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What Triggers a Parent-School Crisis?

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boy reading a book Every crisis is triggered by a precipitating event. Here are common events that trigger crises and requests for help from parents. The school:

  • Placed the child in a less desirable program, despite objections by the parents;
  • Refused to change the child’s program and placement, despite recommendations from a private sector professional that the program is not appropriate;
  • Refused to consider or include private sector test results and recommendations in the child’s IEP;
  • Refused to provide accommodations and modifications so the child failed high-stakes tests;
  • Decided the child is not learning disabled but is emotionally disturbed or mentally retarded, and unilaterally changed the child’s label and placement;
  • Decided the child is not emotionally disturbed, but has a conduct disorder and is not eligible for special education services;
  • Decided the child is not mentally retarded, but is a slow learner and is not eligible for special education services;
  • Caused the child to be arrested at school and suspended or expelled the child for behavior that is related to the child’s disability;
  • Sent the child home because they do not have an appropriate program and do not want the child in school;
  • Insisted that inclusion means all special education services must be delivered in the classroom;
  • Terminated the child from special education because the child did not benefit from the only program they offer;
  • Terminated the child from special education after the child’s IQ scores dropped because there is no longer a severe discrepancy between the child’s ability and achievement scores;
  • Refused to provide necessary services because these services are expensive or would establish a precedent.

Three factors increase the odds of a crisis:

  • The school makes a unilateral decision
  • The school ignores information from others, including professionals and parents
  • The decision or action may harm the child
The “Last Straw”

Every crisis is triggered by a precipitating event -- the “last straw.” Parents usually remember the “last straw” because it was emotionally significant. Perhaps the crisis forced the parent to face the reality of the child’s problems. Instead of improving, the child’s problems got worse.

At the beginning of a crisis, you are likely to feel overwhelmed. You don’t know what to do. You know that time is running out. This creates a sense of urgency, and a crisis is born.

Feelings of Betrayal

If you are like most parents, you trusted the advice and recommendations you received from school staff.

What happens if you learn that your child has fallen further behind in the special education program that was recommended and provided by these school personnel?

From your perspective, the school’s program damaged your child. Under these circumstances, feelings of anger and betrayal are nearly inevitable.

Parents are not alone with feelings of betrayal. When a child's parents request a due process hearing, the school staff who were working with the child often feel betrayed too.

"We worked so hard to help that child - we didn't think the parents would sue us!"

In a crisis, you will feel frightened, confused, guilty, angry, and helpless. Your common sense and good judgment vanish.

What should you do? In a crisis, your first response is likely to be a big mistake!


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