Can medical doctors prescribe special education?
No. Following a review of existing data and the administration of any additional assessments determined necessary, a group of qualified professionals and the parent of the child determines whether the child is a child with a disability and the educational needs of the child. [See 34 C.F.R. § 300.306] Information from a medical doctor should be considered by the multidisciplinary evaluation team (MET), but no one individual can determine that a child meets eligibility requirements; eligibility requires a team decision.
Does the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) mean the general education classroom?
Not necessarily. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to place students in the LRE. LRE means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, schools must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, referred to as “supplementary aids and services,” along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student’s individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement. This requires an individualized inquiry into the unique educational needs of each student with a disability in determining the possible range of aids and supports that are needed to facilitate the student’s placement in the regular educational environment before considering a more restrictive placement. [U.S. Department of Education, OSEP Memorandum 95-9 (November 23, 1994)] Although there is a strong preference for educating a child in the regular classroom, this may not always be the LRE. For example, a deaf student who communicates only with sign language may be unable to communicate easily or directly with hearing peers in the general education classroom/environment. In this case, a more restrictive environment on the continuum of possible placements, say a placement at a special school for the deaf, may actually be less restrictive for this child.
Do parents have to sign an IEP before it can be implemented?
Not according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Arizona State Board of Education rules (although some states and districts have imposed such a requirement). Although the regulations that implement the IDEA require that parents provide informed written consent prior to the initial provision of special education services [34 C.F.R. § 300.300(b)], there is nothing in the IDEA that requires IEP team members to sign the IEP. The United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) believes it would be overly burdensome to impose such a requirement. [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. 46682 (August 2006)] Schools generally ask meeting participants to sign only to indicate that they were present as meeting participants.
Do parents have to approve an IEP before it can be implemented?
There is no such requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The regulations that implement the IDEA require each child’s IEP team to determine the special education and related services that are needed to meet the child’s unique needs in order for the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). [34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320 and 324] If consensus is not possible, then schools have a duty to come up with an appropriate plan with the information from the IEP meeting, and then provide the parents the opportunity for due process if they disagree. [Doe v. Maher, 793 F.2d 1470 (9th Cir. 1986)]
Do schools have to give parents 10-days’ advance notice before scheduling an IEP meeting?
There is no such requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The regulations that implement the IDEA state that a school “must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP Team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate.” Schools must notify “parents of the meeting early enough to ensure that they will have an opportunity to attend,” and schedule “the meeting at a mutually agreed time and place.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.322(a)(1)and(2)]
Do IEPs have to be written by a certified special education teacher?
No. The federal regulations state that it is the IEP team “that is responsible for developing, reviewing, or revising an IEP for a child with a disability.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.23] Each child’s IEP team must include, at a minimum, the parent(s); a regular education teacher of the child; a special education teacher of the child, or when appropriate a special education service provider of the child; an agency representative; someone to explain evaluation results; and, when appropriate, the child. [34 C.F.R. § 300.321] The development of a child’s IEP is a collaborative effort and it is not relevant who actually puts pen to paper and writes/records the IEP document.
Do IEP and multidisciplinary evaluation teams (MET) vote when making decisions?
This is neither required nor recommended. In Doe v. Maher, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (of which Arizona is a part) addressed the question of whether, in the IEP team decision-making process, the team is required to follow a “majority rules” type of vote in making decisions. [793 F.2d 1470 (1986)] The court reasoned that a head count did not make sense due to the inconsistent makeup of IEP teams at meetings, and the potential for encouraging parties to “stack the deck.” Thus, schools have a duty to come up with an appropriate plan with the information from the meeting, and provide parents written notice of the final decision and the opportunity for due process if they disagree. [Id.]