Why a School Can Hold an IEP Meeting Without the Parents and Why it Should Never Happen
I was as surprised as anyone when I learned that a special education teacher, or worse yet, an administrator could provide authorization to hold an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting without at least one of the parents in attendance. Unfortunately, this fact is true, but there are things parents can do to prevent this from ever happening to their child.
Where disabled students are concerned, there are two sides to every story and somewhere in-between is the truth.
According the Center for Parent Information and Resources, the school is entitled to hold a meeting without parent participation; however, only under certain circumstances. For example, the school needs to prove they have made a reasonable effort to ensure parent participation.
The special education teacher will make an effort to find the parents, yet some teachers might say it is the parent’s responsibility to communicate. Yes, it is, but remember, raising a special education child is a team effort. Don’t be fooled because in my experience, I have seen this in action. Most teachers will make a concerted effort to locate the parents, but others will enforce their authority simply because they can. As pathetic as this is, it is plausible the administrators will ultimately hold the meeting without a family representative. The teacher will say the decision was based on the best interest of the student.
We work hard at our jobs, our families, and basically, managing life. So, holding a meeting without us really sends the message that parents are not required or worthy to advocate or make decisions for their child. Sometimes, parents will legitimately not get the notice of the date and time of the meeting. Further, many parents feel that most meetings are held at ridiculously early hours during the school day. Hourly employees, day laborers, corporate managers, or traveling executives will find some of these meeting requests simply impossible.
Anything added or changed to the IEP is part of the legal document and the school will enforce the accommodations even if there was no parent participation at the meeting. Do you want the school making educational decisions for your child without your input?
Parents should know that if a school sets a date for an IEP meeting and it is not convenient or is impossible for either parent to attend, the parent can ask for another date and time.
One thing parents can do at the start of the school year, is to send an email (remember everything in writing), and let the special education teacher know that you will not approve of an IEP meeting held without your participation.
Parents should mention at the beginning of every IEP meeting, that they intend to be at all conferences concerning their child and any held without them violates their parental rights to advocate for their child. The IEP team may not write this on the IEP, but since it was part of the discussion, it is required to be added to the meeting notes. At least it will be on the record.
Make sure the school has all current contact information. This should include, but not be limited to street address, home phone, cell phone, office phone, email, or even Facebook. Parents would be surprised at the amount of people who move or change phone numbers and legitimately forget to notify school personnel.
Many times parents will find IEP invitations in the child’s backpack; even official documents can end up there.
Don’t let it happen to your little one
I have always felt the practice of holding a meeting without a parent representative was no more than a power struggle. Under no circumstances, do we ever want our childs’ school to hold an IEP meeting without us. Did I mention, never let this happen? Go ahead, get in there and advocate for your child–you know you want to.