Yesterday's IEP meeting for my oldest son was a doozie. For those of you who are not familiar with IEP meetings, these are legal meetings with school personnel that outline an Individual Education Plan for students with disabilities or in special education.
Yesterday's meeting was an Annual Review, but the hubby and I brought up a change of placement for our son. We live in a district that has a strong inclusion policy in their approach for education for children in special education. This means that our deaf and hard of hearing kids attend regular classes with accommodations such as sign language interpreters and FM systems that amplify what is spoken in the classroom. We asked for a change in schools to allow our son to attend a high school with nearly seventy other deaf kids. He would still attend classes with other hearing students, but have access to his deaf peers during lunch and other activities. He would also have the option of taking several classes that are team taught by a teacher of the deaf and classes with deaf students. This is something that is currently missing from his middle school in our district. He meets with three other hard of hearing students three times a month in a group run by the school social worker and itinerant teacher.
The district team was very mixed in their response to our request. The Special Education person running the meeting was not supportive and indicated that our request was not the Least Restrictive Environment for our son and the district couldn't justify this placement. He's been doing just fine in middle school, they said. Frankly, keeping our son in a high school where he is the only deaf student is indeed quite restrictive for his social/emotional development. Academically, he will do fine at either high school, but he won't have peers that he can communicate freely with in group situations at the district high school. I actually broke down crying at this IEP meeting.
The district has decided to gather more information from us and our son via the school's social worker and determine placement on the outcome of that report. Then the team meets again to decide which high school is the appropriate placement. We'll be bringing an advocate with us and looking into legal counsel. Sadly, the outcome lies with the district and their interpretation of the law. I'm not sure how much our input will have an effect.
So at this moment, I have no clue as to where my son will attend high school in the fall or what our plans will be if they don't agree with our request.