First They Ignore You…

Published on April 17, 2010 by Jennifer Laviano

One of the most frustrating aspects of my job as a parents’ side special education attorney is trying to help my clients regain trust in the system.  Sometimes, this is nearly impossible.

As I’ve said before, by the time a parent of a child with special education needs has made the difficult decision to hire a lawyer to represent them in their disagreements with their school system, they are usually pretty burned.

Mad man venting steam from ears

Very often, my involvement in a case results in the school district providing the services, evaluations, or program that the parent wants.  Many of my clients’ natural reaction is “why did it have to take me hiring a lawyer to get them to see it?,” and they’re right.

Yet, I still try to get the parents to see that it matters less how we got the district to “yes” than that we did, in fact, get them there.

Knowing, as I do, that in most cases the family will still have many more years ahead of them to try to plan special education programs with the same people that they are currently quite angry with, I really work hard to repair the relationship, when it’s reasonable.  I blog about this a lot too, asking parents to pick their battles, and to see the forest for the trees.


So, given how much of my time is spent talking parents off the ceiling, few things piss me off more than when all of that hard work goes out the window because some nasty administrator decides to get spiteful in the middle of all of these precarious negotiations and affirm every evil thing that the parents had suspected about them!

Here in Connecticut, IEP season is in full swing, and since I attend about half a dozen Annual Review IEP meetings per week from now until the end of June, I’m rather used to finding myself more irritated than usual with the game playing that some special education administrators employ this time of year.

But regardless of that, it never ceases to amaze me how some of these Directors just can’t help themselves!

Just when I have a family ready to work cooperatively with them again, after years of having their rights ignored, their input overlooked, and their child’s program undervalued, it’s these (thankfully few) truly mean-spirited administrators who have to say or do something so horrible that I leave the room remembering one of my dad’s favorite sayings….

“Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get you.”

ethics word cloud

The truly power-hungry have a really twisted view of the world, wherein they are 100% right all of the time, and anyone who challenges them must not only be wrong, but attacked.  The irony is that, in my experience, these are the ones who secretly want the parents to sue them, because they relish the idea of battling with anyone who has the audacity to question them.

So as I drive home, I start thinking about one of my favorite quotes, by Gandhi:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

4 Responses to First They Ignore You…

  1. Kim McClain
    April 21st, 2010 | 4:06 pm

    can you recommend anyone in california? I am a single parent recently divorced with an ailing mother. I dont have much money.

  2. Jennifer Laviano
    April 21st, 2010 | 7:54 pm

    Check out, and go to the California attorneys and advocates listed there. You can also try and check out Pete Wright’s Yellow Pages for kids. Good luck!

  3. Carol Guess
    May 9th, 2010 | 10:29 am

    Can you recommend an attorney in the Denver, CO area who is very knowledgeable about IEPs, retaliation? (ie. putting in a kids IEP that he has to make C’s or better in order to get credit for the course when standard student’s can pas with a D). This is a 5th year high school student who still needs 80 credits to get a diploma. Thanks for your assistance.

  4. Jennifer Laviano
    May 9th, 2010 | 8:38 pm

    Check out and go to the Find an Attorney/Advocate in CO; also look at and check out Pete’s Yellow Pages for Kids. Best, Jen