Reimagining Education

GUEST BLOG: A personal experience with IEPs

Parents of students with special needs, whether they be emotional distress, genetic conditions, or gifted abilities, know that obtaining and making sure an Individual Education Program is properly implemented is frequently a major and difficult battle. A federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools create an IEP for every child receiving special education services. It is a legally binding document. Foster parent Courtnie Scott-Cammarata is in the midst of this battle with her foster daughter and shares a glimpse of just how difficult it can be in today’s guest blog.

Two weeks into fall semester, I knew we were struggling.

My foster daughter is a high school student with a 3.8 cumulative GPA. As most foster children do, she was struggling with the extremely big feelings of being a teenager in addition to life circumstances most of us cannot fathom.

Unsurprisingly, this created an environment where learning has become a challenge. We began sending e-mails to teachers, counselors, and principals, all requesting assistance. The requests for help became more urgent as she began to fall farther behind.

We attempted to explain to the administration that C’s and missing homework were indicative of a huge shift within this teenager. This may not be cause for concern in all students, but it was in ours. Before fall break she received a diagnosis that confirmed and validated this struggle in school as a mental health emergency rather than a typical teen stage in development.

We presented this to the school counselor and school psychologist who agreed to meet and construct a 504 plan. At the meeting, I was asked what accommodations I thought appropriate.

I do not have a background in education but was asked to contribute much of the accommodations for her educational plan. I felt as if I were failing my daughter.

I suggested that we use the accommodations outlined in her psychological assessment and any suggestions the professional may have. The 504 seemed to be little more than a piece of paper. My student continued to struggle both in and out of the classroom.

We began the IEP process the same day the 504 was implemented.

It is now three and a half months later, and it is still not completed. (They have sixty BUSINESS days you know).

I was told there are six students in front of mine and the school psychologist had yet to meet with mine. I am frustrated and feel alone. I sent emails to two teachers today, and I sent an email for the head principal. I don’t understand their policies and I do not have a staff member who has been able to explain this process. I don’t know where I fit and where my responsibilities are.

I help my student with homework and moral support, I found tutoring services. I look at the parent portal each day to keep on top of work assigned.

I feel as if there should be a proactive approach to helping a struggling student, especially one who belongs to a hugely represented and vulnerable population.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear there is any special consideration of the fact that trauma impacts a student’s ability to perform.

Today there are over 13,000 foster children in the state of Missouri, and that number increases each year. Why isn’t there a protocol and a process to help these students toward success?

According to current data, less than 50% of children in foster care graduate high school and less than 3% go on to achieve a four-year college degree.

Based on my experiences, I feel strongly that those terrifying statistics starts with the issues I am dealing with right now — A student isn’t advocated for in their time of need, the system drops the ball, and they are left to continue spiraling downward, leading to less choice for their future.

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