You can always tell when it is springtime in a school district: the girls shop
for prom dresses, the seniors start counting down the days to graduation,
and the special education staff scrambles to get all of the annual IEP team
meetings held on time.
All IEP teams must include: (1) the parent(s) of the child; (2) at least one
regular education teacher if the child is, or may be, participating in the
regular education environment; (3) at least one special education teacher
of the child, or where appropriate, at least one special education
teacher of the child, or where appropriate, at least one special
education provider of the child; (4) a representative of the district who is
qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed
instruction to meet the unique needs of the child, is knowledgeable about
the general curriculum, and is knowledgeable about the availability of school
district resources; (5) an individual who can interpret the instructional
implications of evaluation results (who may be one of the other members of
the Team). But what happens when a member of the team leaves early?
Teacher Leaving Early. Before allowing any member of an IEP team
to leave an IEP meeting early, schools must be sure to follow specific
procedural steps. The recent case of Charlotte County Sch. Dist. shows
what can happen when a school fails to take these steps.
In Charlotte County, general education teachers left a Florida student's
IEP after their class assessments were complete. At the time, the parents
had no further questions and no objections to the teachers leaving early.
After the teachers left, the remaining team members discussed the
annual goals portion of the IEP. The parents filed a complaint alleging that
the district violated the IDEA because no general education teachers were
present during the annual goals portion of the IEP meeting. The Florida
Department of Education concluded that a required IEP team member may
be excused from an IEP meeting, in whole or part, as long as the parent and
district consent to the excusal in writing and the team member submits
written input prior to the IEP meeting.
In Charlotte County, the district's meeting notice did not disclose the
fact that the teachers would be absent for the last half of the IEP meeting.
Further, the district did not notify the parents before the meeting that the
teachers would be leaving early, and the parents were not given any
opportunity to consent in writing before the meeting started.
If a team member needs to leave an IEP meeting early, the district
should notify the parents or guardians before the meeting and obtain written
consent. If an emergency arises requiring a team member to leave during
the meeting, the district should seek a written consent from the parents or
consider reconvening the meeting at a later time. In any event, the teacher
or other team member should also submit all information that may be
missed due to the absence.
Parent Leaving Early. What if the person with the pressing
engagement is not the track coach/English teacher, but instead is the
parent? May an IEP team continue meeting if a parent says that she has to
leave the meeting early? The surprising answer is yes – so long as the
parent has the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the IEP process.
In Department of Education, State of Hawaii, 110 LRP 72005 (Hawaii
SEA 2010), a hearing officer found that an IEP team did not violate the IDEA
when it continued to work on a student's IEP after the parent left a
scheduled IEP meeting. The IHO based his decision on that fact that the
parent gave permission for the meeting to proceed after the school offered
to continue the meeting on another date. As such, the parent had the
opportunity to participate in the IEP process. The Hearing Officer cautioned
that the outcome might have been different if the parent expressed surprise
at the team's completion of the IEP or requested a follow-up meeting.
Neither the IDEA nor the Part B regulations prevent a parent from
leaving an IEP meeting before its conclusion. Because work schedules, child
care issues, and other time constraints can affect a parent's participation in
an IEP meeting -- especially if the meeting runs unusually long -- districts
should consider developing policies and procedures for a parent's early
If you have questions about IEP meetings or any other special
education issue, it is always better to find out the answer before the
meeting. Feel free to contact Karen, Steve or Bobby or your school district's
attorney to be sure that your district is complying with IDEA and Rule 51 of
the Nebraska Department of Education.