Avoiding classification doesn’t help your child

I just saw this quote in a recent article:

“We don’t want to identify kids as disabled,” Charla MacKenzie, director of pupil personnel services for Southwest Licking Local Schools, said “To us, that’s a very big thing.”

“It’s only when we’ve exhausted all those suggestions, all those interventions, and we still don’t see progress that we look at a possible disability,” Sandrock explained.

Now, I’m not going to pick on this woman because I don’t know her or her motivations. What I will do, however, is warn parents that these sorts of statements are often made by district personnel who are not necessarily worried about the stigma of a label on your child. (As opposed to the stigma of being illiterate, or being ostracized because of an inability to function in class?)

It is quite possibly the fact that the “label,” which is called a “classification” under IDEA, carries with it a right under state and federal law to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), which is typically effectuated through the provision of special education and related services.

The lesson: if your child isn’t making appropriate progress in school, you have to get  to the bottom of it. The overall circumstances will help you determine what courses of action seem appropriate, but if the school by itself is going so far as to start implementing things outside the regular classroom experience for your son or daughter, you should definitely be increasing your involvement.


This article quotes a North Carolina school district after losing in due process (the district is apparently appealing):

“In short, the school system believes that — had they tried it — the child’s parents would have been happy with the educational program developed by the school system. If not, as has been done for many other students, the program would have been reviewed and amended.

(Ed. note: the article quotes the district inaccurately; the quote above is from the district’s PDF statement [Ed. link broken but still exists in original article.] linked to by the article.)

This rhetorical twist, the “if only you’d given us a chance” argument, makes even less sense here where the district has lost once. It doesn’t make sense when “let us fail your child before trying the recommended amount of services” comes upfront, and it doesn’t make sense afterwards.

What the statement leaves out is the power of the district to develop a more comprehensive system to match services to evaluated results. Again, I have no experience with this district and they may be as conscientious as they claim to be. In other circumstances, the idea of matching services to performance, even on a trial basis, is regularly rejected. It’s as if districts don’t understand that setting a child up for failure is inherently repulsive to parents. Wouldn’t asking for considering a modification to levels of services building on a record of success, rather than failure, be more palatable? Remember, too, that the district can ALWAYS send a proposed new IEP to the parent that will self-effectuate after 15 days if a parent doesn’t start due process procedures and trigger stay-put. This lopsided power balance is what makes district arguments like these sound so suspicious to many parents.

Have you proposed trial periods for services, or asked for specific criteria to justify changes in services? What was your district’s response?