Parents often ask me how much they should disclose at Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings. Should they “play it close to the vest” and not tip off the CSE of their intentions?” Maybe they have an independent evaluation that shows their child needs additional services. Maybe the parents are looking at potential private schools and don’t want to bring up too many issues because the CSE may learn of their intentions and try to thwart them in some way. In fairness, I have seen Districts suddenly increase services for students whose parents are, they believe, going to sue them for a private placement.
That being said, it has been my experience that if the District decides to increase services suspiciously close to when parents seek an out of district placement, it means they probably have not been giving the child what she needs and they realize the parents have a good case. So, what’s a parent to do?
CSEs are expected to put together Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) based on the information available to them at the time of the CSE meeting. They are required to consider all evaluations, even those independently obtained by parents. They must consider the concerns of everyone at the CSE meeting, including the Parents. What is deemed sufficient to comply with their obligation to “consider” is not a very high bar. But if you ever end up in Due Process, you can still argue that the CSE should have come to a different conclusion based on the information in front of them.
But, for instance, if you didn’t express your concerns about your child’s social/emotional issues or the fact that you don’t believe he is making enough progress in Math at the CSE meeting, you cannot then argue that the CSE did not address these issues. I have seen many Due Process Hearings where the District says, “we didn’t know this was an issue. Had we known, we would have done something.” True, there may be other reasons the CSE should have known (e.g. evaluations, teacher reports), but it certainly makes it easier for me when the Parent makes their concerns known and makes sure they are reflected in the IEP or IEP meeting notes. Similar problems may arise when parents don’t present evaluations that show their child is not making sufficient progress. If you present the evaluation to the CSE they may disagree with it and argue that they’re doing enough for your child. But they can’t argue that they weren’t aware of your concern and that an evaluation was indicating the student needed more support. You can always argue that they were wrong in how the interpreted the evaluation results. But you can’t do so when they didn’t have the results in front of them.
I should also note that even if an Impartial Hearing Officer agrees that your child’s district should pay for a private placement, he or she still has the discretion to reduce the amount the district is required to pay due to certain “equitable considerations.” What are some of these considerations? Whether the Parent cooperated and was forthcoming with the CSE.
Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.