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.

Their side

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.

Parents’ side

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.

The truth

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.



  • Crystal

    How is this? An IEP meeting is not allowed to be held unless at least 1 parent is given notice. Hence a written invitation is generally the way. The team has to consider the parents concerns. If the school held a meeting without notice then a complaint should be filed regardless of what the school policy is. Expvery schools polices should be compliant with the acts of the state first and foremost. Clearly the school doesnot have a leg to stand on if a complaint were filed against them.

    • Hi Crystal,
      An IEP meeting can in fact be held without either a parent or guardian present. While this does not happen often, it happens more than it should. The school is only required to make a “reasonable”‘ effort to contact the parents. Believe it or not, there are some parents who move or change phone numbers and do not notify the school. If a school does hold a meting without the parent, the new IEP will stand until it is changed which means contact by the parent. Here we go round in circles. The parent can file a grievance but most likely the school will prevail as long as they can prove administration sincerely tried to have the parents participate. This is why I advise parents to mention it right up front, at the start of the first IEP meeting, at the start of the school year, that they intend to be at every meeting and that administration should never hold a meeting without them. This way it will be in the IEP “meeting notes” and it is on record. Parents who are involved do not have to worry about this. Unfortunately, it happens and parents are usually surprised when it it does. It sounds like you are very involved with your child so now you are empowered. Thank you for your comments and being part of our disability network where parents become empowered.

  • Dawn Roth

    Our school once held a meeting with a full IEP team to discuss IEE results and told us not to go even after I’d requested to- Is that legal. Sure, they let us know they were having it and planned proposed changes, but discussed the providers strengths and weaknesses without us present and literally, in writing, told us not to come.

    • Hi. If you are the legal parent or guardian, “no” it is not legal to tell you NOT to attend an IEP meeting. What state are you in? Thanks! This is a sticky situation. Keep in touch.

  • Nevaeh

    Hi I never got a IEP paper I just found out by me being curious of what’s going on with my child having a IEP meeting the teacher tells me today oh I got his iep paper do you want me to send you one my number everything is the same I haven’t move nothing I don’t know what going on but I haven’t been to the first one the only iep meeting I did was at the end of the year and that was from the other school which said he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place there school wasn’t equipped for his needs so that’s when i met these people at the new school he at now no iep the barely call me when he’s not feeling well they getting tried of changing him and it’s 4 of them in the class .But back to iep what can I do are who can I call to get me to be apart of the iep especially at the end of the year???

    • Hello. Contact your child’s teacher immediately and set up a conference or meeting. This meeting will not be an IEP meeting just a conference to talk alone with the teacher. Ask for a copy of the IEP documents and have her explain the goals and objectives for your son. Tell her that you plan to be at every meeting and they should not make decisions about his IEP without you. Make sure she has your contact information. Ask for a weekly or daily communication log so you can see what he is doing and how things are going each week. A simple email from the teacher should be ok for communication. If you don’t hear from her each week, email her. Tell her it is important that you work with the teacher. She may not realize how important this is to you. You will have the opportunity 1 time per year to meet and discuss your son’s annual IEP goals. The yearly IEP is held during the same month each year. For example, if your son has a IEP meeting scheduled for December in 2nd grade, then the next yearly IEP meeting will not be held again until December in 3rd grade. But the same goals and objectives will be in place even though your son is in a different grade. You have the option to ask for another IEP meeting anytime during the year to change his goals or objectives. You should get a copy of the IEP documents each time you meet. First step, is to contact the teacher and talk with her personally and explain how you feel. Be calm. Work together. She wants to help you but because your child is new to that school, she may not understand your needs. Good luck. Keep me posted. I care.

Let's Talk!