Retaliation: A Primer
Level II - Fear. Level II retaliation is not hidden. At this stage officials may appear to be openly frustrated and hostile. They will state that they won't for example, allow parents to observe a class, or won't permit certain kinds of testing. The list of "can't do's" is quite long. Most of it however, is bluff.
Level II retaliation is based on putting up a tough front in an effort to scare parents and reduce their advocacy. It is predicated on parental ignorance of the law. While it can be very effective, parents can break through this barrier by learning more about special education laws and regulations and simply insisting on compliance. Once past the obstacles, parents usually find that resistance is eliminated.
Level III - Punishment. At this level, retaliation can get ugly, with school officials openly threatening and actively trying to punish parents.
In this war-like state, school officials have a variety of weapons to choose from. One is the fair hearing (due process hearing) process. Schools have vast financial resources to transform hearings into major trial-like proceedings. Since there is no accountability to taxpayers for the large sums spent in such legal adventures, officials have free rein to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. (See the Hamilton County TN v. Zachary Deal case, where the school district spent at least 2.8 million dollars on attorneys' fees to fight parents of a child with autism.)
Aiding and abetting this practice is a network of attorneys who specialize in fighting parents. These attorneys are organized into a professional group which holds national conferences and training programs at the local level. School officials are invited to attend these conferences where they are tutored in the finer points of "aggressive action," in the form of strategies to be used before an IEP meeting or at the pre-hearing conference of a due process or fair hearing.
There have been recent reports of a menacing new form of retaliation involving the fabrication of child abuse charges against the target parent. Such allegations can trigger an investigation by Child Protective Services which has police-like powers. Pending the outcome of their investigation, they may choose to remove children from the home.
Level III is so serious that most parents need an attorney to protect themselves.
Note: "Retaliation: A Primer" and the "Retaliation Triangle" were originally published in The Observer, a newsletter published by the Sacramento LDA (Spring 1998). We wrote a short article, The "Enemies List", based on "Retaliation: A Primer" that included links to the original article on the Sacramento LDA site. In 2006, we received several reports of broken links to the original article. We discovered that the link to the Sacramento LDA site was deactivated. Since we saved the original article, we are posting it on Wrightslaw. If the Sacramento LDA organization creates a new site and/or posts the article, we will be happy to remove this article and create a link to the original.
Copyright © 1998-2006, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved