Do Parents Have to Excuse Members of the IEP Team?

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The bottom line is no.  If you do not agree, a required member of the IEP team may not be excused. If the school asks you to consent to excuse a member and you don’t agree, write a short polite letter to explain that you don’t consent because the individual has valuable information and insights to share with the team.

Do you know the required members of the IEP team? Submit your answer below – then read more about the excusal rule.

Who is not a required member of the IEP team?

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The Excusal Rule

The law includes two circumstances that allow a required team member to be excused from a meeting.

  1. If their area of expertise will not be discussed or modified during the meeting
  2. If their area will be discussed, they must submit a written report to the parent and school team members before the meeting

As a parent,

  1. you may agree with the school that the team member does not need to attend because their area will not be discussed
  2. you may, together with the school, consent to excuse this member whose area will be discussed and they must submit a report prior to the meeting

Both parental agreement and consent must be in writing.

20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(C) and 34 CFR 300.321(e)

Required team members do not include related services providers or others who attend at the discretion of the parent.

This excusal rule allows for more flexibility of scheduling for meetings.  For the initial or annual IEP meeting, all team members should participate.  If a meeting is to review or revise a specific or limited issue, then fewer members may result in a more efficient meeting.

The Commentary says the excusal rules are safeguards to prevent parents from feeling “pressure” to excuse members and says the school cannot unilaterally excuse an IEP Team member. Check the Commentary,  p. 46673 –

Are there penalties for schools that routinely excuse IEP team members?

Yes.  Some school districts may abuse the excusal rule.  All districts are subject to the state’s monitoring and enforcement provisions. A school district that routinely excuses IEP team members from meetings is not in compliance with the law. Some schools have a staff member that manages excusals and addresses complaints of excessive excusals.

Bottom line  – schools should not routinely excuse team members. Do things right the first time. Rescheduling or reconvening meetings so that all members can participate in the IEP decision-making process is inconvenient for everyone.

  1. My son had his annual IEP but the problem we had was that the principal invited people from another school that had nothing to do with my child. We protested that those individuals should not be present but the principal said he could do whatever he wanted. How is this possible?

    • IDEA rules say the parent, & school can invite people that they feel are relevant to the discussions & decisions about a child.

        • Yes. 300.321(c) of the IDEA regulations says this. But the parent has the final say on who they bring.

          • The parent has the final say so, especially if the invited members do not play so role in the child’s educational plan. Seems like a breach of confidentially.

            Recently, I requested a review of my grand-daughter’s annual IEP completed in April. (1) for clarification to new GenEd and Sped teachers of goals/accommodations etc., and (2) to discuss Assistive Technology services and goals. Although invited, the A.T. person (i.e., a contracted service which provides individuals with complex communication needs (CNN) in communication and are referred to as augmentative and alternative communication) did not attend. According the school’s Speech and Language Pathologist (i.e., identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders) she was asked by the school to attend instead and said she was there to speak on the A.T.’s behalf. She stated A.T. services should be discontinued. After a brief discussion between she and myself it was agreed A.T. was not her field of expertise, she had never met my grand-daughter or myself, and was therefore not qualified to provide any information, and most importantly, I was unaware she would be attending or that she would be discussing the discontinuation of any service. Additionally, I was not in agreement with excusal the A.T, and questioned where a progress report was. The SLP sat quietly for the duration of the meeting, and services remained intact. I also indicated on the IEP excusal form I was not in agreement with the school’s unilateral excusal of the A.T. from the IEP, and requested she be replaced as she only had two sessions with my grand-daughter since July 2022

  2. Is it okay if the IEP team member (such as the principal or teacher) comes in a little later to the IEP meeting?

  3. I wish I would have known this before! Thank you for clarifying this key protection for parents. We actually felt pressured to excuse a member of the IEP team due to a ‘family emergency’, but then regretted it after the fact as that person’s information and recommendations needed to be discussed, but were not. When the district wanted to excuse the special education teacher at a subsequent IEP, we declined. Parent protections are only helpful when you realize the consequences and intention of the protection. Our initial agreement to excuse a member was to accommodate the IEP committee and not have to reschedule the meeting. Oh how wrong we were.
    One question, when a required member is not present, can they legally briefly attend by phone? This has happened without the excusal consent.

  4. I find the district special education administrator is always listed on the invite then something came up and he or she can’t be in attendance. Parents excuse this person not knowing the law. The district administrator that has the ability to approve something must be in attendance.

    Parents here, “Let me check and get back to you”.

  5. In cases where a decision is being made to implement or continue an IEP, should team members who have attended only part of the meeting, then been excused, be allowed to “vote” making a determination? In my sons case, a team member presented their portion, was then excused. The team exited my son from his IEP, the absent team member, signed that they agreed with the team decision, even though they were only present for a small portion of the meeting.

  6. Is there a specific number of Team members required by any laws to form the IEP team?
    My child’s IEP team consists of 3 people myself the director of instructional support and some other lady . Please tell me how is this legal let alone proper for my child’s education??
    I dont understand how to get anything put into the iep when it’s already been decided before the meeting and everything requested is denied???
    Lost In Georgia

    • Required participants include: general education teacher, special education teacher, evaluator (may also be the special education teacher) and a local education agency representative (could be a different special ed teacher, a building administrator or a county level administrator). Also, if your child receives any related services such as speech or OT, those people should attend.

    • Yes, there is, see above. A parent can request in writing that specific persons attend. The school should respond in writing, yes or no. A state could have additional requirements. Your state parent training and information center can tell you the rules on members, and help you in getting things into the IEP.

    • Regarding the team members, near the back of the IEP there is a signature page for participants – are there only 3 people listed there? Then, also somewhere in the document there should be an excusal sheet that you would have signed to excuse one or more participants. I know that schools sometimes push a bunch of things in front of you to sign as if it’s just a formality…but it’s worth getting to know what it is you’re agreeing to.

      Linked to the information that Chuck gave you is: – see if you can find a parent mentor or an advocate to assist you in your next meeting (or before). These folks may be provided as a free service through other community groups, and some of them are very good. If you join a support group in your area they’ll tell you who they are.

    • Predetermination is against the law. An IEP “draft” may be presented to you. But it is only a draft with the expectation that it may change during the meeting.

  7. I’m a parent and planning to participate the IEP over the phone , do I give an excusal letter to the Occupational Therapist who cannot participate.
    Also, id the parent is not in attendance do I give an excusal letter to the teachers who cannot attend.

    • My perspective –you are “in attendance” if you are participating by phone. Does the occupational therapist have relevant information for the team (very likely if s/he is a service provider)? Does the teacher (also very likely)? Just because YOU will not be physically be in the room does not mean the school can make only a half-hearted attempt to have the necessary team members available for an an IEP meeting. Why can’t the teacher or OT make it? Is this an annual meeting? How does the school plan to include important input by the teacher and OT who are not there physically or by some technological means? From what I understand, having the team together is not just an exercise in checking off procedural boxes. It actually *takes* a team to a create a comprehensive, effective IEP.

  8. Can a principal sit in on an IEP meeting and then refuse to have his name on the DEC 5 and referral form? He was asked if his name should be included.

    • If the principal is present at the IEP meeting, they need to sign & identify their position on the form.

  9. Our school has a principal, a vice principal AND an assistant principal. Its the new assistant principal that we loath and need out of our meetings -too much crap to even write on this site- What I need to know is can we ask the principle or vice principal to attend instead?
    Thanks in advance…

  10. I’m a parent of a disabled child. In an IEP meeting, I confronted the staff about their mistreatment of me as a parent because what they did to me. If I did however get services for my child. Does what I confronted them about have to be in the IEP as well? They seem to have left out the subject of the confrontation, when I got the copy of the IEP papers.

    Can the team leave things out like a parents complaint about the staff?

    • If you refused any portion of the IEP, then that should be included with an explanation. If it was a grievance over a staff member, then it should be included in the meeting notes, but would not be a part of the IEP.

  11. Do I have the right to excuse the person who is administration and ask for another person and until there is someone else available to reschedule the meeting?

    • No just like you can invite who you want – the district is allowed to bring who they want as long as you had the 10 day notice

  12. We just had our first IEP meeting for our autistic son, and I have a question: is the principal required to be involved? We do NOT get along, and I would feel better if she were not directly involved (i.e. having to meet with her). She has an entitled attitude that is not helpful in this situation.

    • You need an LEA which is generally the principal to be there. See if the school could appoint someone else that could serve in the LEA role.

  13. If you are looking for an excuse to miss or leave early a IEP Team Meeting, then I don’t want you on my team. If this happens then there is not a coordinated effort to help the student. Use your common sense, please.

  14. My disabled child has missed one of the two years he has attended school, due to the fact the school refuses to listen to us about our child’s safety need the school refuses to meet. We have two years of documentation showing the school intentionally place our son life at risk by telling us everyone was trained to save his life. We of course found out the school lied to us and no one was in fact trained. We, the parents, will not have an IEP with the school if they invite a person who in our opinion, and documented opinion, is 99% of the problem. This person the school wants at the IEP Meeting is not required to be there. Because we have been lied to over and over by the school about the safety (which is very much life-threatening issues) we will be calling the shots until the school can start proving to us they can be trusted.

  15. Here’s a new one: they reused an attendance signature page from a former IEP meeting for the new IEP they sent home.

  16. Your articles and information are excellent. However an LEA is a required member who may or may not be the principal. So your poll question is somewhat inaccurate .

  17. How does an IEP team member know if their area of expertise will or will not be discussed at a meeting ahead of time? My daughter is gifted and talented as well as having Aspergers. She’s in a community work program that doesn’t fit with someone who is gifted. (She’s done things like wipe off tables and arrange retail merchandise.) We feel that a better placement would be in an office environment – like at our local SPCA. She has very poor social skills and they are looking to put her in an environment where she can practice social skills. Her career aspirations and abilities are that of a gifted student, but a gifted teacher isn’t invited to her IEP meetings so those areas aren’t looked at. I feel a gifted teacher should be required with a 2X exceptional student.

    • We had to request that the head of the GT program be included and in fact in the end invited her ourselves. We had spoken with her at a lecture about the lack of support for 2x exceptional students. She was excited to be able to attend to educate the IEP team. They were all surprised when she showed up because they had never had it happen before. . She informed them that many of the accommodations/modifications we were seeking they actually do often for gifted only students. That some gifted only students have a plan similar to an IEP to allow these things. The whole team was unaware of this. After that for awhile they made the General Ed teacher his GT teacher in an effort to make a more balanced 2x exceptional IEP.

  18. I have been refused the option of tape recording meetings. Does the team or an individual team member have that right?

      • It depends on the state. Some states require two-way consent for audio (or video) recordings. The district cannot consent for all individuals.

  19. The principal is not required so long as an LEA representative is. An LEA reap does not have to be a school principal, but they must have the authority to commit resources.

  20. I’ve asked very respectfully for the replacement of a Parent Liaison (school district); and am being ignored. I have placed it in writing; and now I received an email saying both the new ESE Director and the PL that we do not like nor trust will be coming on the date we last agreed upon. The new ESE Director wanted me to change the formerly agreed upon date for the IEP meeting and I said NO, as that would disrupt the 6 Advocates that had already made arrangement to be there for over three weeks.
    The PL does not function as a help to the Parents; she is very biased, and has told us some things that were not true previously; as well as saying, since…has left…I’ll speak for the team…NO…you can’t have this; you don’t need that!
    Is not respecting my request in getting us a new PL or not allowing this PL to attend a State Complaint?

    • Brenda, this is my humble opinion as a retired special education teacher, now an advocate. Just as the school does not get to choose who you employ as an advocate, you do not have a right to dictate who the school chooses to employ in various positions. There is a possibility that others could be chosen, but not liking a certain personality does not disqualify that person from serving on the IEP Team, teaching your child, etc. I go through this with parents, and try to get them to “play nice in the sandbox”, which does not always happen. You do what is right, treat them fairly and respectfully, and they should do the same for you. As a teacher, I always advocated for my students, even when parents and advocates may have believed otherwise. I know it is difficult, but such is life. 🙂

  21. Even though their presence is not required, I think the principal of the school should be at the IEP meeting or the VP, so they know the child’s modifications and the parents’ concerns. They are often involved in the PTO and fundraising. Why not special ed? It seems like a no brainer to me.

    • All IEP meetings must have an administrator, either principal, assistant principal or their designee. Must be able to speak to the resources of the school, program and commit funding for such decisions.

  22. Can a team member (RSP Teacher) excuse herself from the IEP meeting because she does not agree with your questions. The RSP Teacher could not answer our question so she removed herself from the IEP meeting. (She is my son’s RSP Teacher).and can the School academic counselor leave shortly after without requested she be excused.

  23. Can a school district deny a parent to bring a friend to a parent teacher conference of a seven year old special needs child?

    • The parent has a right to bring whomever they choose to a meeting. The number of people you bring might be an issue, but one friend is certainly fine.

  24. To Lelah–

    Whether your child is included in science and social studies for academics or for socialization, I say let her carry the textbook(s) at least. If she’s capable of following along looking at the pictures, she could get some exposure to new vocabulary. The goal is to make her school day like that of her peers whenever possible.

  25. Lelah – That is a new one for me. If your daughter is in an inclusion academic class there is no reason they cannot accommodate her via the IEP, If a team meeting is needed to add more accommodations/modifications to make the inclusion class work by all means have that meeting. Socialization is good and she needs the academics as well.

  26. GiGi – I have found that when I let the IEP team know I am bringing a digital tape recorder to the IEP meeting not only is it easier for me to remember what was said later on & and I don’t have to take so many notes I find that the team acts more professionally. Make sure you let them know you are bringing a tape recorder. You may see quite a change in the tone of the meeting.

  27. D. Orr – This happened to us as well and we did not understand it. We thought about taking it to a higher level but did not deciding instead that this was not a battle that we were going to pick with the school. We accepted the written document and moved on to items that were more important to us. I agree with you completely but the school does have the right to decide if an aid can attend or not as it is not required by law.

  28. I wish we could get our principal excused from the IEP team. He is completely out of control. He believes that “Special Education Kids” are causing the demise of the public education system in America. He is hostile, condescending, an absolute bully! He openly does not like my child and is just horrible. Can we ask that the principal not be a part of the team? I would be thrilled if I never had to set eyes on that bully again!

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