The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) makes the requirement for parent participation and input in the IEP process abundantly clear:
Families of disabled students “must have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children.” 20 U.S.C. §1400 (5)(B). And see e.g. 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.321, 300.322, 300.501.
One of the ways parents can maximize their advocacy and participation in the IEP process is by providing written input on their child’s IEP. Every IEP has a specific section for parent input or concerns. In New Jersey, the name and location of this section varies slightly depending on the IEP-writing program used. You might see a section called “Parental input used to develop this IEP” or “Concerns of the Parent.”
Whatever your role in the special education process, you probably know that a parent can submit written input about concerns, questions or requests at any time. While written correspondence, questions and concerns might become part of a student’s education record, they may or may not become part of the IEP – which is just one reason the “parent input” section is important. The Parent Input Section of an IEP creates an opportunity for parents to clarify and confirm concerns and priorities, and for the school members of an IEP team to make sure everyone understands those concerns.
First, a disclaimer: every IEP situation is different! Appropriate “parent input” is highly individualized, just like every IEP. Be sure to get support on drafting useful parent input if you have any questions about your situation.
Here are five basic tips for parents when submitting written input for an IEP:
Tip 1: Make sure the input accurately reflects your current concerns.
If the proposed IEP contains old or inaccurate parent input, be sure to contact your case manager and submit a new, accurate statement for inclusion in the IEP. If previously submitted concerns were resolved, request their removal.
Tip 2: Specifically request, in writing, that your written input be included in the final IEP document.
I see lots of IEPs that contain parent input drafted from the school district/case manager’s perspective. If you would like the district to draft your input, be sure to review it for accuracy. If you are able to or can obtain assistance, submit the input yourself and specifically request, in writing (e-mail is fine) that it be included in the parent input section in the final IEP.
Tip 3: Be informed. Make sure you have all of the relevant information.
Finalize written input after you have a chance to review relevant data, carefully reviewed the proposed IEP, and discussed any questions with the IEP team. For example, before submitting input alleging a lack of progress, make sure you ask for progress monitoring data and discuss it with the team.
Tip 4: Make input proactive rather than adversarial.
Threats, criticism, or references to requests for mediation or due process hearings usually do not create a strong IEP. Instead, offer brief, clear statements related to concerns and priorities moving forward.
"Parents would like to be informed of any change in key behavior support strategies so they can be reinforced at home.”
“Student’s anxiety manifests as withdrawal or not speaking. Please watch for signs of this and discuss it with parents immediately.”
“Student secretly longs for more involvement with his general education class and was impacted in the past by exclusion from class parties, photos, and field trips. It is the parents’ priority that greater opportunities for meaningful inclusion be explored and implemented.”
Tip 5: Use your input wisely. Carefully consider what concerns and priorities you have that are not made clear in other parts of the IEP. Consider what requests are appropriate and feasible.
Rather than restate things about your child such as strengths or interests that already appear elsewhere in the IEP, consider what input you have that you do not feel is clear or is not receiving enough attention.
The Advo-Kids team can help you draft meaningful parent input for a student’s IEP. We can also guide your school’s IEP teams through productive parent participation. We welcome your questions, concerns, and comments about this topic! Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.