Who Is Invited to the IEP Meeting?
The simple answer is — anyone. Involved parents will want to know ahead of time who attend their child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. Better yet, parents can request whom they would want or not want to attend. Yes, it’s true. Parents have the capability to decide whom they would like to be involved or not involved even though the school staff may say otherwise. Here are some ideas for parents to keep in mind the next time they prepare for an IEP meeting.
It is not unusual for school personnel to set up a meeting and choose the team members. Some staff members are required to be there. For example, a regular education teacher, the special education teacher or case manager, and the local education agency (LEA) must be there, in addition to an educational or verbal interpreter. Service providers such as the occupational, physical or speech therapists should also attend. An administrator who usually acts as the LEA is there and, of course, the parents or guardians. The student with the IEP should also attend if he or she is about age 14 or older.
Parents have the right to invite or include anyone they want at the meeting. Parents can have an outside paid or unpaid representative, such as a psychologist, who is there just listen or to provide input. Parents are also able to have another school-related staff member at the meeting. For example, personal aides, teacher assistants or another resource staff member who works directly with the student, usually are not invited (but should be, in my experience) by the teacher or administrator. Fortunately, parents can ask that this person be there. Depending on the relationship with the family and student, parents might consider inviting the personal aide because he or she is with the child most of the school day. The aide's input is very important and his or her presence should be demanded, if desired.
Put it in writing
However, parents should be aware of these points: If you plan to bring your own attorney, it might be a good idea to communicate this to the school administrator ahead of time. Do not wait until the day before to announce you will bring a lawyer. The school also has the right to bring its own legal defense. There is a good possibility that the school will re-schedule the meeting if it cannot secure legal representation in time. It is best to provide this information as soon as possible so that the meeting can be held with optimum results.
Parents should also understand that some teachers are not required to attend if their area of expertise will not be a topic of discussion at the meeting. The parents and LEA must agree in writing that this is acceptable.
A cautionary item: if a parent requests attendance from a teacher whose subject area will be discussed in relationship to modifications, that teacher cannot be excused and must attend unless the LEA and the parent agree to the excusal in writing. In my experience, it is best to confirm in writing that you are requesting a particular teacher be in attendance and that you will not give written permission for excusal.
Parents have input
Many parents are under the impression that the school sets up the meeting and that’s the end of it. The good news is that parents certainly have a say about who will be in attendance. Parents should discuss their concerns with their child’s case manager or administrator first to ensure a successful informative meeting. Most likely, an administrator will understand and work towards a win-win situation.
*Note: Parents needing more detailed information about the IEP process should access the online handbook, Policies Governing Services for Children with Disabilities through the Public Schools of North Carolina, Department of Public Instruction website.
C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with a disability. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal’s Exceptional Blooms.