Thursday, March 24, 2011

Excusing IEP Team Members

There are specific stakeholder positions which must be represented at annual IEP meetings.  Each person, through their respective role,  serves a specific purpose with their attendance in securing legal compliance and ensuring efforts to make decisions in the best interest of the IEP child.  Specific people may not attend every school  IEP meeting; however, each stakeholder position must be represented unless excused.  Before we discuss excusal, note that the required members of the IEP team include:
  • The child's parent(s)
  • At least 1 of the child's regular education teachers
  • At least 1 of the child's special education service providers
  • A school district representative who is qualified to make decisions about curriculum and district resources
  • A person who can interpret implications of evaluation results
  • If your child is 14 or older, someone who can discuss transitional services
  • The child (if appropriate)
  • Other who may have knowledge of the child or who may be invited to attend by the parent or school
A single person could meet more than one criteria above. For example, a special education teacher could serve as the person who can also explain and interpret implications of evaluation results.  Any team member required to attend who cannot attend must be excused by proper documentation and only if the parent agrees to sign off on such excusal.  A parent does not have to agree to excuse any member of the IEP team.  According to the law, an IEP team member can only be excused under two circumstances:  if their area of the curriculum or related service will not be discussed or modified during the meeting, or if the same person cannot attend and their area is going to be discussed or modified during the IEP meeting, their input must be submitted in written form so it can be discussed at the IEP meeting.  As a side-note, the biggest problem presented by an absent person but a submitted report is that little, if any, discussion can take place regarding the written report.  Questions are either left unanswered (which is not recommended) or another IEP meeting must be scheduled.  This delays possible services for the IEP child if changes are needed. 

The excusal notice must be presented to the parent at the beginning of the IEP meeting or discussed ahead of time.  If the excusal is approved by the parent, and signed at the IEP meeting, the IEP meeting may continue.  The excusal form is a part of the child's new IEP paperwork and contains the name of the excused party and indicates if written information is needed by the party for the IEP meeting.  If the parent refuses to excuse a party from the IEP, the meeting must be rescheduled.  There is no exception to this law.

As a parent of an IEP child, I strongly encourage parents to weigh the possible consequences to your child before you agree to excuse a stakeholder.  Your fundamental rule must be to NOT excuse any IEP member from the annual meeting regarding your child's educational needs. Of course, there are always going to be emergency situations, and those can be handled on a case by case basis.

Sources Cited
Wright, Peter; Wright, Pamela; O'Conner, SandraAll About IEPs.  Harbor House Press, 2010, pages 10,14
Siegel, Lawrence.  The Complete IEP Guide 6th Edition.  Nolo, 2009, pages 105-106.

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