Heading for the Exit: What to do When IEP Team Members Leave the Meeting Early

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.