Sour Grapes

Published on October 15, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano


Hey, nobody likes having to admit they were wrong.  I don’t like it, and I’m sure you don’t either.  But it never ceases to amaze me how much time and money is spent litigating special education matters, simply because somebody is unwilling to acknowledge that they made a mistake.

As a Special Education attorney who represents students in IDEA disputes, I am often asked why I think there are so many parents of children with disabilities who are angry or frustrated with their school districts.  It would be simple to boil the disagreements down to school districts wanting to save money.  Money significantly influences these decisions, without question.  But it is not the only obstacle to special education harmony.  Power struggles, ideological differences, and turf wars are also prevalent, and add to the dynamics.

If you ask me, the sheer unwillingness to admit fault ranks up there with cost as a causative factor in breakdowns between parents and school districts.  I see it every day:  a parent has suspected a particular disability, the school team has insisted it doesn’t exist, and when the Independent Educational Evaluation results in the diagnosis suspected by the parents, we get hostility from the administration.  Or, when a service or program has been resisted by an IEP Team, and through litigation (or the threat of it) it is provided, and the child’s progress with the new program is obvious, instead of being thrilled that an effective method of teaching the student has been identified, either the educators downplay the progress, or attribute it to something else.

Sure, parents can be stubborn too, and have a hard time accepting that they were wrong.  But somehow, when a school district takes a position, it takes on the hardened tone of an institutional policy.  And we all know how easy THOSE are to change.

When it comes to making educational decisions about students with disabilities, the adults really need to be regularly reminded that it really, truly isn’t about them.  It’s about the child.  So I say to all IEP Team Members:  check your ego at the IEP door.

2 Responses to Sour Grapes

  1. Harold Shaw
    October 15th, 2009 | 9:22 pm

    Well said, as a newly returned Special Education teacher and as a parent of a former Special Education student, I have seen and been a part of both sides of the fence.

    The power struggles are unfortunately part of the “at times” adversarial system we have created. What is really a power struggle between adults, significantly hurts children and that is what makes me angry that the parents and schools are not the ones that suffer, kids do.

    Children really only get one shot at getting their education…and we the adults need to ensure that we get it right for their sakes. I really believe in the the below saying:

    “It doesn’t matter who is right, just that we get it right”

    The students don’t deserve anything less. I guess that I am on the kid’s side, not the adults.


  2. Teddi Special Education Teacher
    October 15th, 2009 | 9:32 pm

    Wow, enough said!