Be Warned: This is going to be ugly because I am mad, frustrated, and totally disgusted with the public school system.
I have been told over and over and over that my children with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education through the age of 21. I have also been told at special education trainings to NEVER accept a diploma until you are sure your child is graduating TO something.
So, last year, when our daughter was a junior in high school, we expressed our concern regarding her accepting a diploma at the end of her “senior” year. What was the transition plan? What would she graduate to? Several months ago we had an IEP meeting with the school again regarding graduation. We shared that we are concerned that our daughter is graduating to “nothing”. She is unable to go on to college, and she is not prepared for employment. How did the school respond? They said “a lot of students are in the same situation”. Seriously, THAT was their response! They are basically unconcerned with my daughter’s educational outcome (or should I say lack of one). They said they have provided her with an “adequate” (their term) education, and a few days later we got the official Notice to Graduate.
We were mad, but figured the law was on our side. Our daughter is entitled, and they are obligated. At least that is how I read the law, but I guess I am wrong. After months of fighting with the school, meeting multiple times, enlisting the help of a disabilities advocate, and filing for mediation, we are left with no recourse. The only option left is for us to hire an attorney. Any idea how much a retainer fee for an education lawyer is? A lot! Meanwhile, the school already has an attorney, so it basically doesn’t cost them a thing. They have nothing to lose in taking this all the way to court. We do. Even if we win, we can not recoup the attorney fees, which we can’t afford to begin with.
So, public special education has failed my daughter, and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do. The law has not done its job to protect her rights. She is one more child that has been left behind, and no one but us seems to care. As it is IEP season, I encourage you to advocate hard for your child...and get to be best friends with an attorney who specializes in educational law, you may need them one day.