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"The school won't let me to add input to my child's IEP. Can they do this? How should I deal with this?" 

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I wrote a "parent IEP attachment" and asked that it be included with my child's IEP. The special education coordinator refused. She said my input could not be attached to the IEP because of school policy

Can they do this? Is this written in the law? How can I deal with this?

From Wrightslaw
Of course not. Nothing in the statute or regulations prevents you from adding input to your child's IEP. Just the opposite. Before we devise a strategy to help you handle this, we're going to give you a quick legal lesson.
Legal Lesson: 

What is the Purpose of the Law?

When Congress amended the law in 1997, their "Findings" included these statements about the role of parents: 

"(5) Over 20 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by-- 

(A) having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible

(B) strengthening the role of parents and ensuring that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home;" 

Why did Congress pass the special ed law? What are the purposes of the law? Here is what Congress wrote: 
"(d) Purposes.--The purposes of this title are-- 

(1) (A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living

(B) to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and 

(C) to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities;"

As Congress wanted to strengthen the role of parents and ensure that families "have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children," your district's "policy" about barring parent IEP attachments is not consistent with the spirit or the letter of the law. 

Use Appendix A as a Tool

Appendix A was an appendix to the 1999 special education regulations that discusses IEP requirements, IEP teams, the parental role, and other issues in Q & A format. It was not re-issued with the 2006 regulations, however much of it is still valid in terms of the concepts. Here is what Appendix A says about your role:

II. Involvement of Parents and Students 

"The Congressional Committee Reports on the IDEA Amendments of 1997 express the view that the Amendments provide an opportunity for strengthening the role of parents . . . [IDEA 97] requires that parents have an opportunity to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child, and the provision of FAPE to the child. (Sec. 300.501(a)(2)). Thus, parents must now be part of: (1) the group that determines what additional data are needed as part of an evaluation of their child (Sec. 300.533(a)(1)); (2) the team that determines their child’s eligibility (Sec. 300.534(a)(1)); and (3) the group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child (Sec. 300.501(c))." 

"In addition, the concerns of parents and the information that they provide regarding their children must be considered in developing and reviewing their children’s IEPs (Secs. 300.343(c)(iii) and 300.346(a)(1)(i) and (b)); and the requirements for keeping parents informed about the educational progress of their children, particularly as it relates to their progress in the general curriculum, have been strengthened (Sec. 300.347(a)(7))." 

Wrightslaw Game Plan

1. Review what the law, regulations, and Appendix A say about IEPs and the parental role

Do you have our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education LawIf you don't have the book, you can download the federal regulations and Appendix A from our site (links follow). Wrightslaw: Special Education Law makes things easier because you have the statute and regulations in one place, along with Pete's commentary. 

2. Get your state special ed regs.

You can probably download your state regs from the state department of education's site. It's good to have a hard copy of the regs too - bound so you can make notes. Your state regs should track the federal regs.

What do the law and regulations say about IEPs and your role as the child's parent? What do your state special ed regs say about IEPs and your role as the child's parent? 

3. Make notes. 

As you read the statute and regulations, make notes that support your position. You can begin with our "Legal Lesson." At this point, you may know more about IEP requirements than anyone else on your child's IEP team.

Use Tactics & Strategy:
Write a Short Businesslike Letter 

After you know what the law says, write a short businesslike letter to the director of special ed and /or superintendant. (Writing a short business-like letter is the hardest part of this Game Plan)

Briefly describe your attempt(s) to participate in your child's IEP, that you thought you were a member of your child's IEP team, that you asked to have your input included as an attachment to the IEP, but that INSERT PERSONS NAME advised you that "school policy" does not allow you to provide input.

You are confused. This school policy is not consistent with anything you've read about IEPs and your role as the child's parent. Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. 

Request (very politely) that the district provide you with their written policy that prevents you from adding a parent attachment to your child's IEP. Since Christmas break begins on DATE, you understand that school staff are busy with parties and holiday activities. To save time, you'll be happy to come to the school to pick this information up. 

Try to keep your letter to one page. The tone should be polite and businesslike. You want to give school officials a way to change their position without losing face or admitting fault. 

Hand-deliver the letter (don't send it by mail or certified). When you deliver your letter, make a note about who you gave it to, what the person said, what the person was wearing, anything else that happened at the time you delivered the letter. (It's quite possible that the school may lose your letter so this detailed information shows that you did deliver it.)

Your next step depends on what happens next. Keep us posted.

Tactics & Strategy Links:

The Art of Writing Letters


How to Use a "Parent IEP Attachment" by Advocate Judy Bonnell

Wrightslaw Tactics & Strategy Manual

Legal Links:

Statute: Findings and Purpose

Index to special ed regulations

Appendix A to special ed regs

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon The Special Ed Advocate: It's Free!

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 3rd Edition by Pete and Pam Wright
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Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
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Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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