Let me preface this by saying that I know the struggles faced by teachers everyday. I understand the Sisyphean nature of the job, and that it is almost impossible to stay on top of all of the various responsibilities. When I taught, I quickly learned to prioritize those responsibilities, putting the ones that directly impacted kids at the very top.
Knowing your responsibilities to your special education students, and the legal ramifications if those responsibilities aren’t met should be one of your top priorities.
If you’ve followed Simple. I Just Do for awhile, you know that we encountered teachers at the beginning of The Boy’s 6th grade year who acted as if they had never had an autistic students in their classrooms before. I had to become “that mom” just to ensure that The Boy was receiving the very basic modifications and accommodations. Truthfully, his IEP was being violated on a daily basis. Comments from teachers during that time included:
- “He refused to take the test, so I gave him a zero”
- “He doesn’t do any work in my room, so he needs to be in the special ed room during my class”
- “He should take the test the same day as the rest of the class because we have other lessons that he would miss out on”
- “If he doesn’t understand something, I don’t know how to help him because he won’t tell me what he doesn’t understand”
I have also found that classroom teachers in this state do not modify assignments themselves, most likely because they do not know how. Somehow, providing these modifications is the responsibility of the special education teacher. This was not the case in my training and experience up north.
Here’s the thing. You, as a teacher, can be sued (and possibly have to pay damages out of your own pocket) for not following the IEP, and claiming ignorance will not be a sufficient defense. Claiming that the special ed teacher didn’t make the modifications for you will not be a sufficient defense. You are responsible for knowing the law (IDEA and ADA, for starters), and for following it, by providing each student’s appropriate modifications.
This past week, I had to be “that mom” again, and send several emails to remind three different teachers about the modifications The Boy is supposed to be receiving. In one response, from the band director, he mentioned that he was “willing to let (The Boy) play for” the band festival performance that same week, but that he did “not want him to participate in the sight reading portion.”
The Boy has a right to access the same curriculum as his peers, therefore he has a right to participate in both the band festival and the sight reading portion. And it is the band director’s responsibility to know that.