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Can School Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Meetings? – Jeff Responds

01/28/10
by Jeff Martin

In November, I offered to research an issue and write a legal memorandum about whether an attorney for the school can legally attend an IEP team meeting.  

Thank you to all who posted comments on my article Can School Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Meetings?

I am finally out of finals and through the holidays and I wanted to respond to your comments.  Sorry for the delay.

  • “These attorneys actively misrepresent laws and safeguards.”

David, have you ever tried to tape an IEP Meeting?  I would think that this would cut down on the attorney “mistakes.”  See Tape-Recording IEP Meetings at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=1654.

  • “Power of Attorney is no longer recognized by the school district as a legal document.”

I wonder if the attorneys were trying to split hairs between a general power of attorney and a specific power of attorney (SPOA) for education.  It could be that the school wants specific language concerning what rights the adult student is transferring to the parent.

The Virginia Department of Education has a good guide and a sample SPOA at
http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Instruction/Sped/transfer_rights.pdf.

  • “I agree that attorneys attending IEP meetings should be subject to subpoena and cross examination in subsequent due process hearings.”

Glenn, James and Kelli, granting your wish would likely impact parents more than the school.  Can you imagine if the school could essentially “terminate” the parent’s attorney by subpoena?  Few parents have the hundreds of thousands of dollars that school districts do for multiple attorneys.  The cost to the parent of hiring another attorney to start from scratch would be huge.

  • “The attorney, though claiming special knowledge about the child, was not required to share what that knowledge was though he was permitted to participate in making decisions regarding the child’s IEP.”

Glenn, I agree that this does not make logical sense:  special knowledge about the child is not the same as special knowledge about special education law.  Yet, as the Department of Education notes, “Paragraph (c) of §300.344 provides that the determination of the knowledge or special expertise of any individual described in paragraph (a)(6) shall be made by the party (parents or public agency) who invited the individual to be a member of the IEP team.”

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23 Comments on "Can School Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Meetings? – Jeff Responds"


Karen1
10/13/2010

Our district hired its attorney to act as the sped director. She is currently working as both a litigator on sped for the district and as the sped director. She attends many IEP meetings, she says, as sped director. In light of your documents posted here, what are the implications of this tactic by the district? Could this possibly be ok given that she also litigates when the process goes in that direction?

Parent
03/08/2010

Thanks Jeff,

I guess my question was confusing.

I was recently old by an Education attorney that “parents are at a disadvantage when going against a school district and their attorney”.

I understand that the tie always goes to the district.

We are experiencing a school attorney who is documenting statements that contradict what is documented in an IEP and minutes.

My hopes are that the BAR could/would discourage the attorney from using false statements and communications to stack the deck against a child who already has enough obstacles in their lives.

I would not expect the bar to offer relief for my child’s education. I would expect the next child like mine, to not have the burden of an attorney who has no regard for “Honest communication” while trying to obtain the best results possible for their client.

Jeff
03/06/2010

Parent:

In Virginia, ethics complaints are initially handled by the State Bar Association and not by the courts nor hearing officers concerned with FAPE. The Bar proceedings are confidential unless there is some type of public discipline. I don’t know of any proceedings that link an ethics complaint with a special education case.

In addition to school attorneys, teachers, psychologists and other professionals have ethical duties. Pam Wright wrote about the ethical dilemma school psychologists face: http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=67