I recently saw a Facebook post where someone asked: “Who determines who the IEP team is? Can I invite someone to a meeting? This is a great question that AdvoKids receives often.
Under state and federal law there are people who must attend a formal IEP meeting and people who may be invited to attend. As discussed below, both the school district and parents have the discretion to invite people to an IEP meeting.
What determines who attends an IEP meeting? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) regulations[i] and the corresponding New Jersey regulations[ii] specify exactly who must attend an IEP meeting. These are the people you often see listed on the IEP meeting invitation form. The federal and state regulations require that the following people attend a formal IEP meeting:
(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; (4) A representative of the public agency [i.e. the home school district] 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; and (5) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results; (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. There are additional, specific requirements for who shall attend when transition planning is discussed; in New Jersey, this is age 14 and above. May schools or parents invite individuals other than those who are required to attend the IEP meeting?
In addition to the people specifically required by the law, the federal regulations state, “at the discretion of the parent or the agency… other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child.”[iii]
The New Jersey regulations contain the exact same language. A parent may always invite any “other individuals who have special knowledge or special expertise regarding the student… as appropriate.”[iv] The IDEA regulations explain: “The determination of the knowledge or special expertise of any individual described in [this section] must be made by the party who invited the individual to be a member of the IEP Team.”[v] It is well established that a parent may take a consultant, advocate or friend to an IEP meeting. Parents and schools may invite private providers working with the student or an outside consultant with expertise related to the student’s education program or needs. Schools and parents may invite school personnel who could shed light on IEP issues, such as reading specialists or assistive technology specialists. The one category of people not encouraged to attend IEP meetings is attorneys. https://sites.ed.gov/idea/idea-files/policy-letter-july-23-2001-to-u-s-senator-hillary-rodham-clinton/
Must a school or parent provide advance notice of who they invite to an IEP meeting? The IDEA requires that a school notify the parent of all individuals attending an IEP meeting.[vi] Interestingly, the regulations do not require that parents notify the school of who they invite to a meeting. However, it is common practice (and best practice in my personal view), for parents to notify the school ahead of time if they invite anyone to an IEP meeting. Towards this end, most IEP meeting invitation forms have a place for parents to list who they have invited. Schools can list additional people on the IEP meeting invitation sent to parents. I encourage parents to reach out to the school district with questions if they are unfamiliar with any individuals listed on a meeting invite, so they know ahead of time who will attend.
Further, we should note that the United States Office for Special Education Programs (US OSEP) encourages parents to notify a school if they intend to bring an attorney to an IEP meeting, “in the spirit of cooperation.” The OSEP discusses this in a policy letter from 2016, wherein it clarifies that a school may not terminate or reschedule an IEP meeting because a parent brings legal counsel without prior notice. You can read that OSEP letter here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/idea/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/15-017791-il-andel-iepteam-acc.pdf.
The Advo-Kids team is here to support parents and IEP teams. We welcome your questions, concerns and comments about this topic! Please e-mail me at email@example.com.
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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.