To meet or not to meet, that is the question!
As parents and educators grapple with the new complexities of work/life balance and managing children at home due to COVID-19 closures, it remains important to update Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to reflect changes in students’ needs.
Minor revisions to a student’s educational program are often needed at the beginning of a new school year. This is especially true this year, given possible regression or new student needs due to remote learning. While full IEP meetings that include team discussion will be needed in many cases, knowing how and when an IEP can be amended without a meeting is also valuable.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an IEP may be revised without a meeting as long as both the parent and school district agree that a meeting is not necessary. In this blog, IEP team “meeting” refers to a formal meeting where specific individuals must attend and numerous procedural rules must be followed under federal and state law. Of course, parents can always maintain on-going communication with anyone involved in implementing their child’s IEP, via e-mail, in-person communication or phone calls.
Remember: An IEP team meeting, must occur at least once annually. This is often called the “annual review.”
Remember: Either the school district or parent can request a team meeting at any time to discuss changes in a student’s needs or any other concern about the student’s education program. Generally, upon receipt of a request for an IEP meeting, the school district must respond and schedule the meeting within 20 calendar days (excluding school holidays but not summer vacation). N.J.A.C. §14-2.3(h)(i).
What does the law say about IEP amendments without a meeting?
The IDEA states:
(i) In making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting for a school year, the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree not to convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP.
(ii) If changes are made to the child’s IEP in accordance with paragraph (a)(4)(i) of this section, the public agency must ensure that the child’s IEP Team is informed of those changes.”
Consistent with the IDEA, the New Jersey Special Education regulations state:
“The IEP may be amended without a meeting of the IEP team as follows
1. The IEP may be amended if the parent makes a written request to the district *board of education for a specific amendment to a provision or provisions of the IEP and the district agrees;
2. The school district provides the parent a written proposal to amend a provision or provisions of the IEP and, within 15 days from the date the written proposal is provided to the parent, the parent consents in writing to the proposed amendment.
3. All amendments pursuant to (d)1 and 2 above shall be incorporated in an amended IEP or an addendum to the IEP, and a copy of the amended IEP or addendum shall be provided to the parent within 15 days of receipt of parental consent by the school district; and
4. If an IEP is amended pursuant to this subsection, such amendment shall not affect the requirement in (i) below that the IEP team review the IEP at a meeting annually, or more often if necessary.”
How do Schools and Parents amend an IEP without a meeting?
The school can initiate the amendment by sending the proposed revision to the parents. If you are a parent and agree with the proposed amendment, remember that you must sign and consent to the proposed amendment within 15 days if you want it to go into effect; it will not go into effect automatically.
Likewise, parents may send a request to amend an IEP without a meeting to their case manager or Child Study Team (“CST”) contact person (*not, as the regulation states, to the “Board of Education").
The form used to amend an IEP without a meeting varies by school district. The NJ DOE offers a sample form on its website. https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/form/. Some Districts will propose the revision in a separate addendum to an IEP, others will send a fully revised IEP. Either way, if agreed to by the parents, the amendment becomes a fully enforceable part of the IEP. Parents may ask that the IEP be revised to incorporate the amendment.
The school district must make sure that all IEP team members (all those implementing the IEP) are made aware of the revision and how it impacts program implementation.
Remember that the amendment does not extend the annual review date for the IEP.
When is it appropriate to amend an IEP without a meeting?
When both the school district and the parent agree to amend an IEP without a meeting, it is probably appropriate. *Be sure everyone on the IEP team understands how to implement the change.
In the following scenarios, it might be appropriate to amend an IEP without a meeting:
A parent and case manager agree, after a phone call and e-mail exchange, that they want to make a slight revision to an IEP goal in order to make it more specific and measurable;
Following parent-teacher conferences, a parent, teacher and case manager agree that they see a need for and want to add an additional testing accommodation to a student’s IEP;
A parent wants to submit updated “parent input” for inclusion in the IEP.
In the following scenarios, it might NOT be appropriate to amend an IEP without a meeting:
If there are any questions about the proposed revision or input and discussion from various team members is needed;
If the parents are confused or need more information about a proposed change.
Amending an IEP can be a very useful way for IEP teams to streamline the IEP process and work together to keep an IEP appropriate and up-to-date. At the same time, it is wise to have a full team meeting if parents have any questions, there is a need to review data or the input/discussion of multiple team members is needed.
The Advo-Kids team can help guide parents and schools on all aspects of the IEP process. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments about this topic. We welcome your feedback!
© 2020 Advo-Kids, “All Rights Reserved.”
This material is for educational purposes only; it does not provide legal advice. Please be advised that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Advo-Kids or this author. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.