Official Website for the Short Film, IEP

Director’s Statement

IEP, (which stands for Individualized Education Plan), was written by my wife, actress/writer Trenekia Danielle, and exposes some pitfalls of the special education system as it exists today within the United States. In her position as a school psychologist, she saw the often discriminatory practices and labels used against young African-American and Latino children, whose behaviors were often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. IEP sheds light on a fictional hodgepodge of some of those incidents and dramatizes how they ultimately affect us all.

Our protagonist is 8-year-old Xavier (Jalen Harris), a product of inner-city Los Angeles, discussed — with widely varying opinions — by his mother, teacher, principal and others who should know him well. Our goal, amongst other things, is to give voice to many young black boys who are unable to speak for themselves.

Young Xavier acts out at times, sure, but why? Is he the animal he’s been made out to be? Is his well-meaning but inexperienced teacher to blame? His mother who loves him, but doesn’t know how to show that love due to her own demons? His absent father? His conservative principal? Tough questions.

The shoot was remarkably smooth. We got a little behind schedule on the first day, but it was relative. If I start thanking one or two people, I’ll have to thank everyone, because everyone who had anything to do with this film was an integral part of making the most professional shoot of my career the easiest shoot of my career.

The fundraising process was pretty interesting. I assumed, naively, that we would be able to rely upon educational reform groups and people who worked within the system that recognized the truth we were revealing. But those groups were alarming in their silence. That confirms my belief that it will take a collaborative effort to reverse the tide. Hopefully, that process can begin with a film like ours.

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