or say anything that withdraws your child from public school: Don't fall into the District's trap. You do not want to withdraw your child from public school. Even if you disagree with their current program, and have no choice but to put your child in a private program for which you intend to seek funding, this is NOT a withdrawal from public school. Why? You still expect them to be providing your child with a FAPE, and if they don't, you expect them to fund your child's private program. Withdrawing your child from public school requires them to do none of that. There is a very subtle difference between a unilateral placement in private school (you are still willing to consider a public placement and are entitled to tuition reimbursement if presented with no appropriate options); and a withdrawal from public school (you are no longer considering public school, they will not present you with any program options, and you are solely responsible for the private tuition).
For additional questions about putting the District on notice, the duty to cooperate, or any other inquires contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-741-3030.