Home > Follow-Up Letters That "Testify" at Due Process - When You Cannot by Paula Flower
You cannot testify at due process. How can you tell the administrative law judge or hearing officer what happened in your IEP meeting? Your follow-up letters can “testify” for you.
Don’t let your recordings of IEP meetings sit in a file collecting dust. Put them to good use! Write a follow-up letter that re-states what the team discussed and agreed to provide. Your follow-up letter must be accurate. Your recording of the IEP meeting will come in handy.
Pete Wright says, prepare AS IF you are going to go to due process – that will help keep you OUT of due process. If you do end up in due process, your letters increase your chances of prevailing. (Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition, Chapter 21.)
Pete also talks about the Rules of Adverse Assumptions. The rules mean "assume the worst." Assume you will have to go to due process to resolve your dispute and you won’t be able to testify.
Review the Recording of the IEP Meeting
Taking notes while listening to a recording is easier than taking notes when you are actively participating in the IEP meeting.
Listen to the recording of the meeting. You'll be surprised at what you missed during the meeting. Begin to take notes. Bullet-points are fine. Pretend you are in an important lecture and you want to get the significant points the speaker is making.
Tip: If you use a digital recorder, indicate the time in your notes when you stop to take breaks. If you do not finish your notes in one day, you can to go to the exact spot in the recording where you stopped.
Write a Follow-Up Letter
Refer back to your notes to use them as the basis for your follow-up letter.
Basic Rules of Letter-writing from 12 Rules for Writing Great Letters
Three Levels of a Follow-Up Letter
1. Follow-up Letter Expressing Appreciation and Asking for Clarification
If you and your school district agree about most issues at your IEP, but you need to clarify a few details, use letter #1 as a template.
Example: During the meeting there was a lengthy discussion about your child's need for a 1:1 instructional assistant. The team agreed to provide an assistant. The assistant would have previous experience working with children on the autism spectrum. The school district would provide the assistant with additional training.
When you reread the IEP carefully when you get home, you see that it vaguely states, “The school will provide Mary with an aide.”
Write a follow-up letter to clarify the agreement on this issue. Document the details in your letter.
2. Follow-up Letter Documenting Disagreement with the IEP
Use this type of letter when you and the school district disagree on many issues.
This letter is also cordial. Document all your concerns and all areas where you disagreed with the school members of the IEP team.
Federal law does not require parents to explain exactly why they disagree with a school district’s evaluations. Be as specific as you want to be.
Use the notes you made from the recording to ensure that you did not leave out any important issues or facts. When there are many points of disagreement, it is very difficult to rely solely on your memory when you write the follow-up letter.
Remember the rules: Your follow-up letter should be polite and factual. Note what participants actually said. Keep emotional outbursts like the example below out of your letters.
3. Partial Transcription Letter
Use the partial transcription letter when:
School districts often make broad, blanket statements about their procedures and policies.
Transcribe these statements word-for-word in the partial transcription letter.
Transcribe any particularly outrageous statements like those above. Transcribe any “blanket statements” and attribute them the person who said them. If you use a digital recorder that indicates the length of meeting time, you may want to indicate how many minutes into the meeting a team member made the statement. This will help if you need to listen to what that person said later.
Partial transcription letters can be fairly long - 10 to 12 pages for a 2 hour IEP meeting. This is usually shorter than transcribing the entire IEP meeting, which can reach 20-30 pages for a 2 hour IEP.
Make sure your transcription is accurate. You should allow at least 2 hours for every hour of recording. (Be careful of having someone else transcribe - how will you know it is accurate?) If you hire a court reporter to transcribe a recording, it will be notarized as accurate - but it will be expensive.
Send your partial transcription letter to the school district. State that you believe the transcription is fully accurate. Request that they advise you if they disagree. Explain that you can listen to the recording together and make any corrections necessary. This removes the argument that the transcript is not accurate.
Request that the school put a copy of your letter in your child’s educational record. This ensures that your child’s cumulative educational file will include a copy of your letter.
If you think it is likely that you may file for due process, think of this letter as “testifying for you.”
Adversely assume that your school district will try to disallow admitting your recording of the IEP meeting as evidence. Even if they are successful, your partial transcription letter will have hit the highlights (or lowlights) of the IEP meeting.
Writing Follow-up Letters is Well Worth the Time
A good follow-up letter can be very time-consuming to write. The general rule of thumb is to triple the time spent in the actual IEP meeting. A letter documenting a 2-hour IEP meeting is likely to take about 6 hours to write. The IEP meeting follow-up letter is vitally important and is never a waste of time.
What State Laws Say About Recording IEP Meetings
Learn your state’s laws on recording conversations.
Many parents say their school district refused to allow them to record the IEP meeting. Check to see if your state is an “all parties consent” state or not. Check your state’s statute and regulations to see if they allow the recording of IEP meetings.
California is an “all parties consent” state, but California law also expressly allows the audio recording of IEPs with 24-hour notice.
Washington is an “all parties consent” state. All parties generally must consent to the interception or recording of any private communication, whether conducted by telephone, telegraph, radio, or face-to-face, to comply with state law. However, Washington Rev. Code § 9.73.030 states:
The federal regulations are silent on this issue. The regulations do not expressly allow or forbid recording IEP meetings. It is up to each state or even individual school district if this is not addressed in state statute.
If your school district tells you that you cannot record an IEP meeting, ask to see a copy of your school board’s policy. The school should have a policy properly enacted by a duly authorized governing board. It must contain exceptions for special circumstances, (i.e., someone who is physically incapable of taking notes).
The bottom line. Put your IEP meeting recordings to good use. Use the recordings to help you write an effective IEP meeting follow-up letter.