Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Lawless Renegade”

Published on May 13, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

“The Lawless Renegade”

IEP Team Meetings can and should include a wide range of educational professionals.  Unfortunately, every once in a while they include a “lawless renegade.”  This is a person who either does not know about, or does not care about, the school district’s legal obligations under federal and state special education laws.  Scarier still are those who think they know about the IDEA, but really, really don’t.

The Lawless Renegade is prone to making grand proclamations about a child with special education needs or their program which fly in the face of the IDEA.

Some of the more astounding examples that I’ve encountered:

  • When I pointed out at the end of the school year that the 1:1 paraprofessional support that had been agreed upon and was written into the IEP was not happening, the school principal loudly states “I make the decisions in this building and I will not allow another adult into that classroom.”
  • Upon notifying the school district that the parent is extremely concerned about their child, who has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, the school psychologist states:  “oh, well, Asperger’s is the new ADD, everybody has it now!”
  • After asking why my client’s standardized test scores in math are extremely low, I am informed that I should not be alarmed by this because “all of the kids in this district have low math scores because we give them all a calculator in third grade.”

A tell tale sign that you are dealing with a lawless renegade is that the special education director, or their attorney, is jumping in to “rephrase” what they have said.

I have to admit it, I LOVE attending IEP meetings with lawless renegades.  I especially love repeating back to them what they’ve just said and watching the reactions of the people on the Team who know better.  I will just calmly say: “So let me just make sure I understand you correctly, okay?  You’re saying that you will agree to do the evaluation that the parents are requesting, but you can tell us right now that the IEP will not change regardless of the results?”   And, confident as can be, the lawless renegade will say: “that is EXACTLY what I am saying.”  Me:  “okay, great, thank you, can you just make sure you include that in the minutes?”

As one of my clients once said about one of my favorite repeat-offender lawless renegades:  “he’s clueless and he’s vocal about it.”

What isn’t funny, though, is that most of the time these people are making statements to parents who are not special education lawyers, and who don’t know that the IDEA is being violated.  Worse still are cases when the lawless renegade IS the Special Education Director, which does happen.

My advice for how to handle lawless renegades?  Either tape record your IEP meetings (with their knowledge) or take copious notes, and then send a letter documenting what happened.

20 Responses to Unseemly IEP Team Member: “The Lawless Renegade”

  1. C.Harris
    January 8th, 2010 | 12:33 pm

    In my case, the lawless renegade is the special ed director — and it’s not clear whether her behavior is borne out of ignorance of the law or a need to manipulate. But, in the first four months of this year, this director has told me things like:

    — “We are prohibited by law in this state from listing methodologies in IEPs”

    — “We can’t provide your child a 1:1 paraprofessional unless the school board approves it”

    — “We need to stop giving your child study guides in sixth grade because they won’t be available to her when she gets to college”

    — “You’ll receive a prior written notice reflecting our proposal to change your child’s LRE once you indicate agreement with our proposal”

    — “Individualized instruction in the general ed classroom would be inappropriate”

  2. Casey
    February 14th, 2010 | 11:24 am

    “Upon notifying the school district that the parent is extremely concerned about their child, who has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, the school psychologist states: ‘oh, well, Asperger’s is the new ADD, everybody has it now!'”

    There’s nothing astounding about this statement. It’s true. Asperger’s is the new go-to diagnosis for kids who’s social skills aren’t the norm. And the new trendy disorder for parents who need a reason for their childen’s behavior other than “They’re just children!”

    Same thing happened in the 80’s and 90’s and thousands upon thousands of children were tossed on Ritalin so parents didn’t have to blame themselves for their children’s difficult behavior.

  3. Jennifer Laviano
    February 14th, 2010 | 8:06 pm

    Wow, Casey…your ignorance is truly astounding. I’d love to know more about your background that makes you remotely qualified to make such a comment. Please do share.

  4. Corina Becker
    February 14th, 2010 | 8:17 pm

    I also am curious to qualifications Casey has to make that comment. As an autistic person diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, ADD and Learning Disabilities who was given Ritalin, I am VERY curious to hear her explanation on how being diagnosed properly and having the medications and accommodations have not helped my education.

    I would also love to see her references for her facts about this general knowledge on the thousands upon thousands.

  5. Margot
    February 14th, 2010 | 8:32 pm

    Casey — try mastering basic grammar before trying to converse with the educated.

  6. Margot
    February 14th, 2010 | 8:34 pm

    And in case you still do not understand: Who’s the idiot? The one whose writing is atrocious.

  7. Harold Shaw
    February 14th, 2010 | 8:54 pm

    Casey – I am rather shocked that you would choose to make this comment in a public forum. Usually this level of discussion or ignorance is saved for private conversations with like-minded individuals.

    Asperger’s Disorder or your inference to ADHD are not the disorders du jour as you indicate. I do not know your background or your biases, but based on your brief comment it appears that you do have biases against those who have received a medical diagnosis or do you simply disagree with experts who have determined that these are “real” disorders. A diagnosis is not just given because it is “trendy” it is given because there is something about that child that does not meet our identified medical norms and they need additional assistance to be successful in our present culture.

    You might want to think very carefully about the flip statements you make in your comment regarding Asperger’s or even your inferred reference to ADHD when you claim that “thousands of children were tossed Ritalin…” that to my knowledge have no basis.

    If you have verifiable information based on research or facts to support your opinion please share this information with us. I would be interested to know how you came by this opinion.

    If you are stating an unsupportable opinion to diminish the severity of these disorders to others, regarding the students we serve who have these disorders, than you need to take another look at your facts and ask yourself if you can really believe what you stated so callously in your comment.

    I sincerely hope with the tone of your comment you are not an educational professional and if that school psychologist is stating this about a identified disorder then your school will have many unhappy visits from people like Jen, to show you the error of your biases.


  8. Liz Ditz
    February 14th, 2010 | 9:05 pm

    Casey, you are making some extraordinary claims here. It’s Sagan’s rule that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. You have supplied none.

    Your claims and my questions:

    1. “Thousands upon thousands” What does that mean in a quantifiable sense? 2,000? 10,000? 100,000? 500,000? 1,000,000?

    2. “children were tossed on Ritalin”
    a. You are using a trade name for methylphenidate. Why are you demonizing a specific drug by using its trade name?
    b. What is your evidence that children were prescribed a drug by physicians without an underlying need for that drug to allow them to reach their full potential?

    3. ADHD and your claim that “parents who need a reason for their childen’s behavior other than “They’re just children!””
    a. Provide proof that parents were seeking a diagnosis (ADHD) and a drug regimen in order to avoid their responsibilities asparents.

    4. You claim “Asperger’s is the new go-to diagnosis for kids who’s social skills aren’t the norm.”
    a. By the tenor of your comment, you seem to be blaming parents for their children’s non-normative social skills. Please elaborate.
    b. Please provide evidence of your expertise in assisting children whose “social skills aren’t the norm”.

    (For readers other than Casey: It’s my position that ADHD is both underdiagnosed and treated and overdiagnosed and treated. It all depends on the community and setting.

    It is also my position that (again, depending on the community and setting) learning disabilities on the whole may be under-diagnosed and under0treated.)

    Turning back to the original subject of the post, the “Lawless Renengade”. They are all too common.

  9. Graeme Wadlow
    February 14th, 2010 | 10:32 pm

    We have the same sets of problems regarding the provision of Special Educational Needs. Many in the UK parents try to advocate alone for their children, which can be difficult if the share a similar genetic cognitive failing.

    The comments made by Casey are typical of poorly trained educationalists who have a disciplinarian nature who blame everyone else but themselves for their own inability to understand the needs of others especially the less able; and try to rule by fear. They are in almost every school.

  10. Lorna Shepard
    February 15th, 2010 | 9:07 am

    Oh dear – on the bright side, Casey may read all of these comments and actually become “edgeacated” (but will probably remain indignant and defiant). I will say, with absolutely no facts or figures, that Casey’s remarks are representative of a large majority of our population who do and do not have interaction with special needs children. Our mission, of course, is to provide this education. But leading that horse to water… Casey: What is your grudge?

    And Jen – re: your blog, once again, as you so often brilliantly remark, you just can’t make this stuff up.

  11. Peter Flom
    February 15th, 2010 | 2:35 pm


    Kids with Asperger’s are not “just children”.

    Are you just an idiot, or just ignorant, or just obnoxious? Or all three?

  12. Peter Flom
    February 15th, 2010 | 2:36 pm


    Kids with AS are not “just children”.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say you are just ignorant, rather than moronic or obnoxious

  13. Dana Jonson
    February 18th, 2010 | 2:09 pm

    Wow… well it looks like we found our “clueless and vocal about it” person! Unfortunately, I doubt someone like this Casey person will ever read these comments, never mind learn from them. But hopefully everyone’s comments here will help to educate those who will read them and who are open to educating themselves.

    I appreciate and concur with all the comments so far and I do not want to repeat, but there is one thing I feel I must comment on. That is the statement, “Same thing happened in the 80’s and 90’s and thousands upon thousands of children were tossed on Ritalin so parents didn’t have to blame themselves for their children’s difficult behavior.”

    By way of background, my experience with children with disabilities and their parents comes from my time as a special education teacher, a special education administrator, and now as a parent-side special education attorney.

    In my different roles in the world of special education, I have experienced many different types of parents. I have met parents who would definitely medicate their child if the child would benefit in some way, parents who would never medicate their child (no matter what), and parents who really don’t know what they would do until the time to make the decision with their child.

    What I have NOT encountered, however, is a parent who takes lightly the decision to place their child on mind altering medications that have significant side effects!

    I find this implication incredibly offensive to all parents. I also find that the person making this assessment of parents usually has little to no understanding about disabilities, and no interest in learning. It is so sad that while we have come so far, we still have so far to go!

  14. Jennifer Laviano
    February 18th, 2010 | 8:30 pm

    Thank you all for your insightful, honest, and informed comments! I hope even if Casey chooses to ignore these responses, we have provided some insight to like-minded individuals. I greatly appreciate your interest in my blog. Best, Jen

  15. Casey
    February 22nd, 2010 | 11:24 am

    I’m sorry to have upset everyone with my comment, were you expecting only like minded individuals to pat you on the back?

    If you’d like to know my background, my son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. For the past two years he has been subject to intensive therapy. After spending all day at Kindergarten and now first grade he comes home and has demanding, structured therapy until 7 PM.

    This intense structure has led to several breakdowns. And though I’m sure you’ll tell me the outbursts are related to his Asperger’s Syndrome keep in mind that my six year old son is being told where to sit and what to do for twelve hours of his day.

    The characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome are simply on the low end of the social normality spectrum. This is reminiscent of ADHD, and like that disorder, Asperger’s diagnoses are now being handed out like candy.

  16. Casey
    February 22nd, 2010 | 11:35 am

    To my fan Margot, try adding to the discussion since you’re conversing with the educated. That goes for everyone who decided to berate and harass me rather than participate.

    To the author, Jennifer, thanks for allowing the voice of dissent on your blog. I will keep this interesting.

  17. Dana Jonson
    February 24th, 2010 | 6:16 pm

    I would agree that there are many similarities between the increase in ADD/ADHD diagnoses in the 1980s and the Asperger’s diagnoses today. The comment, however, that they are “handed out like candy” implies that the diagnoses are not warranted and with that I would have to differ. In the 1980s, the scientific and educational communities became more familiar with ADD/ADHD. Diagnostic tools were developed (and, subsequently, better interventions) so children with ADD/ADHD could be identified. That, I believe, is the similarity between the two. There was a time when a student with ADD/ADHD was just lazy, a behavior problem, not college material… and that was acceptable. There was a time when a child with Asperger’s was just considered the weird kid, really smart, but probably no friends and never able to work in a social environment… and that was acceptable. That is not acceptable anymore in large part due to our ability to understand, diagnose, and program for these children. I am not saying that misdiagnoses do not exist, but I am always perplexed when someone is irritated that we can finally diagnose disabilities.

  18. Joeymom
    April 25th, 2010 | 8:43 pm

    Gee, where are these folks who get diagnoses of ADHD that are “handed out like candy”? It took us six months just to get an appointment, several evaluations, careful documentation, and several “I want to be absolutely sure!” before we could get that letter with the diagnosis that allows my little guy to get his OT (and the school still denies him formalized special ed services). The difference even with the little bit of service we get is like night and day. Getting my older child’s autism diagnosis was, admittedly, even more difficult, despite his condition being more obvious.

  19. Ellen Jannol
    September 30th, 2011 | 5:50 pm


    Have you thought that perhaps the treatment (sounds like ABA) is completely wrong for your son? Personally, I am not a fan of ABA, I refused to put any of my 3 boys through any of that torture. Before people get up in arms about what I just said, those are just my feelings (and many other parents of kids w/AS share those feelings) There are many who benefit from it, I’m sure, but I am not an expert enough about it to make definitive remarks either positive or negative, but I’ve never really personally felt that it was appropriate for an Aspergers Kid.

    What I don’t understand however, is how your first remark about Aspergers and ADHD being the go to diagnoses for parents who don’t want to deal with their kids just being kids translates into your obvious frustration with his current behavioral program. He is acting out because of the intense, rigid program he’s in, and I’d probably be having lots of melt-downs myself if I were subjected to that after a full day at school! If you are not happy with the behavioral program, why is he still in it?

  20. Peter Attwood
    September 30th, 2011 | 7:19 pm

    I’m an aspie myself, or HFA as the case may be. To put an aspie kid on a lab rat regimen like that that Casey describes is shocking stupidity, and that she has allowed this to go on only means that Casey needs to learn pushback skills, not that she’s any of the bad things she has been charged with.

    In fact, it’s altogether uncontroversial that Ritalin and other psychoactive drugs are recklessly over-prescribed by hasty docs that have figured out that it’s easier to throw pills at a kid than to calmly take thge time to learn what’s what. She’s absolutely right about that, so why get on her case? This is aggravated by the large scale bribery and brainwashing of medical professionals by the pharmaceutical industry, That they routinely prescribe drugs that heve never been tested or approved for use in children ought to put paid to all this huff and puff about how we’re supposed to trust these professionals.

    Never in the history of the world have so many been put on so many weird drugs. If that’s such a great idea, why are people not in better shape, rather than being in many ways worse off than ever? Is it unreasonable to see that the emperor is in fact wearing no clothes?

    Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France during World War 1, knew what he was talking about when he said that war is much too important to leave to generals. In the same way, medicine is too important to trust to doctors, education is too important to leave to educators, and indeed lawyering is too important to leave to lawyers, as good lawyers know.

    The reason they’re called “clients” is that those served by any professionals have to remain the general contractors. One reason is simply that your case is tops on your list of priorities, but that can’t be expected of anyone you hire to work on it.