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Parents Are Not Members of the IEP Team … Say What!?

by Wrightslaw

I’m a special education teacher. At a meeting today, our sped director told us that “parents are not a part of the IEP Team.” The director indicated that implementing an IEP requires the parents’ consent although they are not members of the IEP team. Can you clarify this?

Parents are and always have been members of the IEP team. I can’t imagine why your sped director would tell teachers that parents are not members of the IEP team, but parents have to provide consent to the IEP. If parents aren’t involved in developing the IEP as members of the team, how would they give consent?

The sped director HAS to know this. BUT you and your fellow teachers . . . . . . need to know how to find answers to your questions in the federal law and regulations. If you don’t know how to find answers, you are at the mercy of others for information. 

woman reading in a library

Do you have a copy of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)? As a special education teacher, you should. 

The law about IEPs is in Section 1414(d). If you have a copy of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, turn to page 101. You’ll see (B) Individualized Education Team midway down the page in bold type. Parents are listed first. The federal regulations about IEPs are on pages 245-251. Required members of the IEP team are listed on pages 246-247. Again, parents are listed first.

When you have to deal with a situation like this, we recommend that you use the “Columbo Approach.” It goes like this – “I’m confused … I don’t understand … it says right here that … ” (as you point to the relevant text in the statute or regulations). Of course (like Miss Manners), you are polite.

You will be in a stronger position if you have the law book in hand, relevant portions of the law highlighted, and sticky notes marking the pages. If you do this, you won’t need to say much (except “I’m confused …”). The law will speak for itself.

Your experience shows why it’s so important for teachers (and parents) to know how to find answers to questions in the law on their own. If you can’t do this, you’ll rely on what others tell you. As you’ve learned, they may be dead wrong.

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76 Comments on "Parents Are Not Members of the IEP Team … Say What!?"


At my son’s eligibility and IEP meeting, we did the eligibility and agreed on accommodations, but time was running short so the school said they would finish up the paperwork and send me the final paperwork for me to review via email, which they did. I reviewed it and emailed back a request for one specific addition on the accommodations. They emailed me back indicating they added it. I looked at the part they said they would add, and they did. BUT, I didn’t find out until later that they secretly changed two other items at that same time without telling me. this was something we did not agree to at the original meeting and something they didn’t tell me they changed when they sent the ‘revised’ copy. I signed it, believing them that they only added the one change that I asked for. What is my recourse?


I was just informed my son has an IEP that I have never known about or had a meeting over. Can someone help me since I am angry but did ask when and how this could happen without my consent or knowledge to so far get nothing in return.


My Special Education VP says that we have to hold separate meetings for reevaluation, eligibility and IEP or we’re out of compliance. I pointed out that both federal and our state law says that the educational agency should consolidate meetings to the extent possible.

Moreover, one of the special education teachers who was once our special education department chairperson said that if we bring a draft of the IEP to the eligibility meeting then we’re predetermining special education eligibility. I politely countered that no, we’re preparing for all possible outcomes and that it’s only a draft.

I live in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals jurisdiction. Has there been recent court findings to cause our district to direct that we hold distinct meetings for each step in the reevaluation process? I’m confused.


My sp. Ed. chair just sent an email (school ended last Friday) requesting ANY 5th grade teacher to sit in on an IEP meeting for a student from this school year. I didn’t teach the child and do not know her. Is this legal? Shouldn’t the team members be directly responsible for the students instruction?


My son is 16yrs old, his ABA been working with him since he was 7yrs old. Now my district wants to remove his ABA for a Paraprofessional. As a parent, I don’t agree with that decision. He has made a big progress with them. What should I tell them? What should I do about this decision? Thank You, Maria


Could you please tell me if a person can play two roles at a PPT meeting. For example, if your are the evaluator (school psychologist) can you also fill the role of the administrator at a PPT? Thanks you for you prompt attention to this matter.


I would like to better understand the role of a legal guardian in the IEP Process. I have several children and youth on my case load that have IEPs. I have met with school’s Special Lead teach etc. and requested to be included as the child’s Educational Advocate. forwhat ever reasons I am not contacted when an IEP meeting is held
What can I do about this?


I echo all the frustrations everyone has voiced previously. Here in Kentucky parents may technically be members of the IEP team but they are NOT full team members. Even before the meeting starts the admins already have the outcome they want in mind and that’s what they get. Decisions are a “team” decisions, meaning that what parents say and think doesn’t matter because if other “team” members (teaches and admins) aren’t in agreement then it goes their way, not the parents way.

It’s very frustrating and I’ve given up trying to negotiate with these people during the ARC meeting. Parents are included because it gives us the illusion of choice and involvement. If we disagree then they say “take it to a due process hearing” which sounds extremely overwhelming and I have not tried that yet.


I’m in Florida. My autistic has shot back wards since he’s been in new school. I asked to go for in for a hour to observe and help them with my son, they said no because it disturbs the classroom. I asked to volunteer. They say no, they don’t need any volunteers. What can I do?


I was recently told by a top administrator in the MI Dept of education that, “The parents have never agreed to an IEP. They only agree to services which are determined by the school team who are the experts”. She basically told me schools made all the decisions about programs and services, and if parents didnt like them they would have follow the normal complaint process.”Its the LAW” she emphasized. This comes from me questioning their proposed change in the state’s timeline for initial eligibility They want to have parents sign consent for services after eligibility is granted but PRIOR to development of the IEP. This is contrary to federal language which states that a parent must be an equal member of their IEP team in the development of the IEP. What gives? (public comment open through march 13th at 5pm)


We’ve moved to Florida from California. After the IEP meeting here, I said I would take the IEP home review it, sign in agreement, (or not) and return it. I was told NO parents don’t sign the IEP here. The district representative stood there in agreement. When I asked “why” I was told (again) parents don’t sign the IEP’s here….you might have to in CA but here parents don’t sign. Is this true- I can’t find anything, and the school district just repeats what they said at the meeting. Do they have to let me review and sign.
In FL she’s doing work she did 2 years ago in CA, so her marks are good-and they’re trying to take her IEP away as they say her marks are good.


My son is autistic and goes to an Ohio school they are thinking of changing his school schedule so that that he arrives an hour after the other kids. They say they can do this through his IEP but I don’t want his schedule changed. Can they change this without my permission? or my signing off on it through an IEP meeting.


In Iowa, it’s NOT required for parents to consent to an IEP.

Consent is given simply by fact that an IEP meeting occurred. Whatever the professionals with the most clout want to do vs. professionals (or parents) with lesser clout, is what gets done.

The PTI, ASK Resource, says it’s not required in Iowa that the AEAs/LEAs follow IEP meeting requirements cuz culturally they don’t understand it here (such as that a copy of the evaluation needs to be at the meeting, or even that the parent needs to be notified whether it’s an IEP meeting or just a meeting even if the parent asks).

If parents do “get their way” the underlying reality from SEA/LEA/AEA is “have it your way; you’ll pay!” And that’s what is made sure is done. Cohesive passive aggressive retaliation is rampant by the SEA/LEA/AEA -so lawsuits seldom happen.


Yes, All comments are true and I have an audio hearing of the team saying because you were in attendance you were in agreement. Also, there had been voting at my meeting. The hearing officer would not let the audio be placed into evidence. The goals for my child are being executed at a four month level even though she is four. We are in limbo in litigation and no one is willing to fight for these kids.


my child was diagnosed w/audiotory processing disorder, and also expressive/ perceptive speech delay. She’s in 7th grade now and the school has been disagreeing w/ me for what her needs are! These self contained classrooms are a joke. I believe that she isn’t challenged enough, and the work that is given in the lass is never consistent! We go from having spelling words to learn one week w/ no test, to lets not give spelling for 2 and half months. plus never a math review with a test! So sick of this! i want my daughterto be placed in a higher skilled class or taken out of district! Please help! I can’t stand IEP meeting, such a waste!

Sharon L.

Carla, Yes the school can do this however they must put in writing that they are doing this & why. We had this happen to us & we never signed the IEP & they did move forward with it. We eventually got together to discuss the issues & came up with an agreement that we could sign the IEP.


I was told that I did not have to sign my son’s IEP for the IEP to be executed. I fell sick the day of the IEP meeting and the school executed without me. This comment made me feel as though my input into the IEP process is not relevant. The School is in GA.


Does an IEP have to have a goal for every need listed in an ETR?


Can a school district implement a proposed IEP if one parent “accepts” the document BUT the other parent “rejects in full” and requests mediation?

Parents are divorced and in their separation agreement a provision states, “decision-making process will be shared on all matters having a significant impact on the Children’s lives, including, but not limited to, their upbringing, education, psychological well-being, medical care… In the event that the parties are unable to agree upon any matter of importance to the rearing of the Children either party may petition a Court of competent jurisdiction.” And, “[i]n the event that the parties are unable to reach agreement with respect to the foregoing, the parties agree that they will defer to the appropriate professional, if applicable (i.e. doctor, dentist, teacher, etc.).

Sharon L.

Gloria – I am a parent of disabled children who went to an OH school. it was tough. Have you requested a full MFE (Multifactored Evaluation) on your child. It is difficult to see what the issues may be without testing. Be sure to sign the school’s consent form & then they have 60 days for results. Request a copy of the results before the meeting & show the advocate & professional. If you disagree with results you can have an outside eval done at school’s expense. There is OHI (other health impaired) IEP. This is a different process but this is how I got my ADHD son on IEP. There are ways to deal with OH schools & it is to be a knowledgeable as possible. I always take a tape recorder to meetings & let them know. The story changes will go away if they know they are on tape.


I’m having trouble with an Ohio School District. My child has disabilties and does not qualify for an IEP or 504 although medical professionals believe differently and I have mixed feelings about this as well. The district implemented interventions (fidgets etc…) without my knowledge, consent, and without an IEP or 504, can they do this? Plus when I meet with the school, their stories change on this matter and when an advocate and I met with the school, the school changed their story again and said only 1 intervention was used an eye contact w/ gesture. I have not previewed or obtained a copy of child’s records which should contain a document of interest so that I may dispute or possibly a right to due process etc… but with hiding/tampering how can I get some justice? Very long, complicated story but I need help.


I was wondering if the wrights law book, contains info on iep’s at the junior high level, what a proper one should outline, and since each child is unique what i should except and not.????
new to junior high


Wright’s Law! Yal rock!

Been attending IEP meetings for my clients for over a decade and regardless of what is said officially, parents are intimidated by the process and school officials reinforce it by looking to me to act as the authority at these tables. In my book I talk about one clinician from Children’s hospital who hired me. When mom felt that her child’s needs had been met, the therapist turned to me to refute it. When I explained that I don’t make clinical decisions but follow my parent (clients) lead she nearly busted a gut, saying “Well this is certainly not protocol!”

Well H-E-L-L-O!

So thanks so much for tackling issues so parents can understand the English hidden behind all the code language.

Believe well!



Unbelievable that someone in this day and age could make such a comment! So many school districts are so used to being a bully to parents and even the kids as to have a long history of getting away with this type of behavior. The recommendation of how to handle this is spot on. I have being using the book referenced for some time now and it works well.


When one parent disagrees with and IEP, can the other parent approve it anyway even when it is inadequate for the child?


Can parents alone terminiate the IEP process ..


Does IEP’s have an expiration? When if at all is an IEP out of compliance?


Can a 504 plan be implemented without parents signature? Parent is rejecting the finding of the eligibility under a Neurological disability (sensory skills deficit and ADHD) but wants OT accommodations put in place (OT recommendations that were presented at the eligibility meeting). Parent is not accepting the fact that her child has ADHD and sensory skills deficits.

Sharon L.

Lynne, it sounds like an internal issue to me.

Sharon L.

The projector is a great idea and yes they can give you a DRAFT IEP. You can insist on it. I get a copy one week before the meeting and take a copy after the meeting just to be sure.


I have a question about school personnel meeting prior to the IEP. At a recent IEP meeting, the regular ed teacher was so harsh that the sped teacher, myself (SLP) and the principal met very briefly to talk about the teacher’s unbelievable behavior. We have an upcoming eligibility meeting with the same student, same teacher and want to have a pre-meeting with the teacher to talk about how to properly behave in a meeting with parents, where a child is in earshot.

I hadn’t considered that this could be a violation, but maybe it is. We haven’t met yet and the main reason for the meeting is to address the teacher’s inappropriate behavior during the previous meeting, not the components of the eligibility or IEP. It feels like this is an internal issue to the school and not an IEP meeting. Am I right or would it be a violation?


Immediately following a meeting, I always make copies of any paperwork created at the IEP meeting. As a parent I have always found it rather ridiculous to wait months to get the paperwork. So far I have only had 2 parents refuse to wait a couple of minutes for me to make the copies. So what if the IEP has some hand-written things on it. Ask for copies after the meeting. It takes less then 5 minutes. If they are hesitant reassure them you won’t grade their handwriting and gently insist

A complaint I have is they now create the IEP at the meeting. That, in itself, is fine. It’s how they do it – the sped teacher typing on her laptop without anyone else privy to what’s being typed. I have asked for drafts in advance and they say they don’t have any. I intend to ask for a projector this year, so everyone can see what we are creating.


Enjoyed this thread and glad to have the references for parental consent. I am a speech therapist in a school and have had the frustrating situation where we can not get a parent in for a meeting. All while the child continues to need services.

To the original question about signing an IEP. The district I work in, everyone signs the IEP. The neighboring district that my son attends, we only sign his 3-year evaluation IEPs. To further complicate things, I have heard other special ed teachers in my district give different reasons we are signing – some say we sign to agree to the IEP some say we sign to show we ‘held the meeting’. Confusing, to say the least. Since I am not sure which it is, I say it is for attendance, not agreement. I am now going to ask my sped director and look it up. Seems we should be consistent within our district

Karen R.

We were told in the official IEP meeting that they had held a “meeting” to determine placement for my son who was to return from Home Instruction. I asked how they could have a meeting without me being the parent and they said they did and they wanted him to remain on home instruction. We have since hired an attorney. Tired of this school district’s disrespect and especially the building principal who told my son when asked if he cared whether or not my son graduated and became a productive member of society “NO!”


This post makes me wonder how many special education teacher are either told the same thing by their sped director, or think the same. On the other hand, in our district “parents are part of the IEP team” argument has been used to NOT give the parents a draft of the IEP before the IEP meeting (because IEP is a “team” decision), even though every other member of the team, other than parents, were able to see the draft.


We were told exactly the same thing by our SPED director and the school distric’t s attorney. They said that we we could choose to sign the IEP or not – all it meant was that we were in agreement. If we did not sign – they would implement it anyway. I knew they were wrong – but what can a parent do when the district and their attorney behave in that way? We have filed State Dept. Complaints – and they ruled in our favor. We filed OCR complaints – they ruled in our favor. In one case, they told us an untruth and we went home, looked up the law, and sent them a thank you letter quoting the law including the part that they had left out and stating our position. All of those things do get action – but it is exhausting when every meeting this type of thing happens.


My wife and i are separated. Our 15 year old special needs child is in my wife’s classroom. The separation occurred on 12/08. I asked my wife several times as to my daughter’s progress, which she ignored or advised to go through her teacher, who happened to be my wife. I decided to write the superintendent, Special ed, director and principal. This was due b/c my wife did not allow me to have any contact with our daughter for nearly 7 months and no legal documents were in play.

Question: Was my wife/teacher legally bound to notify me when my daughter had her IEP in 2009? One manager told me that as long as one parent were present then that sufficed. The fact is my wife never told me about any evaluations/revaluations since we were separated. Was I legally entitled to receive a notice of when the conferences/meeting took place?


My Special Education Supervisor stated that a parent does not have to attend and sign an initial ETR nor an Initial IEP. The parent granted consent for an evaluation, but never came in for the determination meeting (three documented attempts were made). Now, I will be having an initial IEP meeting (again three documented attempts have been made) and if the parent does not attend, can we legally implement services without a parent’s signature?


I just attended an IEP meeting and the school psychologist clearly disregarded my request for a one-on-one aide for my first grader who has fine motor skills issues. She motioned with her hand around the table who the IEP team was, which excluded me and told me that the IEP team was recommending an SDC placement. I said mom is part of the team, she repeated the same motion again and laughed at my suggestion. This is what is out there in terms of professionals at our schools. She said an aide is for children who are a danger to themselves or others. That is an outright lie. California special education means that your child will not get neede services if the parent does not know their rights. You will be bullied every time at the IEP meeting. It is an outright disgrace. Too many people are intimated by School and District staff.


What are the laws that govern whether or not a parent is included in the IEP meetings? Custody issues and legal guardianship or custodian????