When assembling an IEP team, a school is required by the regulations that implement the IDEA to include, at a minimum, a regular education teacher of the child, a special education teacher of the child, the parent(s), an agency representative who has the authority to commit resources, someone to explain evaluation results, and, when appropriate, the child. [34 C.F.R. § 300.321] Others are permitted to attend, but are not required, including, “at the discretion of the parent or the [school], other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.321(a)(6)] The Commentary to the federal regulations offers additional guidance: “The public agency determines the specific personnel to fill the roles for the public agency’s required participants at the IEP team meeting. Whether other teachers or service providers who are not the public agency’s required participants at the IEP Team meeting can attend an IEP Team meeting is best addressed by State and local officials.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility, IEP, Educational Placement, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46675 (August 2006)]
Does the person who conducts evaluations and explains evaluation results at an IEP meeting have to be a school psychologist?
With respect to conducting evaluations, the IDEA regulations state that “[a]ssessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child . . . [must be] administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel and [ ] administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.304(c)] A school psychologist may meet the above requirements, or a given assessment may be administered by other qualified personnel. Regarding explaining the evaluation results, the regulations require each child’s IEP team to include, among other required members, “[a]n individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluations results.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.321(a)(5)] Although this role is frequently filled by a school psychologist, there is no requirement that it must be. According to Arizona State Board of Education rules, an evaluator “means a person trained and knowledgeable in a field relevant to the child’s disability who administers specific and individualized assessment for the purpose of special education evaluation and placement.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(B)(7)] In Arizona, some evaluations require verification by a qualified professional, meaning an individual who has “met state approved or recognized degree, certification, licensure, registration or other requirements that apply in the areas in which the individual [is] providing services such as screening, identification, evaluations, general education, special education or related services, including supplemental aids and services.” [A.A.C. R7-2-401(B)(17)]
What are the procedural requirements for excusing a required IEP team member from attending an IEP meeting?
IEP meetings can be conducted without all the required members being in attendance, but there are specific requirements. A required participant can be excused “in whole or in part, if the parent of a child with a disability and the [school] agree, in writing, that the attendance of the member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.321(e)(1)] If the required member’s area is being discussed, then the member can be excused if the school and the parent consent to the excusal, in writing, and if the required member submits, “in writing to the parent and the IEP team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting.” [Id. at subsection (e)(2)] “The [IDEA] does not specify how far in advance of an IEP Team meeting a parent must be notified of an agency’s request to excuse a member from attending an IEP Team meeting or when the parent and [the school] must sign a written agreement or provide consent to excuse an IEP Team member. . . We do not believe it is appropriate to impose a specific timeframe for matters relating to the excusal of IEP Team members.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–General, Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46676 (August 2006)] Although the commentary to the IDEA regulations anticipates the excusal of a required IEP team participant when this is known prior to the convening of an IEP team, the regulations specifically address “in whole or in part,” therefore indicating that written consent is required when circumstances arise during a meeting that necessitate a required IEP team participant to leave prior to the conclusion of the meeting. “We do not believe that it is appropriate to require that the request to excuse an IEP Team member from an IEP Team meeting be included in the meeting notice, because the public agency may not be aware of the need to request an excusal of a member at the time the IEP Team meeting notice is sent. For similar reasons, it is not appropriate to require that the IEP Team meeting notice include any written input from an IEP Team member who may be excused from the IEP Team meeting. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D-Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements, Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46678 (August 2006)]
If a parent invites staff members (who are not part of the IEP team) to an IEP meeting, must the school ensure that these staff members are released from their duties to attend the IEP meeting?
In the analysis of comments and changes to the federal regulations, the United States Department of Education explains that “[a] parent does not have a legal right to require other members of the IEP Team to attend an IEP Team meeting. Therefore, if a parent invites other public agency personnel who are not designated by the [school] to be on the IEP Team, they are not required to attend.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluations, Eligibility Determinations, Individualized Education Programs, and Educational Placements. Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 156, p. 46674 (August 2006)]
“Section 300.321(b)(1) [of the IDEA] requires the public agency to invite a child with a disability to attend the child’s IEP Team meeting if a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals, regardless of whether the child has reached the age of majority. However, until the child reaches the age of majority under State law, unless the rights of the parent to act for the child are extinguished or otherwise limited, only the parent has the authority to make educational decisions for the child under Part B of the Act, including whether the child should attend an IEP Team meeting.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart D–Evaluation, Eligibility, IEP, Educational Placement, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46671 (August 2006)]