Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parents May Be “Outvoted” at IEP Team Meetings, But Still Have Rights

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) responded to a parent’s letter inquiring about IEP Team decision making in its Letter to Richards, 55 IDELR 107 (OSEP 2010). In the letter, OSEP stated that it is not appropriate for an IEP to make decisions about a child’s IEP by majority vote. OSEP also noted that while the IEP team should try to reach general agreement, the school district has the final responsibility for determining the appropriate services.

When parents and school districts disagree about a child’s IEP, parents commonly have the feeling that they have been, in effect, outvoted by the school district and area education agency (AEA) personnel at the meeting. While the law assigns school districts the final responsibility for determining appropriate services, it also requires that the district provide “prior written notice” of the school district’s decision regarding the child’s educational program and the parents’ right to request a due process hearing.

“Prior Written Notice” is notice given in writing to parents in regard to an action proposed or refused by the school district with respect to a child’s special education program. School districts are required to provide it whenever the district or AEA refuses to implement a parent’s proposal, or proposes to change a child's identification, evaluation, or placement. The proposal or refusal must be in regard to a matter over which the IEP team decision making authority.

The written notice must be provided to the parent after the district or AEA has made the decision to refuse or propose, but within a reasonable time before the district or AEA implements the proposed action. Before the action is implemented, the parent, district, or AEA has the right to request mediation or an impartial due process hearing on any proposed or refused action.

Prior written notice MUST contain the following:

∙ A description of the action proposed or refused.
∙ An explanation of why the district or AEA proposes or refuses to take the action.
∙ A description of the options the district or AEA considered and the reasons why those options were rejected.
∙ A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the district or AEA used as a basis for the proposed or refused action.
∙ A description of any other factors that are relevant to the district or AEA’s proposal or refusal.
∙ If the proposed action a change in the child’s identification, evaluation, or placement, when that action will be implemented
∙ The name and contact information about the person to whom the parent may address questions regarding the notice
∙ A statement that parents have the right to challenge the decision by invoking their rights under the IDEA’s procedural safeguards.

School districts MUST provide parents with prior written notice when they refuse or propose to do any of the following:

∙ Conduct or deny an initial evaluation
∙ Change or refuse to change a child’s services or placement
∙ Add, refuse to add, or terminate a service, support, or related service
∙ Change or refuse to change the means through which the child’s services are delivered
∙ Provide, deny, delete, or change a child’s access to Extended School Year services
∙ Add, change, or delete an IEP goal
∙ Whenever discipline results in a change of placement

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog!

    Regarding this posting, I think it's important to mention that a DP hearing is not the only option available to parents who disagree with school staff members of the team. As Alexa Posny notes in the Letter to Richards, a state complaint may be an option for the parents. If a parent believes that the IEP with which they disagree in any way violates IDEA, e.g., if it does not include all the services the student needs in order to receive a FAPE, the parents may file a complaint with the state department of education. This is a much better option than DP in many cases, as the state DOE will investigate the complaint at no cost to parents and will order corrective action if the parents' allegations are substantiated.