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According to Wikipedia, “gaslighting” refers to when a person or group attempts to sow seeds of doubt in an individual through denial, misdirection, contradiction, or misinformation. This office regularly fields calls from well-meaning parents all over California who have been “gaslighted” by a school district.

Parents have reported school administrators attempting to talk them out of initial assessments, claiming the child would never qualify for an IEP without any testing data whatsoever. (This is illegal.) Very recently, a parent shared that a District member of her IEP team made her feel belittled her over an extremely reasonable request for a 1:1 aide after her autistic child had eloped from the school and into oncoming traffic. (This is a denial of FAPE.) This same IEP team member went on to question the child’s medical diagnosis in spite of clear medical opinion that the child was in fact autistic.

The stories go on. Parents being told that the manifestation process is “unimportant” because “we won’t consider funding or changing a new placement anyway” even though it’s a factor to be considered when a child is facing ten or more days of suspensions due to behavior.

More recently after years of academic supports in place to help a client with clear specific learning disabilities, after his Parents asked for extended school year services (“ESY”) because clearly in spite of those supports the child continued to regressed- the school district team members misrepresented the child’s rights and pretended that evidence didn’t even exist.

Is this you? Are you the Parent with the data, the foresight to bring the evidence to the table that your child needs help but no one will listen or worse – you’re experiencing IEP gaslighting techniques?

Such gaslighting has no place in the IEP process. School districts, not Parents (regardless of their knowledge), are the only ones legally obligated to provide FAPE. Parents are IEP team members whose concerns must be considered and voices be heard.

Gaslighting also occurs when Parents bring their child’s needs to the team and in return they are referred to as being loud, rude, aggressive, or overly litigious. Yet, no matter how reasonable the parents or the request, school districts will often dismiss them, sometimes with a smile, leading them to believe the problem existed only in their minds.

We at the Leigh Law Group are here to provide firm, direct, knowledgeable advocacy to support your child’s special needs. Bringing an attorney to an IEP isn’t a guarantee but in our experience, a good attorney advocate can help you navigate around gaslighting and assist with understanding your’s and your child’s rights.