The way current special education law is written and interpreted, parents are supposed to be "equal members" in a child's IEP team. That means that a parent is expected to participate in developing a child's IEP, and their opinions are supposed to be counted as much as any other member of the team.
And the more I get into developing IEPs, and dealing with schools, and looking at regulations- especially the new regulations being written in Virginia- the more I think this is wrong.
By making a parent "just another committee member", the parent is outnumbered in every committee they walk into. When I walk into an IEP meeting, I am, at best, outnumbered 3:1 in favor of the school. Often it is more like 6:1. I've had it be as high as 8:1 (administrator, student services director, special education teacher, regular education teacher, autism coordinator/specialist, psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist to me), and I haven't had any monster IEP meetings I've heard legends of. No matter how hard a parent advocates for the child, they are under the weight of school personnel consensus.
The fact is, as a parent, I am the one legally responsible for my child's education, rearing, safety, and health. At the end of the day, the year, the childhood, it is me, the parent, who must bear responsibility for the decisions of this ever-changing and often-hostile committee; and my child who bears the consequences of every failure along the way. In every meeting, my child is guaranteed only one voice in his defense and favor. Everyone else has a very basic conflict of interest- they are employed by the school, with a budget and a whole school population to consider. Only I (right now- until Joey can self-advocate) have only Joey to think about.
So why am I only just another member? Shouldn't I at the very least have 50% say? In all the complaints from schools about parents who want basically the ability to veto, I must say, damn straight I want veto power. This is my child we're talking about.
We have been fortunate this year and last year. Joey's current case manager is a person who really does care about Joey as a person, and is interested in getting him the support he needs to be successful. She considers what he needs individually, and not based on what other children in the program might or might not need. Unfortunately, we know from experience that it doesn't always work that way. What will his case manager be like when we move to the upper elementary? Will we revert to the attitude of the preschool, "we need to consider the kids with more needs- your child is too high-functioning to get support"?
No one knows Joey like I know Joey. I should think that even if this "committee of equals" must be, my voice would be the likes of Athens: a first among equals.