How is it that, in disputes between parents and school districts, whenever an IEP Team Member starts to align their recommendations with the parents’ position, they suddenly stop getting invited to that child’s IEP Meetings? In my Connecticut special education law practice, I see this all the time.
Example 1: the parents believe that their child has a reading disability, and have been asking the school to test her for dyslexia. The regular education teacher attends the meeting, and states that he has noticed that the child is seriously struggling in his classroom with written material. The next time the IEP Team meets, guess who is invited to participate as the regular education teacher? Mrs. Smith, who teaches math.
Example 2: the student has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder by a private evaluator, at the parents’ expense. The school district does not agree with said diagnosis. At the IEP Team meeting, the speech pathologist indicates that she is concerned with the child’s pragmatic language and ability to appropriately interact with peers, based on an observation she made of the student in his classroom. The next time the IEP Team meets, the speech pathologist from the other elementary school is invited, instead of her.
Example 3: a teenager with Bipolar Disorder has been spiraling out of control for months. The parents usually get a phone call around lunch time, asking them to pick their son up. For many weeks, he has been going to his morning classes without incident, but by mid-day he becomes agitated to the point where the school can not handle his behavior. A question has been posed to the IEP team as to whether this student requires an IEP based on an Emotional Disturbance. Which teacher is invited to attend the IEP meeting? The one who teaches first period.
Example 4: after many years of disagreement as to whether Occupational Therapy services are required, the parents finally request an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense in the area of OT. The outside OT recommends 1 hour per week of direct OT services in a written evaluation report which was distributed to the parents and district weeks before the IEP meeting. Instead of inviting the independent OT to the IEP meeting to discuss her findings, the school invites their own OT; the one who never thought the child required OT to begin with.
So, here’s what you need to know: as a parent, you have the right to invite whomever you believe is necessary to your child’s IEP meeting.
The IDEA states plainly that, in addition to the required school staff, the IEP Team should include…
at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related service personnel as appropriate…” 20 USC 1414 (emphasis supplied)
This means that parents have the discretion to invite any person they believe has special expertise regarding their child to the IEP meeting.
If you get the IEP Team Meeting Notice or Invitation from your school district, and individuals who you believe should be invited are NOT, then you have the right to ask that they be included. I suggest you make that request in writing. It’s a tougher case when it’s an outside, private evaluator who has not been invited, as those individuals typically charge for their time, and if the parents invite them they are likely to be billed for it. However, even in those cases, I recommend that the parent request that the evaluator be invited by the district, at district expense, to share their findings.