• Using AI to write IEPs must comply with the requirements set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Data privacy and intellectual property issues arise when using AI to generate student-specific documents.
  • AI can assist in generating student-specific goals, accommodations, and strategies, but cannot replace the human decision-making process required for IEP development.

For starters, I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on the internet. However, since 2010 I have guided dozens of parents through the IEP process as their advocate, and then turned them over to an attorney when we couldn’t come to an agreement at the IEP table.

So while I may not be a lawyer, I certainly have nudged many families to entering legal proceedings. It’s what I do–I listen to parent concerns. Parents have legit concerns about this, as we all should.

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While I’m seeing all this “AI is awesome! so much time saved!” no one is pausing to reflect on the many implications.

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Using artificial intelligence (AI) to write Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities can be a time-saving solution for educators. However, it is important to consider the legal implications that come with using AI in special education.

I invite you to read all three articles on this that are on this website.

What Are the Legal Implications of Using AI to Write an IEP?

AI can be defined as “the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would require human intelligence to complete.”

In the context of IEP writing, AI can assist in generating student-specific goals, accommodations, and strategies. However, AI cannot replace the human decision-making process required for IEP development.

AI is very new. Statutes and case law have not caught up to it yet. Here are some things schools need to consider, so that you don’t end up being the test case.

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AI and Open AI

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. It refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction.

AI is utilized in various applications such as speech recognition, natural language processing, problem-solving, and decision-making.

OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research laboratory consisting of both for-profit and non-profit entities. It was founded in December 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Wojciech Zaremba, and John Schulman. They claim that the organization’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity. It’s worth noting that they are all billionaires, so I’m not convinced that they are doing this for “the greater good.”

But–there’s that keyword–OPEN. It’s open. That means that any information that a human puts into AI to generate an answer, is added to the database.

Over the past several years, various big online entities have been building this database by scraping every bit of information on the entire internet. Anything you clicked, anything you read, said, commented, purchased….it was all added to this giant database.

“Hey! I didn’t give permission for that!” Actually, you did. We all did. It’s been in everyone’s terms and conditions forever….just no one ever reads terms and conditions on websites.

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All those apps you download and tap “I agree” are when you gave permission. All the times we used a website, you probably agreed. (As an aside: Not my online chat forums, I have not left those open. Or my online training or any of my sites. They are private and not being scraped.)

My point here is this: Unless a school is using a closed AI platform, if they use it to create your child’s IEP, then they are adding YOUR child’s data to the database.

Even if it’s closed, and only used by that particular district, the information is being added to a district-wide database. So, still not private.

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How AI Works

Here’s a very brief summary of how AI works. It needs two main things to work–information and algorithms.

  1. First the AI platform has to collect data. It has to get its information from somewhere. This has happened as a result of various online entities basically scraping the entire internet. Any public site you used—yes, they gathered that information.
  2. Then AI takes that information, organizes it, and puts it through its algorithms. Essentially, the algorithms are what make the AI work. So when the human asks AI to do something, it takes existing information and puts it through the algorithms to give the human an answer.
  3. This all goes through repetition, evaluation and correction, like….forever. The AI platforms repeat steps 1 and 2 over and over, and based on how the humans interact with AI, it gets refined.

By the way, if you work with/for an AI entity, I know that I am oversimplifying this. You don’t have to write me and tell me. I am working under the assumption that many IEP parents don’t really know what AI is.

It is important to note that AI is not infallible and can make mistakes.

I have spoken with many parents who feel that using an IEP Goal Bank is unethical! Can you imagine if those same parents find out their IEP is written by AI?! For the record, I don’t think using an IEP goal bank is unethical. When used properly it’s a huge time saver, which is why I keep one on this site.

Understanding AI in Special Education

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making inroads into various fields, and special education is no exception. AI can be used to assist in the development of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. However, it is essential to understand the legal implications of using AI in special education.

One of the primary concerns with using AI in special education is the risk of biases. The model may inadvertently introduce biases into the content it generates, emphasizing the need for educators to review and address any biases in the IEP development process. Teachers’ experience and expertise are necessary to evaluate AI suggestions.

Another legal implication of using AI in special education is the need for legal compliance and expertise. AI can be a powerful assistant, but it does not replace the need for human expertise in special education law. Educators must ensure that their use of AI in special education is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

It is also essential to consider the limitations of AI tools. While AI tools have proven to be effective in generating documents that look like IEPs, they must also substantively match the student’s needs.

According to Education Week, “by law, the documents also need to substantively match the student’s needs, and that requires a level of expertise that AI has not yet reached.”

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Compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

When using AI to generate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), it is important to ensure that the AI-generated IEPs comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legal standards.

The IDEA is a federal law that ensures that children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

Ensuring AI Adherence to Legal Standards

To ensure that the AI-generated IEPs adhere to legal standards, it is important to train the AI system to recognize and comply with the legal requirements of the IDEA. This includes ensuring that the AI system understands the legal definitions of terms such as “disability,” “special education,” and “related services.”

Furthermore, the AI system should be designed to ensure that it does not discriminate against students with disabilities. This means that the AI system should not be programmed to exclude students with disabilities from certain educational opportunities or to provide them with less than adequate resources.

How do we train an AI system or platform without sharing students’ private information? That hasn’t been figured out yet.

Data Privacy and Protection

When using AI to write an IEP, it is important to consider the legal implications of handling and storing student data. This section will discuss the two main areas of concern: student data confidentiality and data handling and storage protocols.

Student Data Confidentiality

Student data confidentiality is a critical concern when using AI to write an IEP. Schools must ensure that student data is kept confidential and is only used for the purpose of developing the IEP. Any data that is collected by the AI system must be protected and kept secure.

Even if the AI system is secure to that school district, is that private for your child? To have their information entered into the AI database so that it can improve?

Data Handling and Storage Protocols

When using AI to write an IEP, schools must also consider the protocols for handling and storing data. It is important to ensure that data is collected and stored in a secure manner to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure.

Schools should have protocols in place that outline how data is collected, stored, and shared. This includes guidelines for how data is accessed, who has access to it, and how it is protected. Schools should also ensure that all data is encrypted and stored in a secure location.

Schools should have a plan in place for how to respond in the event of a data breach. This includes notifying affected individuals and taking steps to mitigate the impact of the breach.

Yes, privacy breaches can happen with any software platform. However, by design and by intent, AI is “open” and per the creators, intended to stay that way.

Intellectual Property Issues

When using AI to write an Individualized Education Program (IEP), there are several intellectual property issues that need to be considered. Two of the most important issues are the ownership of AI-created content and the licensing of AI software.

Liability and Responsibility

When using AI to write an Individualized Education Program (IEP), there are several legal implications to consider. One of the most important is liability. Who is responsible if the AI-generated IEP results in harm to the student?

Accuracy of AI Recommendations

The accuracy of AI recommendations is a major concern when it comes to liability. While AI can provide valuable insights and recommendations, it is not infallible. If an AI-generated IEP results in harm to the student, who is responsible?

To mitigate this risk, it is important to ensure that the AI system is thoroughly tested and validated before it is used to generate IEPs. Additionally, it is important to have human oversight to review and approve the recommendations generated by the AI system.

Accountability for AI Decisions

Another important legal consideration when using AI to write an IEP is accountability.

Who is accountable for the decisions made by the AI system? Are school solicitors really ready to defend AI-written IEPs in due process?

Ethical Considerations

When using AI to write an Individualized Education Program (IEP), there are several ethical considerations that must be taken into account.

Bias and Discrimination

One of the most significant ethical considerations is the potential for bias and discrimination in AI decision-making. AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on, and historical data may contain biases that can be perpetuated by machine learning algorithms.

It is essential to ensure that the data used to train the AI system is representative of the diverse population of students receiving IEPs. Additionally, it is important to regularly monitor the AI system’s output to identify any potential biases or discrimination.

We can’t even do that now. I have to constantly remind teams to presume competence until proven otherwise. To provide documents in Spanish to parents. And on and on….

Think about how society feels about our kids, and how that is reflected online. That’s the information that went into the AI database. The answers that AI generates are only as good as the data put in it.

Transparency in AI Decision-Making

Another critical ethical consideration is the transparency of AI decision-making. It is essential to ensure that the AI system’s decision-making process is transparent, and the factors that contribute to the decision are clearly communicated.

This transparency will help build trust in the AI system and ensure that the IEP team can understand how the AI system arrived at its recommendations.

To ensure transparency, it is recommended that the AI system’s decision-making process is documented and made available to the IEP team. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that the AI system’s decision-making process is explainable, and the factors that contribute to the decision can be easily understood by the IEP team.

If you have not informed a parent that AI was used to generate the IEP, then you have not given them the opportunity to be a meaningful IEP team participant. Good luck with that in due process or OCR complaints.

Impact on Educational Stakeholders

When it comes to using AI to write Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), there are several legal implications that can impact educational stakeholders. These stakeholders include teachers, educators, and parents, among others.

Teachers and Educators’ Roles

One of the most significant impacts of using AI to write IEPs is on the role of teachers and educators. While AI can be a useful tool to help streamline the IEP writing process, it cannot replace the knowledge and expertise of teachers and educators.

Teachers and educators are responsible for ensuring that IEPs are appropriate and meet the needs of individual students.

Teachers, we already know that you’re the whipping boy for all that is wrong with society. You’re overpaid, you only work 9 months a year….(I’m being sarcastic, btw).

I’m not sure I’d be the first in line to help a computer replace me, when my own community already doesn’t want to vote for my pay increases.

Parental Involvement and Rights

Another important stakeholder in the IEP writing process is parents. Parents have the right to be involved in the development of their child’s IEP, and using AI to write the plan can impact their ability to do so.

AI-generated IEPs may not take into account the unique needs and preferences of individual students, which can lead to parents feeling left out of the process. Additionally, parents may not have access to the same level of information and data that educators have when using AI to write IEPs.

As an advocate who talks with thousands of parents each year, I can tell you that parents are not ready for this. It can only serve to further damage already fragile relationships between parents and their IEP team.

“So we won’t tell them.” Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Just wait till one of them hears about the district purchasing AI software or using it, in a school board meeting or whatever. That’ll go over well.

And how is that meaningful IEP team participation? It’s not.

Look I get it. IEPs are very time consuming. Schools are under-resourced. But at this point in time, using AI to save time isn’t the answer.

At best, you save a little bit of time because all AI content requires heavy editing and rewriting. At worst, you leave you and your district open to legal ramifications. Maybe even lose your job (did your school district say you could use AI?) or your school pension.

Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide.

In my opinion, no. The little bit of time served is not worth the risks and ramifications. Maybe we’ll get there. But we’re not there yet.

Did you read a sentence or paragraph in this essay and think, “That sounded weird?” Yes! I used AI to assist me. So, if it read or sounded awkward to you, imagine how a parent is going to feel if it’s their IEP.

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