In previous posts we’ve discussed how and when to call an IEP meeting, but do you know who should be at the meeting when it actually happens? Based on the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the following members are required: the parent, at least one general education teacher (if the child is in general education or may participate in general education at some point), at least one special education teacher or provider of the child, the school psychologist (or someone else who is qualified to interpret the most recent evaluation results), the child (when the team members agree it is appropriate), and a representative of the district who can act as an administrator. If related services like speech and language or occupational therapy are being discussed, those service providers must also attend the IEP meeting. Parents also have the right to invite anyone they believe has knowledge or special expertise regarding their child, including an advocate.
If any of the aforementioned members are not able to attend the meeting, you as the parent have the right to ask for the meeting to be rescheduled. Services on an old IEP will not “expire“ if you can’t meet within a certain timeframe. School districts are required to continue to provide the most recently agreed-upon services in an IEP until new services can be agreed-upon.
In addition, if you, the parent, are not available for the proposed meeting date or time, you also have the right to ask for the IEP team to pick a new date and time. It is so important that you are there! You can offer a few options that work with your schedule, and you can also request that meetings last certain amount of time. Some parents prefer to try to get as much done as possible in one 2 hour meeting, while others need to squeeze in 3-4 lunch break meetings to accommodate work schedules. Some school districts are more accommodating than others with these requests, but it’s worth asking!
Lastly, sometimes school districts will ask parents to excuse a team member in writing if that member cannot stay for all of an IEP meeting. Depending on the circumstances, this can be OK, but I have seen some school districts abuse this policy. In some districts, it seems to be common place for the general education teacher or other service providers to “pop in,” say 2-3 sentences, then leave. This creates a culture where the general education teacher(s) don’t always take ownership of the special education student(s) in their class. If you feel that may be the case with your child, write on the meeting notice that you do not want to excuse any members for all or part of the IEP meeting. The school district will need to plan accordingly at that point, or will reschedule for a time when everyone can attend.
Like any other part of the IEP process, communication is key! Make sure any questions or concerns related to scheduling a meeting are submitted in writing, and never forget the importance of your input as a member of the IEP team.
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