Per IDEA, the IEP team is the group of people who does pretty much everything for your child, as pertains to their IEP. But, that’s not to say that the phrase IEP team doesn’t create confusion for parents. Because it most certainly does.
This is because while IDEA defines who the required IEP Team members are, there are many other individuals who are not required to be on an IEP team, but are essential to your child’s success.
And, then there’s the issue of IEP team members and who is required to attend an IEP meeting. Another two separate lists, and more confusion for parents making requests.
So let’s dig into your IEP team, and what the IEP laws say vs what is best practice.
IEP Team Members
IDEA has clearly defined who is part of an IEP team. Much of what I am posting below is copied and pasted from the IDEA site. I will put my commentary behind their definition, to better explain it for you in plain terms.
300.321 IEP Team
(a) General. The public agency (school district) must ensure that the IEP Team for each child with a disability includes—
(1) The parents of the child;
(2) Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);
(3) Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child;
(4) A representative of the public agency who—(this is known as the LEA, you can read more about them in that link)
(i) Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
(ii) Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and
(iii) Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency. (an LEA must have the ability to allocate resources; for example, if you are asking for a private placement or 1:1 aide, the LEA cannot say “I don’t have the authority to do that.” If they don’t, they’re not an LEA)
(5) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(6) of this section; (this one gets overlooked a LOT; there MUST MUST MUST be someone available to you who can explain your child’s evaluations to you; this is an IDEA requirement so don’t be too timid to ask for it!)
(6) 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 (those words discretion and appropriate, blech. This is is where it can get contentious, which I will elaborate on below)
(7) Whenever appropriate, the child with a disability. (at transition age, they are required to be invited to participate, but do not have to; however, in the name of self advocacy skills, I always recommend that students attend their own IEP meeting in some way)
IEP Team Roles and Responsibilities
Ok, I’m going to skip around a bit, as far as what I’m quoting from IDEA.
Because I want to elaborate a bit more on the phrase “other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child” because that comes up quite a bit, as far as parents having disputes with their school.
What often happens is this: A parent wants someone, the OT, the SLP, or the aide, to attend the IEP meeting. Under that clause, they are permitted to attend.
However, the school said, “No, they are not attending.” So now what?
First, this is what IDEA says:
(c) Determination of knowledge and special expertise. The determination of the knowledge or special expertise of any individual described in paragraph (a)(6) of this section must be made by the party (parents or public agency) who invited the individual to be a member of the IEP Team.
So, if you, the parent, have determined that they are to be a part of the IEP team, then that’s good.
However, staffing issues often come up. One is that schools have to honor union contracts. If your IEP meeting is before or after school, they cannot require some personnel to attend beyond their contract hours.
Another issue is staffing. If your child has a 1:1 during the day if your IEP team meeting is during the day, who will be with your child? This can extend to related service personnel, who often have large caseloads.
If they take an afternoon to attend your IEP meeting, then they have several other families upset because “hey! why’d my kid not have OT today?” Make sense? It’s a no-win situation. Many schools try to schedule all IEP meetings for Tuesday or Thursday, for example and then do not give therapists service delivery hours then.
That creates a whole new set of parents complaining about “I can’t attend a meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” So, what to do?
I have a whole separate post on Who Attends an IEP Meeting?
IEP Team Member Can’t Attend Meeting
The school cannot deny you the information that this person has.
While it is best practice to have these folks attend IEP meetings, that’s not always possible in day-to-day reality.
My advice is to work around it.
- Ask for a phone call or zoom with this person to discuss their portion of the evaluation report and the IEP goals that relate to their area of expertise.
- Do written communication back and forth so that you have the data and documentation.
Many parents feel they have an ally in some of these people, and I get that. Their presence at the IEP meeting may bring some level of comfort to a parent, and make them feel less outnumbered. This is often part of the reason why they want a particular person at the IEP meeting.
However, in my experience, more often than not, many school staff say one thing to a parent in private but do not say it in front of their employer. That’s just how it is sometimes. They have families to feed too, and cannot risk their jobs sometimes.
IEP Team Attendance
Here is more about who is on an IEP team and required attendance. As related to the points above, the school may use one of these arguments to reason why someone is not attending an IEP meeting.
And, as a part of the big picture, you want to keep the focus on your child and their progress related to their IEP. If you start arguing with the school over who is attending a meeting (that is only 3 hours out of the whole school year), then you end up fighting over the wrong things.
Get the information you need, and document their refusal to allow them to participate in the IEP meeting. And move on, keeping that information for later if you need it.
(e) IEP Team attendance.
(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—
(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.
This is why a data and documentation trail is so important in the IEP process. So we don’t have to rely on the spoken word at IEP meetings. I have more thoughts and advocacy strategies about this all throughout this blog, so take time to dig in and read.
Transition IEP Team Members
IDEA also defines who should be on an IEP transition team, when the child reaches that age. IDEA says the transition age is 16. However, many states have lowered it to 14 and even 12. Check your state’s special education regulations for more details.
(b) Transition services participants. (this is who is required for IEP transition, per IDEA)
(1) In accordance with paragraph (a)(7) of this section, the public agency must invite a child with a disability to attend the child’s IEP Team meeting if the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals under §300.320(b). (again, they must be invited)
(2) If the child does not attend the IEP Team meeting, the public agency must take other steps to ensure that the child’s preferences and interests are considered. (if your child does not want to attend, there must be a way for their input to be considered and a way for them to participate)
(3) To the extent appropriate, with the consent of the parents or a child who has reached the age of majority, in implementing the requirements of paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the public agency must invite a representative of any participating agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services. (age of majority means the age at which you are considered a legal adult; consult your state regulations on this)
IEP Team Collaboration
The spirit of IDEA is that every decision or every component of the IEP will be a collaborative decision made by the IEP team.
But, in real life, it doesn’t always play out that way.
To what extent a school district listens to and heeds the parents’ or child’s input varies significantly.
And ultimately, the school district gets to write and present the final draft of the IEP. Or, their final offer of FAPE.
Participate in all parts of the IEP process and year-round, not just at annual IEP meeting time. Keep good data and documentation.
Hopefully, this has given you a good overview of your IEP team and their roles and responsibilities.
There are many other articles on here related to this topic, so make sure you take a look. Join our Chat Forums if you have specific questions.