American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Ethics Roundtable: When Supervisor and Supervisee Disagree

Response by Barbara Moore-Brown

Barbara Moore-Brown
Director, Pupil Services
Murrieta Valley Unified School District
Murrieta, CA

There are several troubling issues in this scenario. A few of them are as follows:

(1) Decisions about goals and objectives, services, and where services will occur are a function of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team.

If the eleigibility team tells Ms. McCoy that she cannot serve a student in the manner in which she recommends could be contrued as pre-determination, which is a violation of the law.

(2) Failure to inform the parents of their right to due process is also a violation of the law, particular attention is given to notice requirements under the newly adopted Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

(3) The team of teachers, clinicians, and parents are required to design an IEP that will "confer educational benefit." If the IEP team does not do so they may increase the likelihood that the parents would win a due process hearing and would be held responsible for private therapy that the parents obtain.

(4) The threat to Ms. McCoy's job is a violation of federal law.

Having identified these issues, what should Ms. McCoy do? First, she should be aware that informing her supervisor that she recommends more therapy does not "get her off the hook." Courts are now finding damages against educators who do not fulfill their responsibilities to special education students. I would recommend that Ms. McCoy consider the following options:

(1) Recommend a compromise. Often people are willing to try something in the short term, but hesitate to commit to a year long program. Perhaps the team would agree to a trial pull-out therapy for four weeks along with the implementation of a home program. The team could meet again and evaluate his progress in therapy, at home, and in the classroom and determine how best to proceed.

(2) Ms. McCoy could revisit her schedule and see if she can find some way to provide the services to David without reducing services to other students.

(3) She could schedule a meeting with her supervisor to discuss the therapeutic and educational justification for her recommendations. If she feels uncomfortable, she could invite another staff member, perhaps David's classroom teacher, to join her.

(4) Ms. McCoy could write a dissent to the IEP and indicate the services she recommends and why.

(5) Ms. McCoy also has some personnel options to exercise because it appears that her job is being threatened.

Each of these options present a challenge to the therapist, but this is a difficult situation. It is clear that not providing appropriate services to a student with an IEP is a serious situation. Ms. McCoy must evaluate the best way to serve David, keep his parents informed, reach an understanding with her supervisor, and thereby avoid breaking the law.

To submit cases or to be added to the list of respondents please contact: Helen Sharp Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, 307 WJSHC University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242. Phone: 319-335-6596, fax 319-335-8851, e-mail: helen-sharp@uiowa.edu

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