IEP Overview

 

An IEP, or “Individualized Education Program” is a written plan that describes the unique needs of a student who is eligible for special education and explains the specific services that the school will give the student.

The IEP lists the special education, related services, and other supports the student needs to make meaningful progress in school. The IEP should explain when the services will begin, and how frequently and for how long they will be given (for example, two half-hour sessions of physical therapy every week). The IEP must also state where the services will be provided (for example, in a regular or special education classroom or a special school), and tell you what special training and equipment will be given to the school staff (teachers and aides) who work with the student. The IEP also tells how much of the school day the student will spend with classmates who do not have disabilities.

The IEP is written by a team of people, including the parents. School districts must give the student all of the special education, related services, and other supports listed in the IEP. The IEP is the “contract” between the parent and student and the school for the services a student needs to make progress. If the school does not follow the IEP, a parent can file a complaint with Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Special Education (BSE). 

IEP Development:

The IEP is written by a team of people. The IEP Team must include:

  • The student’s parents;
  • At least one regular education teacher (if the student is, or may be, in any regular education classes);
  • At least one special education teacher or special education provider (for example, the student’s learning support teacher or speech therapist);
  • An LEA (a school official qualified to provide or supervise specially designed instruction, who knows about the school’s resources, and who is familiar with the general education curriculum (usually this is the building principal, assistant principal, special education director or designee such as guidance counselor or school psychologist); 
  • Someone who can interpret the student’s evaluations (this does not have to be a separate person, so the student’s case manager could fill this role – if it is a separate person, it is usually the school psychologist);
  • A gifted education teacher if the IEP is being written for a student with a disability who is also gifted; and
  • The student, when appropriate. The student must be invited to the meeting if postsecondary goals and transition needs are discussed at the meeting (this is required if the student will be 14 during the course of an IEP.) If transition needs are not going to be discussed, then it is up to the parent to decide whether the student should attend the meeting.

While the people listed above must attend IEP meetings (unless they are excused by the parent), other people can come to the meetings. The IEP Team can include anyone the parent or the school believes has knowledge or expertise about the student. This means that a parent can invite an advocate (either a lawyer or a non-lawyer). If a parent elects to bring an attorney to an IEP meeting, the District may choose to reconvene the meeting at a time where the District’s attorney is available to attend the IEP meeting). In addition, the school or the parent can ask an occupational therapist (OT), physical therapist (PT), or speech therapist who is working with the student to attend the IEP meeting. 

 

IEP Members Excused from IEP Meeting:

A parent can agree in writing to excuse one (or more) of the IEP Team members listed above. If the IEP Team member’s area of expertise will not be discussed at the meeting, then the parent and school may sign an agreement that the Team member can miss the meeting. If the Team member’s area of expertise is going to be discussed at the IEP meeting, before that Team member can miss the meeting: (1) a parent must agree in writing and (2) the Team member must give the parent and IEP team written input about the student before the IEP meeting.

 

Parent Attendance at an IEP Meeting:

The law places great emphasis on parents’ participation in the IEP Team meeting. The school must take steps to get one or both of the student’s parents to attend the IEP meeting. That means the school must notify both parents of the meeting early enough so that they can attend, and schedule the meeting at a time and place that is convenient. The notice of the meeting must tell the parent the time, date, location, and purpose of the meeting. The Invitation to Participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team Meeting or Other Meeting form also informs the parent that one can bring other people to the meeting who have knowledge or expertise regarding the student.

There are times when an interpreter is needed for parents with deafness or parents whose native language is not English. The parents should let the school principal and the Special Education Office know as soon as possible that an interpreter is needed for the IEP Team meeting. If the parents cannot attend the meeting in person, the school must offer the family other ways of participating in the meeting, including conference calls. If the family does not participate in person or by phone, the school can hold the meeting without the parent – but it must keep a detailed record of its efforts to get the parent to attend. These efforts should include three invitations. 

 

IEP Team Meeting:

 

School Districts are permitted to give parents a draft IEP at the meeting (or before the meeting); however, the IEP is a working document and must include the parents’ input. When the IEP is finished, it should reflect the information discussed and decided by the IEP Team at the meeting. During the meeting, the IEP team must consider the student’s strengths, the parents’ concerns for enhancing the education of their child, the results of the most recent evaluation, and the student’s academic, developmental, and functional needs in determining what services and placement are appropriate for the student.

[TIP: Notes should be taken at the IEP team meetings and retained by the case manager for future reference.]

It is important to ask everyone who attended the team meeting to sign the IEP signature page. By signing the IEP signature page, it only shows who attended the meeting. It does not mean that one agrees with the IEP. If someone participated via telephone or other electronic means, the signature section of the IEP should indicate how the team member participated.

 

Audio Recording of IEP Meetings: 

 

Audio recording of IEP meetings is permissible but there is no expressed right to record. However, the LEA cannot have blanket prohibition denying audio recording. This is inappropriate under Law. Contrary to what many parents claim, neither the IDEA nor any other law provides a parent with an absolute right to record meetings. The “Parent Participation” provision, of the IDEA, found within 34 CFR 300.322(e), provides that “[t]he public agency must take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP Team meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents with deafness or whose native language is other than English.” Section 504 and the ADA also require that individuals with disabilities be afforded reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. Under all three laws, however, it is the District’s right and responsibility to determine what accommodations are appropriate. However, while there are circumstances under the ADA, Section 504, and the IDEA where accommodations must be made to ensure full participation by parents in special education meetings, public schools and intermediate units may reserve audio and video recording of such meetings as an accommodation of last resort, to be used only where there are no other appropriate accommodations. Rarely is permitting recording of a meeting the only viable accommodation available. If a parent wishes to audio record any meeting, contact the Special Education Office for guidance. Written request to record a meeting should be given at least 5 days prior to the meeting. 

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