A parent asks for an IEP meeting.
The IEP case manager for the parent’s child replies with a time and a date, and states that the child’s regular education teacher will not be a part of the IEP team.
The school’s proposed IEP team does not comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
If the parent agrees to the meeting, he or she will be attending a meeting, but not an IEP meeting with an IEP team as defined by IDEA.
Section 300.321(a)(2) of IDEA states:
(a) General. The public agency 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—
(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.
(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;
(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
(7) Whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.
300.321(a)(2) does not state that a regular education teacher be a part of the IEP team.
300.321(a)(2) does not state a regular education teacher who knows the child be a part of the IEP team.
300.321(a)(2) does not state that a regular education teacher who will be the child’s teacher in the future be a part of the IEP team.
300.321(a)(2) states that “not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)” should be on the IEP Team.
Apply this same concept to all other members of the IEP Team.
It doesn’t say a special education teacher.
It says “Not less than one special education teacher of the child; or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child.”
What About Expertise? How Is That Determined?
Sec. 300.321 (c) states:
(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.
If you are concerned about a member chosen by the school, ask for the individual’s qualifications.
For example, I attended an IEP meeting at which a reading program was discussed.
I promise you that, if you bring an “expert” of your own—especially one with whom the school is not already familiar—that person will be asked for his or her qualifications. If the expert criticized the school’s practices, be ready for a qualification check.
It’s a Joint Decision
In addition 300.321(e) states:
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.
Pay attention: Both the parent and the public agency have to agree IN WRITING that 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.
However: There is a reason IEP teams include specific individuals. For example, say the regular education teacher wants to be excused. She teaches History and the main discussion of that meeting will be about reading services being provided to the child.
The teacher might even go as far as to state, “I don’t know anything about reading instruction.”
While she might not know about reading instruction, she has seen the student in her class. She may have noticed that he has a harder time with textbooks than computers, and that he asks her more questions on handouts that are designed with reverse text and bright colors.
That’s data related to the student’s reading. It needs to be discussed.
Sometimes teachers don’t know that they are the keepers of important data. It isn’t until a discussion occurs that they release the information.
In addition, the History teacher needs to understand the struggles that the student is experiencing. Being in the IEP meeting for that discussion is important for the child and the teacher. She can consider it continuing education.
What About Excusing A Teacher Whose Area Of Expertise Is Being Discussed?
If the teacher provides input in writing, he or she is missing the input provided by other educators who might have another piece.
In this case, say the teacher who wants to be excused is the Reading teacher. She writes her recommendations and forwards them to the IEP team in advance of the meeting. Yet, she misses out on hearing the data provided by the History teacher. She might not know that the child is struggles with certain fonts, colors, and type designs.
As your child closes in on the end of middle school, the IEP should start including transition services (you need to check your own states age requirements as they vary).
Sec. 300.321 (b) states:
(b) Transition services participants.
(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 a 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).
(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.
(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.
The transition services discussion is a long topic for another article. (I’ll add one, I promise.)
For now, even though 300.321 (b) doesn’t state that a specific individual who handles transitions be a part of the IEP team, if you go back to 300.321(a)(2), the IEP team must include:
(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
In the case of transitions, your child might qualify for related services. Perhaps you have a high schooler who needs to start working on a resume and on interviewing skills. That is a related service. Service hours should be allotted in the IEP and an individual who handles such services for the school should attend the IEP meeting. If he or she doesn’t, ask.
Again, transitions—and related services for that matter—are articles unto themselves. More to come on these two.