I have a friend and there are 18 school staff people at her IEP meetings. I’ve mentioned many times before how large Kevin’s IEP team is, and even I don’t have meetings that large.

So who attends IEP meetings?

One time with a client, I was attending a parent-requested IEP meeting.

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This particular school just thinks that their poo doesn’t stink and that they are just so fantastic. Mom told them that I was attending and when it started, there were 23 other people in the room. Ridiculous.

iep meeting with a large iep team
Think this photo is nuts? I have attended IEP meetings with 25 people.

Who Attends IEP Meetings

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 is legally required attend an IEP meeting?

IDEA 2004 defines this, and quite clearly:

the list of who attends an iep meeting from IDEA

LEA at IEP Meetings

Let me add a note about the LEA representative at an IEP Meeting. LEA is one of those special education 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, as far as their final offer of FAPE.

So, when you RSVP to a meeting, you want to make sure that there is an actual LEA representative there.

What I mean by that is: they have the 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 an OSEP guidance letter on this.

Hey, we’re all busy. I get it. Most school therapists have huge caseloads with very little admin and meeting time. If you want them there, push for it. In the end, no, they don’t “have to” as long as that person’s information and input is provided to the team.

Roles of IEP Team Members

  • Students should have an active role in developing their IEPs. No matter how young students are, they can contribute information about what motivates and interests them and what their hopes and goals are. It is my firm belief that all students should be participating in their IEP meeting at the earliest age possible, to the maximum extent possible. That looks different for every child.
  • No one knows a child better than his or her parent or guardian. They bring unique, in-depth knowledge to the table and should be welcomed to every IEP meeting as equal members of the team. Team members in charge of scheduling IEP meetings must try to accommodate the family’s schedule as much as possible so a parent or guardian can attend.
  • A general ed teacher has in-depth knowledge of the content areas that they teach. Their input in developing goals should give students the best chance for academic success.
  • The special ed teacher or related service provider should be the main source of knowledge for developing accommodations and modifications. Related Service Providers also contribute to the development of IEP goals and objectives, if the services provided are directly related to the goals.
  • Lastly, the LEA. In a nutshell, the LEA holds the checkbook and allocates resources.

Who is legally required to be at an IEP meeting?

This is directly from IDEA.

(1) A member of the IEP Team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(5) of this section is not required to attend an IEP Team meeting, in whole or in part, if the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency agree, in writing, that the attendance of the member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting.

(2) A member of the IEP Team described in paragraph (e)(1) of this section may be excused from attending an IEP Team 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—

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(i) The parent, in writing, and the public 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.

For example, I’ve had parents ask, “can a general education teacher be excused from an IEP meeting?”

Especially if the child is in a self-contained classroom or out-of-district placement, their interaction with a gen ed teacher might be minimal. Yes, you can excuse them. Make certain though, that LRE is still being considered.

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 in this snippet from IDEA.

the list of who attends an iep meeting from IDEA

And in particular, these two items.

  • an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
  • at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have the 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, or go for a 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 their tactics don’t work, they usually stop.

And then, instead of discussing your child and their concerns, the focus of the upcoming IEP meeting is now moved to removing a person.

Who attends an IEP meeting?

Can you pick the mandated IEP team members? Ideally, yes. But, according to IDEA, no. If you notice, IDEA says that both a gen ed and special ed teacher must attend.

However, it does not say which teachers that must be, or even clarify that it must be your child’s teachers.

Crazy, huh? It is best practice to have these participants be your child’s teachers.

And, it has been my experience that issues like this only come up for summer meetings, maternity leave, and things like that.

  • The school team can choose which teacher(s) will be available for the IEP meeting. If you have a specific teacher that you feel should participate in the meeting, you should make this request in advance. There is no guarantee. Explain why this provider’s input is needed. You can also request written updates from any teachers who cannot attend.
  • The LEA is often the school principal, but will sometimes be a director of special education, or program specialist. If you aren’t sure, just ask. Again, you have no right to ask for one LEA over another.
  • You hold the right to excuse mandatory team members for all or part of the meeting. The LEA needs to make all mandatory team members available for an IEP meeting within the statutory timelines.
  • A parent (or any member of the IEP team) has the right to invite someone with “knowledge or expertise” regarding the child. Yes, it’s very vague. But that also means that if your Ex invites his new girlfriend, she gets to come. That’s a family law issue, not to be handled by the IEP team. It also gives the school the right to invite personnel you may not like. Again, learn to rise above it.

Still, I want to clarify the points, because I don’t want parents to think that they have the “right” to things when you don’t.

How does a parent overcome these IEP meeting challenges?

  1. Make sure that you are involved in the IEP process all year long. From start to finish.
  2. Submit a thorough, concise, and accurate Parent Letter of Concern prior to the meeting.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, and 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 entered this world, it’s pretty amazing. And I’m sure you are too!

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