I have a friend and there are 18 school staff people, and her, at her IEP meetings. I’ve mentioned many times before how large Kevin’s IEP team is, and I don’t even have meetings that large. One time with a client, I was attending a parent-requested IEP meeting. This particular school just thinks that their poo doesn’t stink and that they are just so fantabulous. Mom told them that I was attending and when it started, there were 23 other people in the room. Ridiculous. So who should attend an IEP meeting?
Having large numbers of staff attend an IEP meeting is often used as an intimidation or bullying technique. I’ll address that in a minute.
But, it also happens that many times essential personnel are absent from the IEP meeting. That can rob the meeting of valuable input and opinions. So what do you do? Who should attend an IEP meeting and how can I prevent them from bringing 2 dozen people? Let’s get into it.
Who should attend an IEP meeting?
IDEA 2004 defines this, and quite clearly:
LEA at IEP Meetings
Let me add a note about the LEA. LEA is one of those acronyms parents need to learn. Many times when you start an IEP meeting, a staff person will say “And I’m the LEA today.” That means that that person is designated to represent the district. They get the final say at the meeting as far as what the district is going to agree to. So, when you RSVP to a meeting, you want to make sure that there is a good LEA there. What I mean by that is: they have authority to make big decisions. If you are going to be discussing out of district placement, or a 1:1 aide or adding a significant amount of services, you don’t want to hear “Well, I’m not authorized to do that.” Nope. Make it clear that you want someone there who can make these decisions. Otherwise, they are not really an LEA and it’s not an official IEP meeting.
They might need to be reminded of that.
Do therapists have to attend IEP meetings?
Short answer, no. They are not mandated IEP team members. However, OSEP has provided guidance on this.
Hey, we’re all busy. I get it. Most school therapists have huge case loads with very little admin and meeting time. If you want them there, push for it. In the end, no, they don’t “have to.”
You can excuse people from an IEP meeting.
BOTH the school and the parent have to agree. Don’t agree? Reschedule.
From IDEA 2004:
- ATTENDANCE NOT NECESSARY – A member of the IEP Team shall not be required to attend an IEP meeting, in whole or in part, if the parent of a child with a disability and the local educational agency agree that the attendance of such member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting.
- EXCUSAL – A member of the IEP Team may be excused from attending an IEP meeting, in whole or in part, when the meeting involves a modification to or discussion of the member’s area of the curriculum or related services, if–
- (I) the parent and the local educational agency consent to the excusal; and
(II) the member submits, in writing to the parent and the IEP Team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting.
- (iii) WRITTEN AGREEMENT AND CONSENT REQUIRED – A parent’s agreement under
clause (i) and consent under clause (ii) shall be in writing.
Can I ask that certain people be excluded from my IEP meeting?
Short answer, yes. You can always ask for anything.
However, it’s pretty difficult to get people excluded from a meeting. Look at the two bullet points above in the photo:
- an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results . . .
- at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and
Most likely, the extra people the school brings will fit into one of those two categories. Some of the reasons that parents want people excluded from meetings are:
- personality conflicts
- intimidated, just too many people
As an advocate, my advice is just to do what you need to do to get over it. Have your data. Pray, meditate, run…do whatever you need to do to calm yourself and center yourself so that you can be a confident, productive member of the IEP team. In my professional opinion, except in the most egregious of situations, you’re just spinning your wheels and wasting energy trying to get people to NOT come to an IEP meeting. I personally feel my time is better spent rising above it rather than trying to fight it. Besides, if it doesn’t work, they’ll stop.
How does a parent overcome these IEP meeting challenges?
- Make sure that you are involved in the IEP process all year long. From start to finish.
- Submit a thorough, concise and accurate Parent Letter of Concerns prior to the meeting.
- When you RSVP to the meeting, be clear in your RSVP who you expect to be there. If there are names on the list you do not recognize, email them back and ask what their role is and what their connection to your child is.
- Remain firm but professional. Reconvene if you have to. Reschedule if you have to. You may have to step out of your comfort zone, but chances are if you stand your ground once or twice, they’ll get the message.
Lastly, view these situations as personal growth. Take a deep breath, reflect. Being on the learning curve is hard. But when I look at myself and my friends, and how much we’ve grown since we’ve entered this world, it’s pretty amazing. And I’m sure you are too!
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Please also read before you go to an IEP meeting: