3 Tips Every Special Education Leader Should Know About IEP Meetings

Tip #1 - Who must be a member of a student’s IEP Team?

Under IDEA, the 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 if appropriate, at least one special education provider of the child;

(4) a representative of the school district who: 

          (i) is qualified to provide, or supervise the providing of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;

         (ii) is knowledgeable about the general curriculum; and

        (iii) is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the school district;

(5) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may already be a member of the team;

(6) at the discretion of the parent or the school district, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate;

(7) if appropriate, the child; and

(8) transition service participants.

(34 C.F.R. § 300.321; A.R.S.D. 24:05:27:01.01)

Tip #2 - Do all IEP Team members have to attend every IEP meeting?

In 2004, IDEA formalized a process by which a member of the IEP Team may be excused from attending an IEP meeting. In general, a member of the IEP Team is not be required to attend an IEP meeting (in whole or in part) if the parent of a child with a disability and the school district 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.”

Also, when the meeting involves a modification to, or discussion of, the team member’s area of the curriculum or related services, the member may be excused if the parent and school district consent and the team member submits, in writing to the parent and the IEP Team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting. Parental agreement or consent must be in writing.

The 2006 IDEA regulations clarified the “IEP Team members” to whom this procedure applies. The regulations clarified that if a staff member that cannot attend includes any of the IEP Team members, then a formal procedure must be followed for each member who cannot attend. 

Tip #3 - Are schools and parents allowed to be represented by attorneys at IEP meetings?

The U.S. DOE has indicated that IDEA "authorizes the addition to the IEP team of other individuals at the discretion of the parent or the public agency only if those other individuals have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child. The determination of whether an attorney possesses knowledge or special expertise regarding the child would have to be made on a case-by-case basis by the parent or public agency inviting the attorney to be a member of the team." 

However, the DOE also recognized that the the presence of the school district's attorney could contribute to a potentially adversarial atmosphere at the meeting. The same is true with regard to the presence of an attorney accompanying the parents at the IEP meeting. Even if the attorney possessed knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, an attorney’s presence would have the potential for creating an adversarial atmosphere that would not necessarily be in the best interests of the child. Therefore, the attendance of attorneys at IEP meetings should be strongly discouraged.