There are many parents on my Facebook pages that write comments about what’s happening in IEP meetings. Many of these comments are so shocking to me and I am appalled with how many schools across the county blatantly lie to parents and violate parent participation rights on a daily basis.
These articles, which I have split up into Part 1, 2, and 3, will cover many of these issues and provide you with the legal requirements under IDEA. As you already know, IDEA is a federal law, which means that ALL states must comply. Many parents will say, “My state doesn’t allow that” even after I give them the information showing the mandate under IDEA.
The first thing I’d like to recommend to parents is to begin to do your own research and learn how to Google your state law and IDEA federal law. If you want to begin to really learn about the law in your state and how it relates to what IDEA federal law mandates, it is imperative that you become a parent who has strong research skills.
The best advice I can give you is to understand that powerful parent advocates know what they want, are resourceful and have strong research skills, are committed, disciplined, know their learning style, and use it actively. In other words, becoming autodidactic is the road to successful advocacy for your child!
Let’s get started on the first issue…
When should you receive the IEP after a meeting?
First off, you have the right to receive the IEP immediately after the meeting is over. I can’t tell you how many parents write comments saying that they didn’t get their IEP until 3 weeks, 2 months, the following year after the meeting. This is a violation of parent participation rights!
How on earth are you going to be able to advocate for your child if you don’t even have the IEP finalized document until weeks or months after the meeting? Some parents have said they don’t get a copy at all… this is insane. Please don’t allow your school to bully you and shut you out as a coequal member of your IEP team. And for heaven sakes, DO NOT sign the IEP unless you have a finalized copy. For parents who are in states that require parent signature, you would never sign the signature page without having a copy of the complete IEP document. How can you sign a legally binding contract if you don’t even have a copy and know what you are consenting to?
IDEA states that parents have the right to access all written documents created by school staff in preparation for the meeting and prior to the meeting.
Many schools state the reason for the delay is that they need to obtain all team member signatures before they send you the IEP document. If your school uses this unscrupulous tactic, prior to the meeting, write an email making the request to receive a copy of the IEP immediately after the meeting. You have the right to request the document that was created during the meeting you attended and they can send you a finalized copy with signatures once they have obtained them.
Do schools have to provide a draft IEP?
Federal law states that a district must provide parents with a student’s records within the state timeline. In California, it is 5 business days after the parents’ request. A draft IEP would be considered a student record.
So, what you would do is to request the IEP draft in writing prior to the meeting.
Make sure you calculate your state timeline for a records request and send your email request accordingly. In addition to the draft IEP, I always advise my clients to request any assessment reports to be discussed at the IEP at least five days prior to the IEP. Please note: All evaluation reports are also an education record. 34 CFR 300.613(a) “LEA must provide a copy of the report without unnecessary delay.”
The IDEA and courts consistently emphasize how important parent participation is in the IEP process. The U.S. Supreme Court explained, the IDEA requires school districts to develop an IEP for each child with a disability, and in doing so they must ensure that parents play “a significant role in the IEP process.” This is the case law which takes precedence. USE THIS to protect your parent participation rights! Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49, 53, 126 S. Ct. 528, 163 L. Ed. 2d 387 (2005); see also 20 U.S.C. §§ 1412(a)(4) and 1414(d). These are the Federal codes~ 20 U.S.C. §§ 1412(a)(4) and 1414(d). “A parent is a required and vital member of the IEP team.” 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B)(i).
Can schools deny Recording?
An IEP meeting should focus on how to provide appropriate education to a child with a disability. There should be no conversation at an IEP meeting that cannot be repeated or taped.
There is no law about a teacher or parent’s right not to be recorded during an IEP meeting. Federal law does not prohibit a parent or school official from recording IEP meetings.
However, there is an unfortunate caveat. State departments of education or school districts can require, prohibit, limit, or regulate the use of recording devices at IEP meetings. But, if a school has a policy that prohibits parents from recording meetings, that policy must include exceptions to ensure that parents understand the IEP. Meaning, the district must make exceptions if this policy interferes with a parent’s ability to participate in the IEP process. Why? Because this would violate your parent participation rights!
The following are the exceptions you can cite if your school denies your request to record:
- If the policy prevents parents from participating in an IEP meeting
- If both parents are unable to attend the meeting
- Any other factors that interfere with parents’ ability to equally participate in their child’s sped program development
Many states have language in their special ed regulations about their policy on audio and videotaping. Check your state’s regulation about recording. Please note: Schools cannot record meetings while prohibiting parents from recording. So, if the school records, you can also record. The same right applies for the school. If a parent records, the school will always record also.
OSEP refers to Appendix A of the final regulations implementing the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 1997) as the Department’s current position regarding the audio or video tape recording of IEP meetings. “Part B does not address the use of audio or video recording devices at IEP meetings, and no other Federal statute either authorizes or prohibits the recording of an IEP meeting by either a parent or a school official.” (https://www.ocecd.org/…/OSEP%20IEE%20Policy%20Letter…)
In other words, even OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs) which is the US Department of Education, says that there is NO LAW that prohibits recording IEP meetings!
Be on the lookout for Part 2 as we continue to address the pervasive violations of parent participation rights. I will be addressing the Notice of Meeting, IEP team member excusal form, and much more.
If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.
Here’s what parents are saying about the group:
“Please keep blowing the whistle, Valerie! So many children are being deprived of an education because of all the corruption and lies being told to parents. We pay our taxes like everyone else, which can be interpreted as our children have the same rights as any other child.” – Maria
Valerie Aprahamian is a special education advocate, IEP strategist, and speaker. She speaks on behalf of parents to protect the rights of neurodiverse children to receive the supports they need in public school.