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2 Important Points About Channel 7’s Story on Poudre School District by John Ferrugia & Sandra Barry

Attorneys at Law Timlin & Rye March 26, 2014

Last week, Channel 7 News aired a story about a family living in the Poudre School District, who has a son with disabilities and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  The family moved to Fort Collins three years ago from California.  They were having difficulties getting the Poudre district to implement some parts of their child’s IEP that they saw as important and beneficial.

Channel 7’s John Ferrugia reported that as the family fought for services they believed were imperative to their son’s education, the school district fought to keep those services from the child, and the family began to see that their voices did not matter to the district.

The family then requested a complete copy of their son’s education records under the Colorado Open Records Act.  The Open Records Act provides the public reasonable access to records kept by most public agencies in Colorado.  The family did not get all of the records requested, however, what they did get was shocking.

They received some emails originating from the Director of Integrated Services for the Poudre School District telling district personnel to delete and destroy any emails and paper records related specifically to this family.  She then instructed personnel to make sure they emptied their deleted email folders so that the emails could not later be recovered.  She specifically stated in the emails that she was asking them to do this to “protect against” an Open Records Request.

The family was distraught to learn that the school district that Federal Law requires to educate their disabled son was purposefully destroying records related to them so that they could not later be accessed by the family.  The implication here is that the district knew they were not providing appropriate services to the child and wanted to destroy as much documentation of that as they could.

There are two important points to take out of this story.  First, get everything in writing.  As I’ve posted in previous blogs about IEP meetings and developing IEP’s, it is imperative that parents get everything in writing.  This includes correspondence with district personnel.

If the district refuses to put something in writing, make sure they provide you with a document explaining why they will not put the matter in writing. If the district will not provide the documentation, start asking to record conversations and meetings with the district.  It is your right to have documentation of your child’s IEP, the IEP process, reasons behind the services provided, and documentation of your communications with the district.

If the district is afraid to give you this, then, as with the family in the story, something could be very wrong.

Documentation can give you the legal groundwork you need to win a due process claim against your child’s district.  I cannot impress enough how important it is to insist that everything be put in writing.

The second important point that comes from this story is the transfer of IEP services.  The family in the story came to Colorado from California. Poudre district did not want to provide all of the services the California district had been providing, which is where the crux of the issues arose.

If you need or want to transfer your child’s IEP to another school district, whether across state lines or not, you must see whether the new district will accept your child’s IEP before moving.

Even if the district accepts the IEP, this does not mean they will provide the same services as your old district. Theoretically, if services were considered necessary in one district, they would be considered necessary in another.  As you can see from the family in the Channel 7 story, this is not always the case, and you could end up in a battle with the new district to get proper services in place.

Try to negotiate with the new district early, before moving.  If this is not possible, make sure that you set up a meeting within the first 30 days your child is enrolled in the new school.  Come to this meeting armed with documents and data showing how your child was benefiting from his/her education with the services provided by the old district.  You’re likely to get the services if you can show a benefit.

The IEP process is an ever-evolving thing, and your job as a parent is to do the best you can to get the best education for your child.  What the Poudre district did to this family and this child is horrific. The district clearly wanted to do everything but properly educate this child.  Your child’s IEP continues at school tomorrow, and if you are at the point where you know the district is stonewalling you, I recommend filing a due process complaint.

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