Thursday, November 12, 2015

Parent-Attorney Spurred to Action by WestEd Report on #MCPS Special Education

One response to the findings in the WestEd Special Education Report on Montgomery County Public Schools. This parent, who also happens to be an attorney, has decided to fight against the MCPS system that is exacerbating existing inequalities.

Excerpt from her blog article:

MCPS made a decision to not hire adequate numbers of school psychologists, this means that they don’t have the capacity to meet their obligations under Child Find, or meet their obligation to do timely re-evaluations. This was not an accident. They decided to spend their resources in a way that exacerbated existing inequalities, or more accurately, to not spend their resources in a way that exacerbated existing inequalities.

MCPS has made a decision to not pay attorneys’ fees in special education settlements, meaning that only parents who can afford to shoulder those fees can afford to have an attorney represent them. And in many cases just having an advocate or an attorney is what you need to have your concerns heard and taken seriously. This means that low & moderate income families frequently have no meaningful recourse when their rights are violated or when MCPS doesn’t meet their obligations to their kids. This was not an accident. This was a decision that again exacerbated existing inequalities.

96% of the 228 MCPS administrators who responded to the survey said that they felt that “financial considerations impact the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities at my school.” This is a damning statistic that has not received the press that it deserves, as it essentially says that almost every administrator who responded felt that they were not provided with the funding they need to comply with an important federal civil rights law. Can you image if the Montgomery County Police Department said “Financial considerations impact the deployment of police officers to Kemp Mill?” or if ER nurses at Holy Cross and Shady Grove Hospitals said that “financial considerations” meant that ambulances from some neighborhoods were turned away? But that is exactly what these school administrators said. Again, this isn’t an accident. We decided as a county to do this.

785 MCPS teachers responded to the survey, most of those who responded had been teaching for more than 5 years; 18.1% of those teachers who responded said that “At my school, IEP decisions are made about students in a separate meeting, without parent input, prior to meeting with the parent.” Again, this item is a huge red flag and resonated deeply with the phone calls I received. This might appear to be a small error and a small percentage, after all, it is less than 20%. But what if I told you that the law is very clear that parental participation is a cornerstone of IDEA?[4] What if I told you that messing this up was like “forgetting” to Mirandize a criminal suspect, or “forgetting” to obtain someone’s consent before giving them a vaccine? And that an IEP meeting usually has at least 3 MCPS employees in it, and very frequently more? Which means that if this is going on at all, it reflects a problematic culture where multiple employees are going along with violation a key provision of a civil rights law. Again, 18% isn’t an accident, it isn’t a fluke, it is a problem.

To read Maria Blaeuer's entire article, CLICK HERE.


  1. What is wrong with the culture that allows outright deception, pre-determined decisions, avoidance of transparency, and dismissal of external professional information. The parents have little recourse. I question the statement that MSDE has been more favorable to parent issues. MSDE receives complaints and investigates but allows MSPS to continue even though they know MCPS is breaking the rules. Why didn't they intervene on the happenings of MCPS? They know!!! I am also concerned that administrators and teachers are so intimidated that they professionally allow "financial considerations" to deny services to children with disabilities. Indeed, this is a damning process.

    1. Who oversees the overseers?
      "The Maryland State Department of Education, under the leadership of the State Superintendent of Schools and guidance from the Maryland State Board of Education, develops and implements standards and policy for education programs from pre-kindergarten through high school. MSDE also oversees technical education, rehabilitation services, and library programs throughout the state’s 24 local systems."

  2. MSDE told me they could not intervene into the local issues based on the present system in Maryland??? I truly believe that each piece of this system is a cover up. MSDE investigation has caught MCPS "breaking the rules," but I believe, on the the large picture, for mostly minor infractions. The large issues are dismissed in legalize language. WestEd should have looked closer into the details of the MSDE decisions. If that wasn't the WestEd mandate, then further exploration is necessary.


If your comment does not appear in 24 hours, please send your comment directly to our e-mail address:
parentscoalitionmc AT