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Top Ten Most Ridiculous Comments Heard at an IEP Meeting

By Dennise Goldberg

In my job as a special education advocate, and my other job as a parent of a child with special needs, I have been involved in too many Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings to count.  During these numerous IEP meetings I have met some wonderful, caring, knowledgeable, well meaning Teachers and School Personnel.

I have also, at times, heard some of the most outrageous statements!!!  These ridiculous comments fly in the face of everything the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stands for.  What you will find below are ten of most ridiculous statements that I have heard and why they are so ridiculous.

Ridiculous Statement #1

Your child’s emotional disturbance is interfering with her academic performance so she doesn’t qualify for an IEP.

Fact:  There are 13 disability categories under IDEA.  In order to qualify for an IEP you must meet the definition of one of the 13 categories and by reason thereof NEED special education and related services.  One of the 13 disability categories is emotional disturbance and if that disability is interfering with the child’s ability to access the curriculum then by definition she has a need for an IEP.

Ridiculous Statement #2

This is a Magnet School we don’t do IEP’s here.

Fact: All public schools are required, by law, to provide children with a disability a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Since magnet schools are public schools they are required to execute IEP’s for those children that require special education.  This would also go for advanced study schools and charter schools.

Ridiculous Statement #3

We don’t perform Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) or write Behavior Support Plans (BSP) for Children exhibiting off-task behavior.  FBA’s are only for kids that are not nice.

Fact:  IDEA requires the IEP Team to consider five special factors when writing an IEP.  One of those five special factors is behavior.  It states:  (i) In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior.  Behavior that impedes learning comes in many forms and does not always manifest itself in violent outbursts.  Off-task behavior can and does impede learning.

Ridiculous Statement #4

Maybe your daughter’s behavior issues are being caused by you telling her she has autism and she is emulating how she thinks someone with autism should act.  I suggest not talking with her so much about her autism.

Fact: Wow, I’m still amazed at this one and I’m not sure where to start.  Let’s focus on the fact that they are blaming the parent for the child’s behavior in school.  If the School really believes the IEP isn’t working because of the parent they are required to provide training to the parent via the related service, parent training and counseling.  In my opinion, the School needs the training not the parent but let’s move on.:)

Ridiculous Statement #5

We can’t test your child for an IEP until we have first tried Response to Intervention.

Fact: This ridiculous statement was used by so many School Districts that on January 21, 2011 the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a memo reminding School Districts that Response to Intervention cannot be used to delay-deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA.   You can download the memo here: OSERS Memo on RTI Office of Special Education

Ridiculous Statement #6

Your child will be graduating at the end of the month whether you like it or not.

Fact: Graduation with a diploma is considered a change of placement under an IEP.  Any change of placement triggers extensive due process rights.  If the parents disagree with their child (who has not reached the age of majority) graduating they can stop it by filing for due process.  This would trigger a Stay Put.  Stay Put means there can be no change of placement or reduction of services while the disagreement is being worked out.

Ridiculous Statement #7

I won’t let you add your comments to the parental concerns section of the IEP form because the IEP is a School document and I disagree with your description of the events that occurred.

Fact: This question has been responded to in the United States Federal Register where it was said, “Parents are free to provide input into their child’s IEP through a written report if they so choose.”

Ridiculous Statement #8

I spoke to my supervisor at the School District and she has authorized me to offer you one hour of speech therapy a week.

Fact: IDEA specifically says that all decisions regarding an IEP need to be decided in an IEP Team meeting.  If a faceless supervisor is making the decision regarding the IEP outside of the team meeting then this is called predetermination.  That supervisor would need to join the IEP Team and discuss her recommendations with the Team before any decisions could be made.

Ridiculous Statement #9

 I agree she needs a full-time aide but I don’t have the authority to authorize that.

Fact: IDEA requires every IEP Team to have a District Representative that is knowledgeable about the District’s curriculum and resources that has the authority to bind the District.

Ridiculous Statement #10

 Your child is too smart to have an IEP.

Fact:  Intelligence has no bearing on disability or need.  Even individuals with genius level IQs can have a disability that affects their ability to access the curriculum.

Dennise Goldberg is the owner of Special Education Advisor a community of parents, educators, and special education service providers dedicated to helping families with children who have special needs understand their special education rights and receive appropriate special education services.

Dennise works with children with all forms of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, aspergers, and down syndrome, to name a few. She is also the mother of a beautiful 10-year old boy who has dealt with developmental delays, apraxia of speech, fine motor delays, sensory issues, gross motor delays, and now has a learning disability (auditory processing disorder).

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Written on January 19, 2012 by:

  • Jen

    One of my son’s middle school teachers during his full team IEP meeting said even though it doesn’t seem to be noticed by other students, his mild fidgeting with his hands bothers her therefore disrupting her teaching. Every teacher’s mouths dropped open!

  • Ruthie H

    One year the principal walked into our IEP meeting (a meeting she was specifically un-invited to) and told 12 people in the room (including every sub-specialty district chair and high ranking official from the district) that the laws did not apply to her because there “were no regulations written in stone” and that she would administer HER school however she saw fit and the fact that a child had an IEP or a documented disability was irrelevant. Following that pronouncement she walked out. With everyone dumbfounded, the district stepped in within seconds and did their job. Throughout the school year (and each one that followed) they watched her very closely. Despite this principal, my son had fabulous teachers, was given amazing supports and flourished.

  • BothellDeb

    my favorite was, after giving us 3 days notice of the IEP, the teacher said, “we will hold it that day, whether you are there or not and we will tell you what we are going to do.” We were there but they totally ignored us and our written concerns. We got their attention throughout the district and got things resolved. Special needs lawyers and judges are now some of my favorite people.

  • Silverquille

    Another to add to the list of ridiculous statements:

    “He has to fail in regular kindergarten FIRST, before we can explore whether he even needs special education services.” This was the response I had received from our local public school district when I tried to arrange for special classroom placement. Our son was diagnosed at age 4, and was already receiving professional behavioral health care from a licensed clinical psychologist and expert medical care from a pediatric neurologist. I thought all I needed to arrange for a “free and appropriate education” was to provide the extensive medical documentation we already had. Surprise! The expectation by the school district that our child needed to experience failure first was absolutely contrary to our strengths-based child care philosophy and the medically sound behavioral care our son was receiving at the time. Disgusted and frustrated, I searched extensively for a nurturing atmosphere for our son, and found it in a small, local Montessori school. He thrived there.

  • Jess

    I am a special ed teacher, yes there are bad teachers out there but we are usually fighting to get you student services too. We are constantly dealing with specialists with too many cases and not enough allotted hours. We are told to just ‘better manage’ our resources. It’s infuriating, we also have to deal with showing interventions before performing a change of placement, even though we want to move a student to more support right away. We spend hours afterschool. The sped teachers are usually the last teachers out of the building. I buy student materials and supplemental curriculum out of my own pocket. I cry when a frustrated parent tells me I don’t care about their child (this is usually at the beginning of the year and they are used to fighting from a previous school). I was in my principal ‘s office today fighting for another aid for a student who needs one on one support. Yes, there are bad, burned out, or poorly trained teachers out there. But there are also ones that give everything we have for our kids (after 3 years of all day everyday, we love them too).

  • Rene Collins

    How about the school didn’t tell me my son was having violent behavior for almost 2 months, reported his behavior to cps and the area manager kept stating that there was nothing in the IEP for his autism, then later stated she didn’t read the IEP until after cps was notified!

  • Elizabeth Andrews

    How about this…your daughter is not turning in her homework on time but is excelling on her test scores..we think that maybe she is cheating..hmm where were the cheat sheets in the 80s..if they did exist..I had no idea and just did the best I could as being a gifted child that is DEAF! IEPs would not be needed only if the teachers and parents communicate frequently when there are concerns. I am a Deaf parents with two Hearing children and I communicated with each and every teacher that had a concern about my kids and we would work together to ensure that my kids had our full support to achieve..that is what it takes, we can do it!

  • Elizabeth Andrews

    How about this…your daughter is not turning in her homework on time but is excelling on her test scores..we think that maybe she is cheating..hmm where were the cheat sheets in the 80s..if they did exist..I had no idea and just did the best I could as being a gifted child that is DEAF! IEPs would not be needed only if the teachers and parents communicate frequently when there are concerns. I am a Deaf parent with two Hearing children and I communicated with each and every teacher that had a concern about my kids and we would work together to ensure that my kids had our full support to achieve..that is what it takes, we can do it!

  • Cindy Woodruff

    Your son has not progressed in this area, so we want to cut back on the service. Never mind she didn’t follow any of the suggestions which were given to her last year.Since she obviously wasn’t interested in helping our son, we gave the district a choice of three alternative individuals to use.

  • Bellwether Nesingwary

    Good article, but you have a popup add right over the window screen for the remarks. These ads are incredibly invasive, thus, I cannot recommend this site

  • Kevin Ross

    In 1997 they attempted to change my IEP midyear because I was changing special education programs within the school. The change was a provision which would have completely stripped it of any binding legal authority. It went something along the lines of “the student may ask” in place of the teacher is required, and was done as an amendment. “See section c paragraph” type legalese. It said nothing about the teacher complying. I have dyscalculia and had been put into the behavior disorder program in middle school because while I test well I was failing some classes, in particular because I literally lost my homework and couldn’t open my locker. At the time I was misdiagnosed as having dyslexia – with college level reading comprehension. In the 8th grade. So it had been believed that I had overcome my disorder and just had a bad attitude. Then in highschool when switching back into the appropriate program they tried to screw me over. Good thing I’m not dyslexic or I wouldn’t have caught it.

  • Hannah Staples

    Our school just did ADOS testing for our son to test for autism spectrum disorder and for Aspergers. My main concern is that the testing is inaccurate due to the fact that he has medications for ADHD. Should he not be on medication during testing? My feeling is that the medication suppresses the actual signs and symptoms it may give an accurate reading. Should the school have told me what days they were doing the testing that way I had the choice to or not to medicate him? I know this is an old article but I hope someone reads this and get back to me as I have an IEP meeting in a week. Thanks.

  • Judy

    My hope is that some of you will join the profession. Schools are a tough place to work and it’s easy to judge from the outside. We need more passionate and educated people in the field!

  • Susan

    My daughter was diagnosed in May this year with Autism , ADHD , Depression, anti anxiety social disorder mixed with moods and her school won’t give her any special education class she’s in a group of 21 with out of class for OT and Therapy if that’s the case she is qualified

  • Melissa

    My daughter says her friends at school will make fun of her if she goes to get the extra help in special needs class. What do I tell her to tell her friends. I need help.

  • Kate C

    I have heard #5 and #10 on several occasions. I had a run in with my daughter’s principal today. He tried to convince me that a 504 plan is better because you don’t have to have a meeting to make changes. Then I let him know that she currently has a 504 plan and none of her teachers are giving her any of the accommodations that they agreed to. Then he said that I should let him know at that point so he could deal with it. I then called him out on that because 2 months prior I had sent him an email about an issue that was not being taken care of and had never been resolved. It was such a bunch of BS.

  • Beth

    Hello, I was wondering if anyone has any advice for a friend of mine. She has a 16 year old son who just received testing by the school April 2016. She had her first IEP meeting May of 2016 which was the last quarter of his 9th grade year. He has a diagnosis of ADHD and is considered to have a learning disability of severe in Mathematical expression and below average in just about everything else. He currently is a 10th grade student and just started his second quarter. They currently have him considered a supplemental learning support. He has always struggled in school failing since elementary level. He attended summer school 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade years and she has already been told he will need summer school 10th grade year as well. Mom never knew what and IEP even was till I brought it to her attention. I was flabbergasted the district not educational professionals never reached out to her to suggest that her son might have a learning disability. She has currently had 2 IEP meetings in the first quarter and principal just scheduled a 3rd meeting and it is only 2 weeks into the second quarter. He is constantly receiving detentions for being 1 or 2 minutes late to class. Teachers are complaining that he is lazy and lacks motivation. When mom asked to receive the hard copy study guides (as stated in the IEP) she was not getting them most of 1st quarter nor were they informing her of homework assignments which was also an SDI in the IEP. They told mom in the meeting that she is enabling him. They changed iep without parent consent to “mom will only receive hard copy study guides if student does 25% of the work.” To top it all off when she received his report card they gave him a 60 in biology where the other teachers all gave a 65. It is the districts (rule of thumb) that you can not grade lower than a 65 first quarter unless principal granted permission. I also made mom aware of this particular (rule), she had no knowledge of it. She then emailed the principal requesting that the grade be changed she expressed to him that she wanted what was fair for her child. She also asked him to respond as to why when her son has a legitimate learning disability he felt her son did not deserve the 65. When she sent that particular email, I told her to CC all supervisors in the special education department and the superintendent. Now it gets interesting! Are you ready for this………….. Principal CALLS mom the next day, and states that he did give permission for the grade and that he will not change it. He feels it would be unethical to do so. He also stated, and I can witness this as I was there and he was on speaker phone, that tons of kids have an IEP just because they have a diagnosis, it does not mean that he has a learning disability. He also stated that it is rule of thumb that a student does not get graded lower than a 60 second quarter without principal permission and that he will be prepared to give that permission again if he feels warranted. He feels the grade is adequate because of students constant tardy to classes and not giving enough effort in the class room. After that telephone conversation, mom received message that her student had morning detention for being tardy. He gave him detention for the following 3 days.. Dec 1, 2016 – Dec 2, 2016 and Monday Dec 5, 2016. Mom drove him to detention ( as she always does) on Dec 1st. but on Dec. 2nd he was tardy due to her car battery he was only 10 minutes late for detention because she took her mom’s car. Well, because he was 10 min. tardy to detention they suspended him for Monday Dec. 5, 2016.. Today is only Dec. 3, 2016 and I am writing this in hopes of some miracle… Please help my friend.

  • Stacie Napier

    Charged with truancy and was in court with IEP case manager there after court her statement to me was ” If he has a tumor can’t it wait till summer break ” this was in January ,,,, My response was if it was your HEALTHY CHILD would you WAIT !!!

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  • Under the radar

    “We can hold him back and it won’t matter because he’s short for his age and the other kids won’t know.” for a Kindergarten student.

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  • Joshua Kelly

    I was on an IEP when I was in school from Kindergarten until I graduated high school. I went to a horrible school district. They had no idea they doing at all. I was neglected as child from my biological parents. I had what was called failure to thrive. I started to caught up to my age group in the 6th grade. I eventually caught up to my age level. When I started school in 1990, they told my mom that I would never be able to tie my shoes, write or read. The school did not even want to try to teach me to read or write. My mom had to fight with the school to get them to do this. I did learn how to read, write and tie my shoes. I think everyone thought I would not be able to function on my own without social services, SSI or job support. I live on my own and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree of science in Marketing. I work full-time and I’m in the Army National Guard as a culinary specialist. I also have car with a driver’s license. I was also told by someone at the high school I would never be able bring my math up to college level. This is BS as I have brought my level up to college level stats.
    I think the school system was just to lazy to teach me beyond basic math. I also had a case Manager that told me not worry about mastering basic math skills. She said just use a calculator. I wanted to learn how to do solve problems out by hand because it teaches problem solving skills. I also did push myself to learn addition, subtraction and multiplication by hand. I had someone at my high school tell me I would never be able graduate college. She thought I could not even graduate from a community college, I have a bachelor’s degree from a regular college with mostly no accommodations to earn it. Some of the work was done through online courses for that degree as well. I realize in the early 2000’s thinking was different about college and it was more narrow mind about which people with learning disabilities or disabilities like down sydrome could succeed at college. The funny thing is that no in that school district could tell what my learning disability is but yet somehow I still qualified for a IEP and they still get funding for this. Maybe I did have mid learning disability but I might have been better off on 504 and not an IEP. When I asked my case manager, what I had for learning disability, she was like I think you have a math disability. I don’t understand how you can not know what learning disability your student has. I also forget that she would not let me take a foriegin language because she said it would mess up my ability to do well in English. This is non sense as well.

  • Julie Somers

    My child’s teacher said at his IEP meeting, “Did you ever think that he doesn’t have Autism and that it could be your parenting skills?”

  • Julie Somers

    Another thing said at my son’s IEP, from another teacher, (I don’t see Autism, it’s just anxiety). Coming from a teacher not qualified to make a diagnosis.

  • Taylia Griffith

    Hi! I am Director for Special Populations in my district, but was a special education teacher for 20 years and this is my world. I absolutely love my work, students, and community. I just came across your top ten list and had to giggle at the absurdity, while knowing that every bit of what you wrote actually took place at some point in time. My goodness… If I only had a penny for all the insane things I have heard over the years… I have one for you to add, “We don’t allow accommodations at the high school, especially for those OHI kids, because they have to realize that 9th grade starts the rest of their lives and it’s simply time to grow up.” Yep… you read that right! I have been logging in a journal for about 23 years and am never surprised when I hear yet another off the wall statement. I just wanted to say thank you for what you do and for sharing this list 😀
    Take Care

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