Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is shaped and written in IEP team meetings. Ideally, all IEP team members will participate in every meeting.
However, scheduling an IEP meeting when all team members can attend can be a challenge. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets clear rules about when and why teachers on the IEP team can ask to be excused from a meeting. The law is also clear on whose approval they need.
Teachers need to ask your permission.
IEP team members can ask the IEP team to excuse them from all or part of an upcoming IEP meeting. They must get a parent’s written consent to be absent. If the parent doesn’t give permission, the teacher has to make arrangements to attend or the meeting will be rescheduled.
The teacher may need to give input.
If the excused teacher’s curriculum area or related services will be discussed in the meeting, he must submit written input to the team in advance. This can help the team make good decisions during the meeting. If the excused teacher’s curriculum area or services won’t be discussed, he doesn’t need to send written input to the rest of the team.
Typically, only one general education teacher and one special education teacher are required to attend an IEP meeting. Most schools also have a form that other teachers who work with the student can fill out. They can provide valuable insights on the student’s strengths and needs.
“Full attendance promotes better understanding and awareness within the team.”
If an IEP team member needs to be excused because of logistics, ask if this person can participate in the meeting by phone or video conference.
Parents have the final say.
It’s in your child’s best interest for all IEP team members to attend his IEP meetings. Full attendance promotes better understanding and awareness within the team. All team members can address questions and concerns that arise—together. If a team member is absent, you may need to come up with a plan to follow up with the missing team member.
IDEA gives you the right to ask the school district not to excuse any member of the team from your child’s IEP meeting. You must notify the school about your wishes, in writing, well before the meeting.
Here’s an example of what to include in your letter.
Name of IEP Team Leader or School Principal
Reference: Student’s Name
DOB: Student’s Date of Birth
School: Name of School and Enrolled Grade
Dear [Name or IEP Team Leader or School Principal]:
I look forward to our meeting to formulate the Individualized Education Program for [student’s name].
I am aware that IDEA 2004 now allows for certain IEP team members to be excused from attending this meeting upon my written agreement. While I understand that bringing together the full IEP team can be difficult, I consider the attendance of all required IEP team members critical to the development of an appropriate IEP for my child. Therefore, I will not excuse any member from attending.
Thank you very much for your continuing assistance. I look forward to working with you and your staff.
Your Contact Information
Know your rights but try to be reasonable.
In a perfect world, every IEP team member would attend every single IEP meeting. In real life, logistics and conflicting schedules can make that more a dream than a reality.
Know and use your IDEA-mandated rights, but try to be realistic and understanding. Your child’s success should always be your top priority. But working well with the IEP team is an important part of helping your child.
Do your best to recognize the difference between necessary and ideal. Everyone—including your child—will benefit.