How and When to Request an IEP Meeting
This one should be filed under “blog posts I never thought I’d have to do.” I never realized how much misinformation there is surrounding asking for an IEP meeting. So I’m going to sort it out for–the myths and facts. When you can (and should) ask for an IEP meeting. Plus, including some templates at the bottom to request them.
Myths about Asking for an IEP Meeting
Myth: You have to wait until your child’s annual IEP renewal date to have a meeting. No, you do not. A parent can request one at any time. However, I recommend that if you are within 6-8 weeks of your child’s annual IEP renewal that you wait until the annual meeting. Unless of course, it’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, such as any kind of safety or harm issue. Once you get that close to the annual meeting date, it’s very likely that your school already has it scheduled anyway, since they need to arrange for subs in some cases. So your time (imo) is better spent preparing for that IEP meeting instead of arguing about having it sooner.
Myth: A parent can demand an emergency IEP meeting. This is a myth in 49 out of 50 states. California has a provision that the team must respond to a meeting request within 5 days. But, there is no emergency IEP meeting in 49 states. Look, I get it, really I do. Your child was injured or eloped or something else serious occurred. As a parent, you want it fixed TODAY. But the IEP team is under no obligation (legally) to honor this request. Last summer, an older child was attacking my son on his van. So I get it, really I do. I appealed to my district people with a calm sense of urgency, reminded them of the safety issues, etc. and it was fixed within 5-6 school days. What you choose to do with your child during that time is up to you. Keep a good paper trail in the event you receive truancy notices.
Myth: If the parent requests an IEP meeting, they can determine who attends. Sorry, folks. I’ve seen parents do this in an effort to avoid some school staff they do not want at the meeting. An IEP meeting is still an IEP meeting, and the school can invite whoever they want. The school is still bound to what is listed in IDEA regarding IEP meetings. Rather than trying to exclude people you do not want at the meeting, I feel our energy is best spent trying to rise above them. You can see the whole list of who attends an IEP meeting here.
Facts about Asking for an IEP Meeting
Fact: The school has to accommodate the parent’s time schedule. IDEA is very clear about this. And as a general rule, I never recommend that parents go into IEP meetings quoting case law. However, Doug. v Hawaii is very clear about what is expected. Wrightslaw has a very good recap of this.
Fact: A parent can request as many IEP meetings as they want. Yes, this is true! Keep in mind though, that should you find yourself in Special Education Due Process, you want to appear reasonable. I once heard a parent say “I’m just going to make them have a meeting every week until this is fixed!” That’s not going to look good for the parent in a hearing. Use the IEP Process to resolve issues. Yes, that will include IEP meetings. But you get an IEP team from No to Yes with good data, not by annoying them demanding weekly IEP meetings.
Fact: You can make changes to an IEP without a meeting. The entire team has to agree. But that does not mean that the entire team has to meet in a formal meeting. There is a “No Meet Addendum” that a team member can ask for. Some IEP issues are relatively small changes and not one that requires the entire team to convene. If you choose this option, there are a few things you should remember. One is to make sure that all team members are notified of the change so that the new item is followed. The other is that as a parent, you are an equal member of the IEP team. If you are sent a “No Meet Addendum” and you do not agree with it, then ask for a meeting.
Fact: The IEP team can meet without you. Yes, and this is common. I get it, you want to be a part of every conversation. But it’s very common for schools to have team meetings to discuss what changes they are recommending at the annual IEP meeting. As long as they do not meet, change the IEP and implement it without your consent, they are able to do this. And, really, it’s what a good IEP team would do.
As coworkers, they’re certainly not only going to discuss your child once a year during the annual meeting. I acknowledge how it might feel like you’re being excluded or ganged up on. Make sure you’re participating in all 5 Essential Parts of the IEP Process and that will help alleviate your concerns.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention this: One terrible idea I’ve seen from parents is neglecting an IEP meeting invitation. These parents were just so angry and frustrated that it was a case of “I’m just not even going to respond!” It’s a terrible idea. Because the school district has to make several attempts to contact you. But if you don’t respond, then yes, they can hold a real IEP meeting without you.
Mind you, I’ve seen a school district make like one phone call or send one email, and when they didn’t hear back, they held the meeting without the parent. That is equally as wrong and would not hold up in Due Process. It is your right to be an equal member of the IEP team, but it’s also your responsibility. So don’t neglect meeting invitations regardless of how fed up you are.
How to Request an IEP Meeting
I have a blog post that is a summary of IEP Letter Templates that will help you find the perfect letter. If you have several issues to discuss, I would format it as an IEP Parent Concerns Letter. There are several templates in that link as well.[embeddoc url=”https://adayinourshoes.com/wp-content/uploads/IEP-Parent-Letter-Template.pdf” download=”all” viewer=”google”]
When to Request an IEP Meeting
Simple. When you need one. But remember, be reasonable.
Lastly, here are some great articles to help you navigate the IEP process and be a better advocate. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and dig in, you’ll be a better advocate, I promise. I also create products to make your IEP life easier.