An interesting case out of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania determined that while the parents of a student with an IEP have the right to participate in the development and implementation of an IEP, that right does not include the right to select staff or to choose methodologies. In addition, when parents overstep that line and it leads to the non-implementation of the IEP, it may be the parents, and not the LEA, who are blamed for the non-implementation. Lastly, the case is a warning to parents to not engage in abusive or disruptive conduct in the development and implementation of an IEP, and that there are limits as to what parents are permitted to do in the name of purported advocacy in the IEP process.
Facts In The Case
In the case of G.K. v. Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, parents and an intermediate unit, who is the local education agency (LEA) for preschool children, were in a dispute over the provision of behavior support services to an autistic preschool student. The intermediate unit provided, or offered to provide, these services through at least five different behavior providers over the course of a year, all of whom were found to be appropriate by the Court. The parents, on the other hand, took numerous steps to try to force the intermediate unit to use their preferred provider, or at the very least, prevent the intermediate unit’s providers from providing services.
The Court found that the parents’ conduct went beyond their right to participate in the IEP process and that it interfered with the implementation of the student’s IEP. The Court noted the following acts of disruption and interference engaged in by the parents:
- Insistence that all other providers replicate the services provided by parents’ preferred provider.
- Confrontational and threatening tactics used by the parents, which caused at least one provider to abruptly stop providing services.
- The Court noted that parent’s agreement to an action plan requiring her to “back off” and not “micromanage” staff “strongly suggests that Parents, particularly Mother, overstepped bounds.”
- Telling providers that they would fail.
- Alleging that providers altered data.
- Using foul language towards staff.
- Accusing providers of fraud and lying.
- Threatening to seek disciplinary action against providers.
- Attacking the professionalism of staff.
- Engaging in a verbal altercation with a provider.
- Recording a meeting with a therapist without consent.
The Court’s Analysis
The Court explained that while parents have the right under the IDEA to participate in the development of the IEP for their children, that right is not unlimited. First, the Court explained that the law “does not permit parents to usurp the school district’s role in selecting its staff to carry out the IEP’s provisions.”
Next, the Court noted that the parents do have the right to fully participate in the IEP process, but “they do not have the right to control it.” Third, the Court explained that parents do not “have a right to compel a school district to provide a specific program or employ a specific methodology in educating a student.”
Lastly, the Court explained that the parents’ obstructive and disruptive conduct, which is detailed above, was well beyond the rights provided for under the IDEA and that even if a FAPE has been denied, parental conduct is a factor to be considered in weighing what, if any, relief should be awarded.
Given the Court’s findings in G.K., school entities can hold their ground, when appropriate, in response to a parents’ demand for specific methodologies or programs and in response to demands about changing staff members who provide services. In addition, the G.K. court makes clear that the right of parents to participate in the IEP process is not unlimited and does not include obstructive, abusive or disruptive conduct on the part of parents aimed at school staff.
If you should have any questions, contact your legal counsel or one of the education law attorneys at KingSpry.
Case Information: G.K. v. Montgomery County Intermediate Unit – Civil Action No. 13-4538 (E.D.Pa., Jul 17, 2015)
School Law Bullets are a publication of the school law attorneys of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. John E. Freund, III, is our editor. The article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.