By Jessica Wright
I would like to warn parents about the disadvantages of an IEP or Individual Education Plan. My children were educated in the Minnesota Public and Charter School systems. Three of my four sons were placed in IEPs in kindergarten, and in two cases they remained there until high school. Normally, an Individual Education Plan is developed for children with learning disabilities.
Over the years, I have witnessed IEPs being used as a “tool” to control children and contain them in classrooms that grow smaller as the level rises. Level 1 is mainstream; this is where there is no IEP required. Level 2 is a minor problem; perhaps your child has a learning disability. At this level, your child may receive “assistance” from a paraprofessional. Your child may also leave the classroom several times a day to receive special education “services” in a smaller classroom.
At Level 3, where my children normally started, they were tested educationally, emotionally and psychologically. They were found to have character defects such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), or EBD (Emotional Behavior Disorder).
These are normally characteristics of a strong-willed child, a child who has become bored with school and is not being challenged. These are the characteristics of a child who is sent to the principal’s office often and is suspended repeatedly.
Level 3 is a “self-contained” room setting. This classroom is half the size of a regular classroom, holds 10 students or less, and your child will not be allowed to eat in the lunchroom, go out for recess, change classrooms to go to extra-curricular activities such as music or band, and field trips are few.
In fact, the school is given special funding to teach your child less. As long as your child is in this classroom, there will never be homework, no art projects, and no science projects. Your child is probably getting work that is several grade levels below the one they are in, and there is never an academic challenge. My son spent a lot of time learning card tricks or sitting at home via the principal’s office.
Finally, Level 4 is the semi-expulsion level, the precursor to prison. This is the level where the school has “had it” and decides there is no controlling your child. Psychotropic drugs haven’t worked, the invisible “services” haven’t worked, and the segregation of your problem child hasn’t worked.
Level 4 is where your child is “transferred” to another district miles away by bus or by taxi to be placed in a school with a physical police presence and/or metal detectors at the doors, like the airport or the courthouse where this is a preventative measure for terrorism. One district even had my son in a class of two, and the room was the size of an office.
I signed IEP after IEP because I thought my children needed help, because a school psychologist who met my child once for one hour or less convinced school officials who in turn convinced me my son needed help. Never was I told I could “refuse” the IEP. I was never even told what would happen if I disagreed.
I was led down a path that assured me my child would be “protected” from back-to-back suspensions, that he would have a paraprofessional and would get in trouble less, and that the benefits of an IEP would be a great opportunity for my child. The truth is that my child was treated as a cash cow for several school districts, was “protected” from failing a grade under the IEP, and was never challenged academically.
I finally got fed up with asking how my child could work his way back into the mainstream, something that seemed a million light years away. I just wanted my son to learn to read music or play an instrument. I wanted my children to have more field trip experiences instead of being suspended from all of them and having to stay back with the school social worker.
So I finally refused to sign the IEP after switching schools, home schooling and online schooling. My son was mainstreamed immediately and has since made the B-honor roll three times in the last two years. He is on his way to a public high school this year.