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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!?"

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06/11/2009 11:01 am

My son has been tested at first they told me he was elgiable for an IEP, then when I got to the table they changed the conclution, and said he has no disability, and is not elgiable for an IEP. His IQ is 110 he scored 88 on listining comprehention. They requested a speech and language assesment and auditory proccessing. I now have a meeting on Mon. They have agreed to an IEE. They called and left me a message that I would not recieve the report until Sun (the day before the meeting) and… Read more »

06/02/2009 6:04 pm

Is a Parental Siganture required for Triennial and also can the SD use classrrom grades to refuse services? Grade point is 3.7 for child with Dyslexia reading at 8th grade level, fluency at 6th grade. Child is 17 going into 11th grade next fall.
Twice Exceptional with 130 IQ

04/26/2009 3:22 pm

HELP! I am short on money and need an advocate ASAP! FERPA Laws have been broken (admittingly by Special Ed Superintandt ) and just found out an IEP occurred last week with FAMILY members and we were not aware. Need HELP PLEASE

02/27/2009 1:42 am

Our district always comes in with the ARD/IEP document all ready made up –even with predetermined check marks of agreement to each and every section as they have predetermined.

At our last meeting, I noticed that they predetermined that we, the parents “agree” that our son with autism does not need ESY. I say that it is illegal for them to pre-check the agreement box with out getting our input first, and that if we do not agree –(for we strongly believe our son needs ESY) then it should be reflected in the document.

I refused to sign it… Read more »

11/30/2008 10:43 am

I have a question about another take on this thread. What value is the input of the student themselves, as well as the parent, in the IEP process? I have a 17 year old son with LD’s, who has an IEP that was poorly constructed and not implemented. The IEP meetings were maintly attempts by the District to blame him for his disabilities (mainly slow processing and slow reading fluency, which means it takes him much longer to complete tests and assignments). He bacame very depressed by this approach and did not come to IEP meetings,… Read more »

10/28/2008 9:31 am

Suzanne Asked: “I need to know about notices regarding IEP meetings.”

Suzanne, do you mean the required prior notice to Parents that an IEP Meeting is planned for your child? Generally that notice must be in writing and delivered to you no less than 5 days prior to the scheduled meeting; It must state the nature and reasons for the meeting, as well as who has been invited to attend. Email is an acceptable form of notice if the both you and the school agrees to that.

There are other types of Prior Notice” regarding the content, and particularly for any changes… Read more »

10/24/2008 2:13 pm

I need to know about notices regarding IEP meetings.

10/21/2008 9:42 am

Fortunately we won Out-Placement to a Private School 2 yrs ago for our 13 y/o son on the Autism Spectrum; He has made considerable progress since but recently we were Blind Sided at an IEP Mtg. when informed that his OT time was being cut in HALF (2 Hrs p/mo-to-1 Hr p/mo); It was clear that the LEA Rep had prior knowledge of this a/w/a a draft copy of the proposed IEP and changes, yet we as Alex’s Parents were not provided with this vital information: School Personnel are acting in conjunction w/ the LEA as the IEP Team but… Read more »

10/09/2008 3:51 pm

My daughter has an IEP and goes to school in a Florida public school. Last year as we worked with the school to create the IEP and we were pushed towards a “conversion class” which they explained was regular curiculum but provided extra time for the children and extra help. We were told the class would be taught by a dual certified teacher (special ed and regular ed). 3 weeks into the school year, they pulled the dual certified teacher and put in a 1st year teacher that is not dual certified. The school blocked us… Read more »

09/30/2008 7:59 am

Not only are parents Team Members, but the often – forgotten # 1 IEP Team Member is the child itself. I always made sure that my daughter was at HER IEP Meetings. (nothing about me without me)
The parents are the ones that so often SPEAK for their child. You are your child’s voice. As well as the voice of yourself, and your family’s.
I have never met a parent of a child with disAbilities that did not live it right along with them. Or a family.
You represent your child, yourself and your family.
In my case, I always felt… Read more »

09/29/2008 7:25 am

Sarah:If you feel your child is being discriminated against due to disability or denied access to educational facilities as the school will not provide access (key is what does your child need to access the school/program). Two options are to engage and see what the school’s 504 policy is and compare policy to what they are doing. You can file a 504 complaint. In addition another possibility is to file an Americans With Disability Act (ADA) complaint. The school is probably expecting more of an IDEA based engagement. Using 504 and ADA makes it hard for school to “sweep” under… Read more »

Mary Horsley
09/27/2008 11:53 am

Parents are part of IEP teams. The problem exists in the fact that many parents don’t want to put in the time to work with the teacher on creating the IEP thus when we get in the meeting the related service personnel and others rush the meeting because schedules have to be kept. So, it ends up being entirely upon the teacher……

Now, I have a question: teacher-student ratio in a classroom with 9 children (8 boys, 1 girl – most of whom have autism). My assistant likes being in this classroom. She wants to continue working despite her inoperable brain… Read more »

09/26/2008 7:55 am

I am having alot of problems dealing with my deaf son and trying to get services he needs and the school systems i need advice to know much more I got this site from a friend and need help because they have labled my child and discrimated against him

09/24/2008 11:17 pm

I agree, at my Granddaughters first IEP (three years old) the SD IEP team took over, the SD never did ask the early intervention teachers (four) of their opinion and advice and none of them spoke up. They brought their reports with them, I doubt they were looked at. It was this we offer and sign on the dotted line. True this is all new to us and a bit overwhelming.I studied Nolo’s IEP guide and Wrights Law The next IEP the SD might lead, but I will try to advocate for my Granddaughter in a polite way. Dieter

09/18/2008 5:31 am

Not only are parents full members, but we should be the leaders of the team in my humble opinion. We have the ultimate responsibility to love, care for, provide for, educate and keep our children safe. With this responsibility comes authority. I believe the law has been melded to agree with this position. We do have to have common sense as resources are finite.

Ron D

09/08/2008 1:43 pm

When working for public schools, I was told by school attorneys to first look at the divorce degree to determine who had the power to make legal & educational decisions. If only one parent was given this power, then you worked with that parent. If both parents shared that power, then the school could proceed with the approval of one parent. However, both parents had to be invited to the IEP meeting & the parent who disagreed had the right to file a complaint with the state or a request for a due process hearing.

Pam needs to… Read more »

09/08/2008 11:38 am

Thanks for the great article and support for parents. I wanted to let you know that I have included this article in “What We Are Reading” on

09/07/2008 4:42 pm

Our Grandson is ADHD and has been Special Ed since preschool. He did pretty well in Preschool and Kindergarten; however, he began acting out the 2nd half of 1st grade (if he was bullied or tormented, he went to the teacher(s), who began calling him a tattle tail. After a while, he tried to things himself). Also, he cannot read. When his Mother asked about a Reading Specialist, she was told they were only there to teach “normal” children who were having trouble learning to read. By the way, his Special Ed teacher had such… Read more »

09/05/2008 8:00 pm

I have full physical custody, share joint legal custody with my former husband. The school completely excludes me from everything and works/communicates only with my former husband (the non-custodial parent). This includes IEP meetings they hold only with him. He does not even share “parent concerns” in the IEP and signs whatever they tell him to. I am not a member of the IEP team, is there anything that I can do?

The school has strongly told me that they are only required to have ONE parent’s signature for approval of an IEP. (They indicated that it is a loop-hole in… Read more »

09/02/2008 6:09 pm

I read with interest the responses from different areas on how parental consent to an IEP is handled. Sharon, the process you described sounds very thorough. I think it may be the way your district (and/or those near you) handle it. Or an impartial hearing may be requiring some of the things you mention. I am not aware of anything in the NY regs that requires the IEP be provided within 10 business days. In some cases I have seen parents walk out of the meeting with a new copy. In others, getting the… Read more »

09/01/2008 1:50 pm

In South Carolina, a parent’s signature indicates that the parents were present.

For this reason, we have learned to pay close attention to IEP invitation dates and times. For example, an IEP invitation was faxed to us on the Friday before a Monday meeting (Less than 72 hour notice). The invitation was faxed from a school that my son did not attend .The school personnel on the invitation was from the school that the invitation was faxed from.

We are assured that even though this looked like a unilateral placement change, it was not. The minutes reflect “why the director special services… Read more »

09/01/2008 10:39 am

SHARON wrote: “[In NY,] Signing this form constitutes signing the IEP.”

I live in NYS and have never seen or signed a single form “agreeing” to an IEP. I’ve signed the attendance form always.

It was always my understanding that if parents didn’t agree, or IEP changes needed to me made, at the ‘final’ CSE you get that on the record and schedule another meeting to make necessary changes. If there is a total stalemate between parents and district, parents move to initiate due process.

In regards to the Wrightslaw post re: parents being a part of the IEP team, I… Read more »

08/31/2008 10:44 pm

Now I’m confused here – IDEA is a federal law – which mandates that parents agree to the IEP – federal law supercedes all state laws – so how can a state law take away any rights that are given under federal law?

08/31/2008 10:36 am

In my state, Illinois, signing the IEP simply indicates the parent was in attendance.

08/30/2008 8:27 pm

In New York State, the IEP developed at an IEP annual review, triennial review, or initial evaluation conference, must be sent to the parent within 10 business days of the meeting. Along with the IEP, parents should receive several other forms to fill out. One requires parents to indicate what related services the child will be receiving, and whether or not those services will be provided in the public school or in the private area. Another form is for transportation.

The most important form, however, is one called an Options Letter. This form includes… Read more »

08/29/2008 7:02 pm

I admire and am impressed with the special education teacher who sent this comment to wrightslaw. He or she is in it for the kids and is searching for information and answers.
The key is the EDUCATION OF US ALL! If parents and educators alike educate ourselves on the IDEA and work together we can create better outcomes for children with disabilities.
Will we always agree? Nope. We most certainly won’t. Do we throw the relationship out the window? Nope. I don’t always agree with my husband, but I don’t throw the relationship… Read more »

08/28/2008 12:14 pm

I love the Columbo approach! I have used it successfully in many instances. As both a parent and as an advocate, when you ask that kind of question, especially with the regs in hand, it opens the door for a face saving, win-win reply. You can nod your head and say that it makes much more sense now and thank you for clearing that up. Sometimes one member of the team is simply misinformed. I always give the chairperson the opportunity to correct the record by directing my question to the chair. If the… Read more »

08/28/2008 9:55 am

This sounds like an ID-10-T miscommunication error.

Some parents are under the impression that by refusing to sign the IEP, It can not be implemented. Signing the IEP only implies that the parent was present when the decisions were being made and had an equal opportunity to voice their opinion.

If a parent refuses to attend an IEP meeting,
changes can be made to the IEP without their signature.

Perhaps this is what your Special Ed Director was trying to communicate.