Achieving true inclusion may at times be difficult. From time to time, problems may arise that will require you to take action. Problems may occur when decisions are made about your child with which you do not agree. For example, the school or school district may decide that your child cannot be educated in the regular classroom or that he or she should spend part of their day in a resource room. You may also disagree with the goals established in your child’s SEP. Your child may not be getting the proper support he or she needs to be included in the regular classroom and school activities.
The way that you respond to problems will likely be determined by the kind of problem that arises. For example, the decision to keep your child out of a regular class can be appealed under the Education Act. Most often, however, problems can be dealt with within the school or the school district level. Problems may be resolved simply by talking with the teacher in person or on the telephone. Sometimes, you may need to meet with the teacher and others who are involved in the education of your child.
Suggestions for Dealing with Problems
When problems arise concerning your child’s education, you may need to take action quickly and sometimes forcefully. If necessary, ask for the help of others as you deal with the school system. You may want to involve people who can give you advice and, if necessary, attend meetings with you, take notes, or speak on your behalf. It is important to remember that you do not need to be liked or popular, but you do need to be respected.
Below are some steps to deal with problems that may arise:
- Write the problem down. Describe the nature of the problem and be sure to record the date that you are writing. If you use a book, you can make regular entries about phone calls, letters, discussions, or feelings that relate to the problem.
- Talk within your family or to a friend about the problem and about how it might be resolved.
- Decide what action you need to take. Ask yourself whether the problem needs to be addressed immediately and who you need to talk with. Think about whether the problem could wait until your child’s next SEP meeting.
- If the problem concerns something that is happening with your child in the classroom or the in the school, and requires immediate action, set up a meeting with your child’s teacher and other people who may be involved in your child’s education. Make sure you go to the meeting with some ideas of what actions you would like to take. If you are unsure, use the meeting to discuss ways to address the problem. At the meeting, take notes or have someone go with you who can take notes. If you are satisfied with the results of the meeting, you may wish to put down in writing what was decided and send a copy to everyone who attended the meeting. Think about whether a follow up meeting is required to review the progress that has been made to address the problem you have raised.
- If you have been unable to resolve the problem by meeting with the teacher (and others involved in your child’s education), request a meeting with the school principal. Again, it is very important that you say very clearly why you think that there is a problem and what you think should be done about it. After the meeting, you may want to send a letter to the principal confirming the action that was agreed to.
- If the problem is not resolved within your child’s school, you may have to take it up with the school district. At this level, you may be meeting with people with whom you are not familiar. At the school district level, you should first try to meet with the Supervisor of Student Services or the Director of Education. Again, make sure that you are well prepared for the meeting and that you take good notes. If you are unable to resolve the problem, request a meeting with the school district superintendent.
- If your meetings with the employees of the school district are not successful, you may wish to ask to meet with the members of the District Education Council. Alternatively, you may want to ask the Department of Education to get involved to help resolve the issue. At this level, you may want to meet with the person responsible for student services, the assistant deputy or deputy minister, or even the Minister of Education.
If you need to go through this process, be careful that the time it takes does not create more problems for your child. You may wish to skip one or two steps if you feel that a decision at a higher level needs to be made more quickly.
If you are appealing decisions made by the school or school district, familiarize yourself with the education appeal process. See the section on additional online resources to be directed to an internet site that contains information on this appeal process.
Addressing Challenging Behaviors
Sometimes, issues arise as a result of challenging behaviors on the part of your child or other students. Addressing challenging behaviors of students has become one of the most important issues facing today’s education system. This is not simply an issue that affects students with disabilities. How the school system deals with these issues can have a big impact on individual children and on the school’s success with inclusive education. For more information on this topic, click here to read the relevant chapter in the Achieving Inclusion guide.