Do all school staff lie? No, of course not. Not all school staff lie. I am not accusing every person working for the school district. There are honest people in every profession as well as the school district, and I know many of them.
However, over the past 25 years, I am aware that parents regularly tell me things school officials tell them, which are flat-out lies. In the majority of IEP meetings that I attend for clients, there is disinformation given.
When my daughter was diagnosed with autism and a life-threatening seizure disorder, I found out firsthand that school officials have no problem with lying.
I was shocked and appalled that the top administrators, who we were taught to trust and respect, could actually lie to a parent of a child with a disability. I struggled with understanding how anyone could justify such a thing.
Within 5 years of my daughter’s diagnosis, I began advocating to help parents of students in special education. That is when I uncovered that lying was a systemic problem within school districts, that you cannot always trust administrators to be straight with parents and that school staff, principals, vice principals, and even high-ranking district officials will try to cover up the truth and mislead parents.
We are raised not to lie. Parents and even teachers teach our kids to “never lie and always tell the truth.” So, we are honest. Why, then, do school officials lie to parents?
Because we are conditioned not to lie as children, parents believe what they are told by school staff. They hold a position of power and respect in our country and school officials are honored in the highest regard by America. They care for students daily, raise them to be respectable citizens, and prepare them for life after high school. So why would they lie to a teammate, the parent? Because they can. There is no accountability for school districts.
Parents find it very difficult to accept that we’ve been deceived, that we are NOT all on a level playing field, and these individuals who hold power, and we inherently trust, do not respect our good faith.
Lying from a position of power is unforgivable. This kind of deception isn’t just your typical everyday lie, like giving a good excuse about why you were late to a meeting. A position of trust and authority in education gives certain people, like school staff, automatic credibility. We believe that people in positions of trust will be honest and forthright. School staff are fully aware of the positions of power they hold, and they take advantage of these positions, to the detriment of both students and parents. In our broken education system, lying is pervasive throughout the country.
The egregious harm they cause by lying is exacerbated when a person abuses a position of power. It harms more than just the student when school officials lie. Lying in schools also hurts the student’s family, the community, the school, and may damage the student’s future permanently. Yet, it seems that school administrators and staff have no problem with abusing their power.
School district administrators will never admit when they make a mistake, and they’ll lie to cover up what they did wrong.
Here are some examples of when lying will occur:
To cover up for or protect a teacher or staff member.
For example, staff are friends, and one lies to back up the other school staff member. Administrators will always back up their staff and will lie to do so.
Misrepresenting legal mandates or obligations. Schools often falsely represent their obligations or the rights of parents.
It is a common occurrence to hear lies when I go to an IEP meeting for a client. Most parents don’t have any idea when they are being lied to in an IEP meeting because they are unaware of their rights or the IEP process.
To force parents to take actions.
For example, parents may be told they cannot leave a special education meeting without signing an IEP document. This is completely false and disinformation.
To get parents to sign a suspension form.
Administrators may lie to get parents not to challenge the school suspension.
To avoid confrontation.
School staff may want to avoid telling a parent bad news, so instead of being truthful, they appease parents and avoid telling them something they don’t want to hear.
To stop a parent from hiring an advocate or attorney.
School officials lie to parents, telling them, “We have never had a parent get an advocate or attorney.” They’ll tell parents that hiring an advocate or attorney will only make things worse and won’t help. They ask parents to trust them and ensure the problems will be resolved. Meanwhile, they fully intend to continue to implement their disingenuous delay tactics.
To avoid spending money.
For example, they deny support services for a student that may be needed. Service providers are masters at lying to deny speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavior intervention and so on. Administrators lie about eligibility to deny a student an IEP. Psychologists skew test scores and cherry-pick data to deny eligibility.
Because they were told to lie.
Administrators call case staffing meetings to predetermine decisions about a student’s eligibility or placement. They coach the IEP team what to say and how to uphold their predetermined decision. There are times when orders from the director go out to staff to avoid certain things or coach them about how to handle a “problem parent.”
When the school staff member did something illegal or immoral.
They will lie to cover up when a teacher graded a student improperly because the student offended the teacher. They will lie to cover up the teacher didn’t work on the goals and accommodations. They will lie by falsifying notes in an IEP. They will lie in an IEP meeting to cover up falsified data and progress on goals.
When defending actions that may not be supported.
If an administrator suspends a student, sometimes they lie about the support for the suspension and falsify documents.
To avoid work.
There is laziness even in schools. They will lie so they don’t have to implement IEP accommodations because this takes more work during the school day. They will lie to avoid having to write more IEP goals. They will lie rather than implement the IEP with fidelity.
To play dumb.
It’s not uncommon for IEP teams to act as if they don’t know how to do something such as handle a child who needs behavior intervention, so they call the parent to come pick up their child from school. Or they pretend they don’t know what’s available to a child on an IEP so when a parent asks, they play dumb.
They are untrained and lack knowledge.
School administrators who don’t have a background in special education and in charge of facilitating IEP meetings violate IDEA regularly. Therefore, those IEP meetings are being facilitated unlawfully because the admin is unaware of the state sped code. Teachers and case carriers are not experts in special education law, so they also violate IDEA either unknowingly or purposefully. However, they will die on that hill arguing that they are right.
Common disinformation statements told to parents – many violate IDEA:
“You are not entitled to an evaluation for special education.”
“Your child has to be at least two years behind to get an evaluation for special ed.” (Meanwhile, the teachers are lying about progress and inflating grades.)
“You have to get an SST (Student Study Team) meeting prior to having your child evaluated for special education.”
“We don’t offer that service in our district.”
“You have to sign your IEP or your child will not receive any of their special education services.”
“We have to call another IEP in 30 days to invite the SLP so we can talk about your request for a speech and language assessment.”
“The IEP team decided…” (Excluding parent as a coequal member of the IEP team.)
“I have never had any complaints about Teacher X.”
“We are fair in all our discipline. Your child is not exempt from school discipline just because they are on an IEP and have a Behavior Intervention Plan.”
“The principal is not available.” “The sped administrator is not available.”
“It’s okay that your child got suspended… colleges never ask about suspensions.”
Let’s be honest. They lie because that’s the way they “handle” parents. Let’s call it for what it is… coercion, manipulation, and gaslighting. They do it for many reasons as described above but overall, they do it because they are lazy, uninformed, dishonest, ordered to, or cowardly.
I want to reiterate, there are honest school staff who don’t want to lie but are forced to go along with the district agenda. Many are threatened and put at risk of losing their job if they don’t comply. The honest people who refuse to lie, are cancelled and blackballed by other staff if they go against what they are told to do. Many end up leaving their position because of this kind of harassment. I’ve seen this happen many times in my many years as an advocate.
Students are the victims of school staff who lie, and school staff can lie about the student, and their rights violated. Parents inherently trust school officials and have good faith that their school is working in the best interest of their child. School staff know this and take full advantage of this trusted view of them. Special Education is broken and it’s not getting any better. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, attending thousands of IEPs on behalf of my clients, and lying is pervasive.
If parents don’t know how to protect their rights or how to argue the district lies and unlawful facilitation of IEP meetings, your child will suffer the consequences of a failed education.
This is what I do… protect the rights of parents and students! Please reach out if you’d like more information.
Cheering you on always!
If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.
Here’s what parents are saying about the group:
“Today is a pretty big win for my daughter and I, two years into the process, the district has finally agreed on a 1:1. Thank you Valerie and everyone else on this page for your wealth of knowledge and support! I know it’s not over, but it’s progress!”
– Kris Kar