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Can School Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Team Meetings?

by Wrightslaw

Pete and Pam Wright were adjunct professors at William & Mary Law School where they co-taught a Special Education Law class and consulted with the PELE  Special Education Advocacy Clinic. Clinic students assist children with special needs and their families with eligibility or Individualized Education Program meetings, discipline matters, mediation, and administrative hearings.

Clinic students observed school district attorneys at some IEP meetings. Some attorneys were helpful. Others were adversarial. The law does not include attorneys as members of the child’s IEP team, so the students asked this question: “Can school attorneys legally attend IEP team meetings?

What do you think?

Jeff Martin, parent of a child with a disability and law student in the PELE Clinic, offered to research the issue and write a legal memorandum to answer this question:

Whether an attorney for the school can legally attend
an IEP team meeting?

Jeff found information that supported his position that, in general, parent and school attorneys should not attend IEP meetings. A Policy Letter from the U.S. Department of Education to Senator Hillary Senator supported his position. Jeff’s Memorandum includes an Action Plan for PELE Clinic to use when dealing with school attorneys at IEP meetings.

Read Jeff’s Memorandum:

Letter to Clinton: http://www2.ed/gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/letters/2001-3/clinton072330iep.doc

The Letter to Clinton is also available at


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30 Comments on "Can School Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Team Meetings?"


Hi could you please tell me if there are any IEP Attorneys in West Bloomfield, Michigan. My daughter is being miss treated by some of her teachers in her school. Thank you.


Our case against our school district on behalf of our son with autism is now in Federal court. Our district began bringing a “compliance officer” to IEP meetings as soon as it was known that we were parents who were proactively involved in our son’s education. The “compliance officer” is an attorney, with the license, knowledge, and experience of an attorney, but who is allowed to attend IEP meetings because she “is not working on behalf of the district as an attorney…she is a “compliance officer”. Yet she routinely negotiates legally at IEP meetings (as well as the resolution meeting) in the role as an attorney for the district. Please, Wrightslaw, tell me if this is legal!!


No lawyers should be involved unless the IEP goes to fair hearing! the IEP needs to be a work in progress whereby BOTH parties MUST uphold their end of the bargain in implementing educational goals. They MUST work together! Lawyers on both sides get in the way! REMEMBER, it is about the child NOT about the district or the parent! This always seems to get lost in the contest between the two…who is going to get the most out of the other, especially in the high school setting where the buck stops! Too many times the child and parent as well as the district have not pushed the child hard enough to achieve because none were truly held accountable and finally graduation is around the corner and the student is not ready to graduate, to transition to REAL life and it all gets dumped in an iep at the high school. NICE!


Follow up question, what if the attorney is really the child’s uncle who has a vested interest in the child and his/her success rather than that of an attorney? My child’s school cancelled a meeting because I asked for my brother to attend. His presence would not have been as an attorney, nor is my brother an educational attorney.


Interesting! I had my attorney present at the last few meetings where we established the BP and placement for my son. I felt it was a must at that point as we were “this far” from a lawsuit. I let the school know my attorney would be present, and so of course they have theirs present as well. I didn’t mind one bit – in fact I welcomed it because they’d dug themselves in such a hole that their attorney could only agree with us – so in the end it was like having my attorney and theirs too in a “buy one get one free” deal.