SPECIAL EDUCATION RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Chapter 4

Information on IEP Process

From a 12-Chapter Manual - Available by Chapter and in Manual Form

Seventh Edition

Written by:

Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE)

and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI)

Copyright © 1992 by CASE and PAI, Revised January 1998

Written permission of the Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) must be obtained for duplication of the materials contained in Special Education Rights and Responsibilities.

These materials are based on special education laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state special education law can change at any time. If there is any question about the continued validity of any information in the handbook, contact CASE, PAI or a legal authority in your community.

Click here to go directly to the Table of Contents.


 Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE), provides legal support, representation, technical assistance consultations, and training to parents throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area whose children need appropriate special education services. Trained advocates and attorneys assist parents at IEP meetings, Mediation Conferences and Due Process Hearings. CASE also provides free consultations about special education rights and services to parents and professionals by telephone or face-to-face. CASE is a nonprofit organization serving all children with disabilities who need or may need special education services. For more information, contact:

CASE

  • 1031 Franklin Street, Suite B5, San Francisco, CA 94109, Tel. - (415) 928-2273, FAX - (415) 928-2289
  • 680 W. Tennyson Road, Room 1, Hayward, CA 94544, Tel. - (510) 783-5333, FAX - (510) 783-8822
  • CASE-South Bay Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County, 480 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95103, Tel. - (408) 283-1535

Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI), is a private, nonprofit organization that protects the legal, civil and service rights of Californians who have developmental or mental disabilities. PAI provides a variety of advocacy services, including information and referral, technical assistance, and direct representation. For information or assistance with an immediate problem, call:

PAI

Toll Free/TTY: (800) 776-5746

8:30 AM to 5:00 PM - Monday through Friday

  • Central Office, 100 Howe Ave., Suite 185-N, Sacramento, CA 95828, Legal Unit - (916) 488-9950 / Administrative - (916) 488-9955
  • Southern California Area Office, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 902, Los Angeles CA 90010, Tel. - (213) 427-8747
  • San Francisco Bay Area Office, 449 - 15th Street, Suite 401, Oakland, CA 94612, Tel. - (510) 839-0811

PAI receives funding under the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act. Any opinions, findings, recommendations or conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations which fund PAI.


 On June 4, 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Most of the new provisions in IDEA became effective on that date. Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) have incorporated these amended IDEA provisions into the Seventh Edition of the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual.

Because special education services in California are funded in part with federal money, these IDEA amendments take precedence over any prior inconsistent federal law or current state law, except where state law provides more protections or at least the same level of protections. In this edition of SERR, citations of federal law refer to the section numbers where these amendments appear in federal law at Title 20 of the United States Code. Citations of federal regulations refer to current, unrevised federal regulations at Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. State citations refer to current California law and regulations.

New federal regulations must now be developed to implement the new federal statutes. The new federal regulations are supposed to be issued by July 1, 1998. However, this process may take longer. In addition, California special education law and implementing regulations will also be amended once federal regulations are issued. CASE and PAI will monitor the development of these final federal regulations, and state law and regulations, so that final federal and state laws and regulations can be incorporated into later supplements and editions of SERR.

It is important for you to know that the Individual Education Program (IEP) provisions of the IDEA amendments do not become effective until July 1, 1998. Since IEPs written for the 1998099 school year must meet the new IDEA IEP requirements, CASE and PAI have chosen to include these new IEP provisions in this edition of the SERR manual (Chapter 4). We hope that this information will help as you develop IEPs for the 1998-99 school year and beyond.

For further information on the development of federal and state law and regulation, or clarification about IDEA implementation, please contact CASE or PAI.


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 Information on Basic Rights and Responsibilities

Chapter 2 Information on Evaluations/Assessments

Chapter 3 Information on Eligibility Criteria

Chapter 4 Information on IEP Process

Chapter 5 Information on Related Services

Chapter 6 Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints

Chapter 7 Information on Least Restrictive Environment

Chapter 8 Information on Discipline of Students with Disabilities

Chapter 9 Information on Inter-Agency Responsibility For Related Services (AB 3632/882)

Chapter 10 Information on Vocational Education

Chapter 11 Information on Preschool Education Services

Chapter 12 Information on Early Intervention Services

NOTE: The text in each chapter refers to specific questions in other chapters by using the titles shown above.


 SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 4

Information on IEP Process

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Question

1. How do I request special education services?

2. How do I request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for my child who is already receiving services?

3. What are the time lines for holding an IEP meeting?

4. How often are IEP meetings held?

5. Can I get copies of assessments before the IEP meeting?

6. Will I receive notice of the IEP meeting? What happens if I cannot attend?

7. Who is required to attend the IEP team meeting?

8. Can I bring an advocate or attorney to an IEP meeting?

9. How can I contribute to the IEP process?

10. If I need an interpreter at the IEP meeting, must one be provided?

11. How should an IEP meeting operate?

12. What information should be considered at the IEP for deaf or hard-of-hearing pupils?

13. What should be written in the IEP?

14. Are there any other services or special factors that must be considered and included in an IEP if appropriate for a student?

15. How should the present levels of my child's educational performance be described in the IEP?

16. Why are annual goals and short-term instructional objectives important?

17. Should the IEP team write specific instructional plans into the IEP?

18. Must the IEP contain all services my child needs?

19. Is there a mandated length or format for an IEP?

20. If my child is mainstreamed into regular classes, can I write modifications to the regular classroom in the IEP?

21. Under what circumstances should the regular teacher of a special education student participate in the IEP?

22. Can class size limits be included in the IEP?

23. Do I have to approve an IEP at the IEP meeting?

24. Can I consent to only part of the IEP?

25. Can I consent to the content of the IEP and not consent to placement?

26. Can I change my mind after I sign the IEP document?

27. What kinds of educational placements must a school district offer?

28. What role do parents have in determining the educational placement for their child?

29. Can the IEP require particular teachers, classrooms or placements?

30. May children with differing disabilities be grouped together for instruction in the same classroom?

31. When must the IEP be implemented?

32. Are there any circumstances when a school district is required to review and/or revise my child's IEP?

33. If I place my child in a religious school or other non-public school, does she have the right to an IEP and special education services?

34. Should the IEP respond to real, documented needs, or does it accommodate the available funds/resources of the school district?

35. When considering placements, should the child fit the program placement or the program fit the child?

36. Can my school district be required to purchase equipment needed to implement my child's IEP?

37. Can I tape record an IEP meeting?

38. What if participants in my IEP meeting use initials or jargon that I do not understand?

39. Can a school district use pre-written or computer generated IEP goals and objectives?

40. Who is responsible for implementing my child's IEP?

41. If my child already is a special education student, can the school withhold eligibility or existing service?

42. Sample Letter - Request for IEP Meeting


 SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 4

Information on IEP Process

1. How do I request special education services?

To request special education services for your child, write a letter to your child's teacher, principal or special education administrative office. Tell the school district that you are concerned about your child's educational progress. Say that you are making a referral for assessment for special education services. You may also want to let the district know that you look forward to receiving an assessment plan within 15 days from the district's receipt of your letter.

Keep a copy of this request and any other correspondence with the school district. If you call or speak to school staff to make a referral, school district personnel must by law help you put your request in writing. If the school district refers your child for special education, it is still critical that you follow up with your own written request. Your written referral will ensure that assessment and IEP time lines will begin. [California Education Code (Cal. Ed. Code) Secs. 56029 and 56302.]

In any initial referral to special education, you may also request that your child be assessed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to determine whether the child might be identified as having a disability under that law. If so, the school district may be required to provide reasonable accommodations and/or services to allow your child to benefit from school like children without disabilities. These accommodations and/or services may be important if your child does not qualify for special education per se, or if such accommodations and/or services are, for some reason, not provided under special education. [19 IDELR 876.]

2. How do I request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for my child who is already receiving services?

If your child is already receiving special education services, you can request an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting whenever you think one is needed in order to review or change the IEP. You should make a written request to your child's teacher, principal or special education administrative office. [Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56343(c) and 56343.5.] You may request additional assessments for your child in the same letter. See Sample Letter at the end of this chapter.

3. What are the time lines for holding an IEP meeting?

After your initial written request for special education, or your written request for a new assessment, the school district has 15 days to prepare and provide you with a written proposed assessment plan containing a copy of the notice of parent rights. In counting 15 days, days in between regular school sessions or terms or days of school vacation in excess of five school days do not count. If a referral is made 10 days or less prior to the end of the regular school year or term, the school district must develop an assessment plan within 10 days after the commencement of the next school year or term. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321(a).] You have at least 15 days to determine whether you will consent to the proposed assessments. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321(c).]

Starting from the date the local education agency receives your written consent to assessment, the assessment(s) must be completed and the IEP developed at an IEP meeting within 50 calendar days. In determining days for completion of assessments and scheduling IEP meetings, you do not count the days between school sessions or terms or days of school vacation in excess of five school days. If an initial referral of a student to special education has been made 20 days or less prior to the end of the regular school year, an IEP shall be developed within 30 days after commencement of the subsequent regular school year. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56344.]

If you are requesting an IEP meeting without the need for new assessments for a child already in special education, the IEP meeting shall be held within 30 days (not counting days in July and August) from the date of receipt of your written request. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56343.5.]

4. How often are IEP meetings held?

An IEP meeting must be held at least annually. A parent or a teacher may request an IEP meeting more often if needed to review or change a student's education program or when a formal assessment has been completed. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56343.] Neither federal nor state law limits the number of IEPs you may request per year. See Question 2.

5. Can I get copies of assessments before the IEP meeting?

By law, school districts must provide copies of assessments and other educational records before an IEP meeting. [34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.562.] You can request that they give you copies. You should make such requests in writing. Most districts will accommodate parents if they make a request within a reasonable time. However, there are no specific time lines in federal or state law to tell school districts how many days before the IEP meeting they must provide assessments to the parents.

6. Will I receive notice of the IEP meeting? What happens if I cannot attend?

The school district must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of the student with disabilities attend the IEP meeting or have the opportunity to participate. This means notifying you far enough in advance, providing notice in your language, scheduling or rescheduling the IEP at a mutually agreed upon time and place, or allowing you to participate by conference call. Only if it has taken and documented adequate steps can the school district proceed without your participation. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.345.]

If you want to attend the meeting and cannot because of a conflict, call the special education administrator or teacher and reschedule so that you can be there.

7. Who is required to attend the IEP team meeting?

The school district should ensure that the following people attend the IEP meeting:

(1) You, as parent(s) (remember, the district must provide you with notice and schedule the meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place).

(2) At least one regular education teacher of the child if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment.

(3) At least one special education teacher, or if appropriate, at least one special education provider of the child.

(4) An educational agency representative (other than the teacher). This person must know about the general curriculum, special education programs and be qualified to provide or supervise special education services. This person must also have the authority to approve funding for special education and related services without having to seek permission from others within the school district. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 13.]

(5) Individual(s) who conducted any assessments or a person who is qualified to interpret and explain the assessment results, including the instructional implications of evaluation results.

(6) Other individuals, at the discretion of the parent or the agency, who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child including related services personnel as appropriate.

(7) Your child, where appropriate. [20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(B), Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56441.]

In addition, if your child is receiving services from Medi-Cal, California Children Services, or a county mental health agency, representatives from those agencies may have to attend. See Chapter 9, Information on Inter-Agency Responsibility for Related Services.

The school district must also notify the parent in writing regarding who will attend the IEP Team meeting. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.345(b) and Part 300, App. C, No. 28.]

8. Can I bring an advocate or attorney to an IEP meeting?

Yes. Parents can bring whoever they want to the meeting -- including an advocate, friend, regional center or other caseworker or attorney.

Any decision that is made with regard to an IEP must be made with the informed consent of the parent. An advocate or case manager should assist in this process by fully explaining to parents the actions or consequences that are being discussed or contemplated. With the consent of the parent, the advocate/case manager/attorney can actively advocate for the rights of the child.

9. How can I contribute to the IEP process?

The parents of a student with disabilities are expected to be equal participants, along with school personnel, in developing, reviewing, and revising the student's IEP. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 26.(1)]

You can contribute to the IEP process by bringing to the IEP meeting a written summary describing your child's needs as you see them. This summary should include these areas:

(1) Strengths (for example, outgoing, open, optimistic, articulate, imaginative);

(2) Weaknesses/Problem Areas (for example, poor self-concept, academic deficits, fighting, disorganization, takes longer than average to complete assignments, discouraged easily);

(3) Functioning Levels (for example, difficulty with reading, math or spelling, responds to individual attention, needs verbal reinforcement for presented material); and,

(4) What the Child Needs to Learn (for example, more positive self-concept, proficiency at grade level in academic areas, age-appropriate social skills, self help skills, job training, needs to be better organized, work at a more rapid pace).

This written format should help you organize your ideas. Then you can help school personnel in identifying goal areas for your child, and in writing a full description of your child's educational needs.

You also can contribute by bringing others who know your child to support you, by being assertive at the IEP meeting, and by knowing your rights under the law.

10. If I need an interpreter at the IEP meeting, must one be provided?

Yes. If you need a language or sign interpreter to participate at the IEP meeting, one must be provided at no expense to you, the parent. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.345.]

11. How should an IEP meeting operate?

You and the school district should develop your child's IEP as a partnership. Both parent and school district share the final decisions that are made about your child's program. Ideally, the IEP meeting should follow this process:

Step l: Discussion and description of your child's current level of functioning (includes academic and non-academic functioning).

Step 2: Development of annual goals and short-term objectives that are derived from your child's current functioning.

Step 3: Discussion and description of the support services required by your child. (Related Services, Designated Instruction and Services.)

Step 4: Discussion and description of the special education and related services, including placement recommendation and significant details of placement (for example, class size, integration and mainstreaming opportunities) that make up your child's appropriate educational program. See Questions 10, 11 and 15 for specific details.

All members of the IEP team should attend and participate in the team meeting. An IEP team member should not sign the IEP before the team meeting. [California State Department of Education (CDE), Special Education Division, Technical Assistance and Clarification Statement (TACS) 12-89.]

Your school district is required to have a procedure in place for reaching agreement in an IEP meeting. [CDE, Special Education Division, TACS 13-89.] You should ask your school district for a copy of its procedure if you have any questions about your school's IEP process.

12. What information should be considered at the IEP for deaf or hard-of-hearing pupils?

In determining what is an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment for deaf or hard-of-hearing pupils, the IEP team shall specifically discuss the communication needs of the pupil, including:

(1) Pupil's primary language mode (e.g., spoken language, sign language, or a combination);

(2) Availability of language peers which may be achieved by consolidating services into an area-wide program;

(3) Ongoing language access to teachers and specialists proficient in the pupil's language mode; and

(4) Services necessary to ensure community accessible academic instruction and extracurricular activities. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345(e).]

13. What should be written in the IEP?

Under federal and/or state law, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student with disabilities must include:

(1) The student's present levels of educational performance, including how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general curriculum. For preschoolers, present levels must include how the disability affects the child's participation in appropriate activities.

(2) A statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives,related to:

(a) meeting the child's needs that results from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, and

(b) meeting each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability.

(3) A statement of: specific special education services (including, for example, physical education, vocational education, extended school year, instruction in academic or perceptual areas, teacher qualifications, class size, etc.; specific related services including the amount of time, frequency, and location for each service (for example, occupational therapy two times a week/45 minute sessions at the school site); supplementary aids and services ( for example, instructional aides, note takers, use of the resource room, etc.); and, program modifications or supports for school personnel (for example, modifications to the regular class curriculum, use of computer-assisted devices, special education training for the regular teacher, etc.) to be provided to the child, on behalf of the child, or for the child to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals; to be involved and progress in the general curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and, to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children.

(4) An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and documentation that indicates why the student's disability prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services.

(5) The projected date for initiation and the anticipated duration, frequency, and location of the services and modifications included in the IEP.

(6) A statement of any individual modifications in the administration of State or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in the assessment.

(7) Appropriate objective criteria, evaluation procedures and schedules for determining , at least annually, whether the measurable goals contained in the IEP are being achieved and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. Progress reports/report cards must be provided at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children's progress.

(8) A description of the type of placement needed to implement the IEP in the least restrictive environment. The school district must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available, including instruction in regular classes (with an aide or other adaptations if necessary), special classes, non-public nonsectarian schools, state special schools, residential placement, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.

(9) For students 16 years of age or older, the IEP must state the transition services needed, including, if appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. Transition services are "a coordinated set of activities for a student ... which promotes movement from school to post-school activities... The activities shall include instruction, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation."

(10) For each student, beginning at age 14 and younger, if appropriate, the IEP must include a statement of the transition service needs of the student. Statement/s should relate to those sections of the IEP that focus on the student's courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education program).

(11) Extended school year services, when needed.

(12) One year before the student turns 18, include a statement that the student has been informed of his or her special education rights that will transfer to the student at age 18.

[20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d), Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345, 5 Cal. Code Regs. 3042(b).]

14. Are there any other services or special factors that must be considered and included in an IEP if appropriate for a student?

Under federal and/or state law, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team must, when appropriate:

(1) For a student whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others, consider strategies, including positive behavioral interventions, and supports to address that behavior.

(2) For a student who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP team determines, after an evaluation of the student's reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media, that instruction in Braille or use of Braille is not appropriate.

(3) Consider the communication needs of the student, and for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing, consider the student's language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the student's language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the student's language and communication mode.

(4) Consider whether the student requires assistive technology and services.

(5) For students in kindergarten and grades 1 to 6, the IEP must also contain prevocational career education.

(6) For students in grades 7 to 12, the IEP must also any differential standards which will be used to enable them to graduate, and vocational education, career education, or work experience education, in preparation for remunerative employment, including independent living skill training.

(7) For students whose primary language is other than English, the IEP must include linguistically appropriate goals, objectives, programs and services.

(8) Provide for the transition into the regular class program if the student is to be transferred from a special class or center, or non-public, non-sectarian school into a regular class in a public school for any part of the school day, including -

(a) A description of activities provided to integrate the student into the regular education program. The description shall indicate the nature of the activity, and the time spent on the activity each day or week.

(b) A description of the activities provided to support the transition of students from special education program into the regular education program.

(9) For students with low-incidence disabilities, provide specialized services, materials, and equipment.

(10) For students in grades 7 to 12, inclusive, provide any alternative means and modesnecessary for the student to complete the district's prescribed course of study and to meet or exceed proficiency standards for graduation.

[; 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(3)(B), Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345 and 56345.1.]

15. How should the present levels of my child's educational performance be described in the IEP?

The present levels of educational performance should reflect your child's unique needs in any area of education affected by your child's disability, including academic areas (reading, math, communication, etc.), non-academic areas (daily life activities, mobility, social/emotional/behavioral issues, etc.), and perceptual functioning (auditory or visual processing, motor abilities, concentration problems).

The IEP team should try to describe your child's performance in objective, measurable terms. In developing the IEP, the IEP team must consider the strengths of the student and any parent concerns for enhancing your child's education. The results of your child's initial evaluation or most recent evaluation must also be considered, but any such information used should be easily understandable to you and all other members of the team. [ 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(3), 34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 36.]

16. Why are annual goals and short-term instructional objectives important?

Annual goals and short-term instructional objectives allow you to track your child's progress in school and help you determine if your child's educational program is appropriate. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 37.]

Goals and objectives are also important because they help form and guide your child's specific instructional plans. An IEP is not designed to be a detailed instructional plan (see Question 17below), but instructional plans must relate directly to IEP goals and objectives. The best way for you as parents to influence the specific instruction your child receives is to participate in developing appropriate IEP goals and objectives. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 41.]

The goals and objectives define what kind of special education program and related services the school district must provide. The school district must provide the programs and services necessary to meet the goals and objectives in your child's IEP. If your child needs a particular kind of special education program or service, the school district is not required to provide it unless it is necessary to meet an IEP goal or objective. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 45.]

In addition, the determination of whether your child is meeting or failing to meet their IEP goals and objectives is critical to developing an appropriate educational program. Consequently, your child's IEP must include a statement/s of how your child's progress toward their annual goals and objectives will be measured. The IEP must also include the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable your child to achieve the goals and objectives by the end of the year and how you, as parents, will be regularly informed (through mean such as periodic report cards) of your child's progress at least as often as parents of nondisabled children are informed of their children's progress. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(viii).]

17. Should the IEP team write specific instructional plans into the IEP?

In many respects, IEP objectives are like objectives in daily instructional plans. However, the IEP is not intended to be detailed enough to be used as an instructional plan. The IEP, through its goals and objectives, (1) sets the general direction those who will implement the IEP should take, and (2) serves as the basis for developing a detailed instructional plan for the child. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, Nos. 39, 41.]

18. Must the IEP contain all services my child needs?

According to the federal regulations:

Each public agency must provide a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities under its jurisdiction. Therefore, the IEP for a child with a disability must include all of the specific special education and related services needed by the child -- as determined by the child's current evaluation (which may include parental input as well as district and independent evaluations). This means that the services must be listed in the IEP even if they are not directly available from the local agency, and must be provided by the agency through contract or other arrangements.

The IEP must set out the amount of services to be provided, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be (1) appropriate to that specific service, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP.

Changes in the amount of services listed in the IEP cannot be made without holding another IEP meeting. However, as long as there is no change in the overall amount, some adjustments in scheduling the services should be possible (based on the professional judgment of the service provider) without holding another IEP meeting. (NOTE: The parents should be notified whenever this occurs.)

[34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, Nos. 44, 51.]

19. Is there a mandated length or format for an IEP?

The school district may determine the length and format of an IEP, so long as it contains all the elements described above. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 56.]

20. If my child is mainstreamed into regular classes, can I write modifications to the regular classroom in the IEP?

Yes. Students who are able to participate in regular programming classes may require modifications, supplementary aids or services, within that regular class in order to learn. Such modifications may include the use of a tape recorder, oral testing, special seating, etc. Such modifications must be specifically written into your child's IEP. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d), 34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 48.]

21. Under what circumstances should the regular teacher of a special education student participate in the IEP?

Federal law requires that the regular education teacher, as a member of the IEP team, to the extent appropriate, participate in the development of the IEP, including the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and strategies; the determination of supplementary aids and services, program modifications, support for school personnel; and, the review or revision of the IEP. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1414(d)(3)(C), 1414(d)(4)(B).]

22. Can class size limits be included in the IEP?

Yes. Federal law and state law and policy state that special education means "specially designed instruction . . . to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities . . ." One of those unique needs may be a limit on special education class size. A school district may disagree with a parent on the need for a class size limit. The district may believe that class size is not a critical element in an appropriate program for a student.

However, a school district may not categorically refuse to add class size to an IEP as a matter of policy. Such a policy would not allow the IEP team to develop an IEP based on the unique needs of the student. You may wish to consider filing a compliance complaint if your school district has such a policy. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.17; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56031.] See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints.

23. Do I have to approve an IEP at the IEP meeting?

No. You have the right to take your IEP home to review it before you sign. Your child remains eligible for special education and stays in his current placement while you decide whether to consent. If you do not consent or file for a fair hearing in a reasonable period of time, then the LEA may file for a fair hearing.

24. Can I consent to only part of the IEP?

You can consent to those parts of the IEP that you agree with, so those services can begin. If you disagree with certain parts of the IEP, those parts cannot be implemented and may be issues at a due process hearing if your concerns cannot be resolved informally. You may wish to file a written dissent with the IEP document to make your position clear. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56346.]

If a parent does not consent to all the components of the IEP, then those components of the program to which the parent has consented shall be implemented so not to delay providing special education and related services to the child. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56346(a).]

If the public education agency determines that the part of the proposed IEP to which the parent does not consent is necessary to provide a free and appropriate education to the child, they shall initiate a mediation conference or a due process hearing. While the mediation conference or due process hearing is pending, the child shall remain in his or her then-current placement, unless the parent and public education agency agree otherwise. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56346(b).]

25. Can I consent to the content of the IEP and not consent to placement?

Yes. You may consent to the content of the IEP as written, including the placement recommendation; yet you may disagree with the actual placement site or classroom. For example, after visiting the proposed placement or classroom, you may feel that it does not meet the requirements of the IEP as written. Your disagreement with the actual classroom may become the basis for a due process hearing if your concerns cannot be resolved informally. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints.

26. Can I change my mind after I sign the IEP document?

Yes, where a parent has changed her mind, she may revoke her consent at any time [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.500(a)(3)] and should immediately send a written revocation of consent to the special education administrator who represented the school district at the IEP meeting and ask that a new IEP meeting be scheduled as soon as possible. [A parent is entitled to an IEP review meeting within 30 days of a written request, not counting days in July or August. (Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56343.5).] The district might not, however, revert to implementing the previous IEP, especially if the new IEP is already being implemented at the time the parent attempts to withdraw consent, or if any significant period of time has elapsed before the revocation. At the IEP meeting, if there is a dispute about the child's program or placement, it is unclear whether the "stay-put" provision (see Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints) would apply to maintain the program as described by the IEP to which the parent wishes to withdraw consent or to the previous IEP. As always, the best practice is not to sign an IEP until one is sure about its contents. You need not sign an IEP at the IEP meeting where it was developed. You can and should take an IEP home to think about for a day or two if you are not sure you should agree to it at the time of the IEP meeting. You can also sign an IEP in part [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56346] as described previously in this chapter

27. What kinds of educational placements must a school district offer?

School districts must offer a continuum of alternative placements, including:

(1) Instruction in a regular classroom;

(2) Related services (in California, these are called "designated instruction and services") necessary to help your child benefit from special education. See Chapter 5, Information on Related Services;

(3) Resource specialist services in which a school resource specialist provides specialized instruction and services to children who spend more than half their day in a regular classroom;

(4) Special day classes and centers in which a school provides specialized instruction and services to children who spend less than half their day in a regular classroom;

(5) State special schools, such as the California School for the Deaf and California School for the Blind;

(6) Home instruction;

(7) Instruction in hospitals or institutions, such as medical facilities, state hospitals and developmental centers, and juvenile schools;

(8) Placement in appropriate non-public, non-sectarian schools when no appropriate public school placement is available; and

(9) Out-of-home residential placement, including non-medical care and room and board when educationally appropriate or when the only appropriate school is too far away from your home. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.551; Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56361, 56363.](2)

The continuum of placements must permit students to receive an education to the maximum extent appropriate with children who do not have disabilities. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.550.] See Chapter 7, Information on Least Restrictive Environment.

28. What role do parents have in determining the educational placement for their child?

Federal law requires that parents of a student with a disability be members of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child. You have the right to obtain as much specific information as possible about the recommended placements during your IEP meeting. Some districts will tell you which placements (specific classrooms) they are recommending and describe those classrooms. Other school districts will recommend general placement categories (for example, resource specialists, special day class). Then, specific classroom assignments follow the IEP. Whichever procedure your district follows, you should request at your IEP meeting that you be included, as the law requires, in any meeting where the educational placement of your child is determined. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(f).]

29. Can the IEP require particular teachers, classrooms or placements?

You do not have the power to require that the school district provide its services from a particular person or in a particular classroom. However, the school district must provide "that unique combination of facilities, personnel, location or equipment necessary to provide instructional services ... as specified in the individualized education program." [Title 5, California Code of Regulations (Cal. Code Regs.) Sec. 3042(a).] Your child's IEP team must consider these unique factors when deciding what program your child should attend. For example, the IEP team should consider the accessibility and location of classrooms when considering whether a particular program is the least restrictive environment for your child. Similarly, the school district should consider teachers' qualifications, such as knowledge of particular languages or techniques, when deciding what program your child should attend. [CDE, Special Education Division, TACS 05-89.]

In other words, the school district must provide services in settings and with people who can meet your child's IEP goals and objectives. If the school district's proposed classroom or teacher cannot meet your child's IEP goals, you can ask the district to change them.

In most cases, you should observe the classroom yourself before agreeing to placement if you have concerns. If you wish, you can also ask an education professional to observe your child's recommended placement so that you can be sure it is appropriate. If you disagree with your child's specific classroom assignment, it is best to share your concerns with your school district and work together to arrange for another classroom assignment. However, this may not be possible and you may need to use the due process procedures available to you. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints. The school district cannot force you to accept a service or placement without your consent, except through the due process procedure. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56346.]

30. May children with differing disabilities be grouped together for instruction in the same classroom?

Heterogeneous or non-categorical classroom placements for children with disabilities are allowed under federal and state law because education needs, rather than disability category or label, should ultimately determine placement. However, such a placement must meet your child's IEP goals and objectives or it is not appropriate.

31. When must the IEP be implemented?

The IEP must be implemented as soon as possible following the IEP meeting. This means immediately following except when IEP meetings occur during a vacation period or where circumstances require a short delay (for example, to work out transportation). There can be no undue delay in providing special education and related services; however, the IEP may specify projected dates for initiation of services. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.342 and comment, and Sec. 300.346(d), and Part 300, App. C, No. 4; 5 Cal. Code Regs. Sec. 3040.]

32. Are there any circumstances when a school district is required to review and/or revise my child's IEP?

An IEP team must review a student's IEP at least annually. Also, the school district must convene an IEP meeting if:

(1) A student has received an initial evaluation or a subsequent re-evaluation,

(2) The student demonstrates a lack of anticipated progress, or

(3) The parent or teacher requests a meeting to develop, review, or revise the IEP.

[20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(4), Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56343.]

33. If I place my child in a religious school or other non-public school, does she have the right to an IEP and special education services?

Yes. School districts must develop IEPs for all eligible students in both public and private schools. If you choose to pay for the religious or non-public school placement, the school district is still responsible for holding IEP meetings and providing services specified in the IEP. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.348.] What services a student may receive and where those services are delivered may depend on the nature of the non-public school and/or the circumstances of the student's placement there. See Chapter 5, Information on Related Services, Questions 30 and 31.

34. Should the IEP respond to real, documented needs, or does it accommodate the available funds/resources of the school district?

While many school districts do have financial burdens, school districts must provide educational services based on the educational needs of your child. School districts cannot use economic issues to deny your child the services he needs. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 44.] However, a hearing officer can consider costs in choosing between appropriate placements. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56505(i).]

35. When considering placements, should the child fit the program placement or the program fit the child?

The program placement should be determined based on your child's needs as described in her IEP. The intent of the law is that the program be based on the unique needs of your child, rather than the programs available in the school district. If a program which meets your child's unique needs does not exist, the school district is required to secure a program by, for example, starting a new program, modifying an existing program, providing for an interdistrict transfer or paying for a non-public school placement as appropriate. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.552.]

36. Can my school district be required to purchase equipment needed to implement my child's IEP?

Yes. Districts must provide equipment needed to implement your child's IEP. State law provides money to school districts to purchase equipment required in the IEP for students with low-incidence disabilities (for example, Braille equipment for blind students or communication devices for students with oral language handicaps). In addition, schools are required to purchase equipment needed to provide related services such as occupational and physical therapy equipment. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56771; Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 7575(d).]

In addition, federal law requires that districts ensure that assistive technology devices and/or services are available (1) to special education students who need them as part of their special education or related services or (2) to the supplemental aids and services used to assist students in being placed in the least restrictive environment. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.308.] An assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.5.] Assistive technology services include evaluation for and purchasing, modifying or repairing of such a device, and training necessary for the student and others to use it effectively. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.6.] See, Chapter 5 Information on Related Services, Questions 41 through 44.

37. Can I tape record an IEP meeting?

Yes. Parents may tape record an IEP meeting, even without the school district's permission, as long as you give the school district 24 hours' notice of your intention to do so. A school district may tape record an IEP meeting as long as it gives you 24 hours notice of its intention to do so. However, the school district must have the parent's permission to tape record the meeting.[Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56341(g).]

Under federal law, audio tape recordings made by the school district are governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1232(g).] In addition, you have the right:

(1) To inspect and review district-made tape recordings;

(2) To request that the tape recordings be amended if you believe that they contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the rights of privacy or other rights of the individual with exceptional needs; and

(3) To challenge, in a hearing, information that you believe is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the individual's rights of privacy or other rights. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 99.10-99-22; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56341(g)(2)(A)(B).]

38. What if participants in my IEP meeting use initials or jargon that I do not understand?

Remember, parents have a right to equal participation in the IEP process. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 26.] Do not let the meeting proceed until you fully understand what is being said. Stop the meeting, ask what the jargon or professional term means, and continue to ask until you are comfortable that you understand the meaning. Do not allow the jargon to intimidate you. Above all, remember MOST parents do not understand the jargon. Asking questions is not an indication that you are uninformed, but rather an indication that you are rightfully concerned about developing the appropriate education program for your child.

39. Can a school district use pre-written or computer generated IEP goals and objectives?

The law does not allow the school district to present a completed IEP for approval without a full discussion of your child's need for special education and the services offered. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 55.] Sometimes, in order to save time, school personnel prepare suggested goals or meet with the parent before the IEP meeting. This is permitted only if it does not prevent team members (especially parents) from providing input and if it results in an individualized education program. However, the CDE recommends that your school district should not send you a draft IEP before your IEP meeting. [CDE, Special Education Division, TACS 07-89.]

40. Who is responsible for implementing my child's IEP?

Federal law requires that the state education agency be ultimately responsible for ensuring that the required procedures are followed and that students receive needed education services in accord with their IEPs. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.600.] California law delegates to local education agencies the direct responsibility for providing the services in students' IEPs and for ensuring that a continuum of program options exists to meet the needs of students for special education and related services. [Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56360.] However, if the local education agency refuses or wrongfully neglects to provide a student with disabilities with a free appropriate public education, then the state education agency is responsible for directly providing the needed services. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1412(a)(11), 1413(h).]

41. If my child already is a special education student, can the school withhold eligibility or existing service?

No. If the parents and the school disagree on services, the last agreed-upon IEP remains in effect. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, Question 35.]


 Sample Letter - Request for IEP Meeting

Ms. Bev Blue
Address
City, CA Zip Code
Telephone Number

Date

Mr. Gary Green
Director of Special Education
Local Unified School District
Address
City, CA Zip Code

RE: John Blue

Dear Mr. Green:

I am the parent of John Blue, who is currently enrolled in 5th grade at Regular Elementary School in the special day class for disabled students with learning disabilities.

I am requesting that an IEP meeting be held for my son as soon as possible. He has been having some problems at school and has been suspended once. I think his program may need to be modified to address his individual needs.

I am also requesting that a behavioral assessment be completed before the meeting and that I receive a copy of this assessment and all of John's school records regarding the suspension prior to the IEP meeting.

[Optional: In addition, please have the Section 504 Coordinator for Local Unified School District present at the IEP meeting to discuss whether assessment and/or accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 might be indicated for John.]

Since I work in the afternoon, a morning IEP meeting would be convenient for me. If you have questions or need to discuss this letter further, please call me at work at 555-5555.

Thank you in advance for your prompt action regarding this request.

Sincerely,

Bev Blue


 Endnotes

1. In 1981, the federal Department of Education issued regulations and interpretations intended to provide a comprehensive clarification of IEP requirements. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C.] The clarifications and interpretations are legally binding and are followed by the Department of Education in determining whether state and local education agencies are in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations.

2. For more specific information on individual types of placements, see Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56362 (resource specialist program), 56364 (special day class), 56360 and 56367 (state special schools), 56356 (non-public schools), 56167 (medical institutions), 56850 (state developmental centers and hospitals), 56150 (juvenile schools), and 56156 (out-of-home residential placement). See also 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.302 (out-of-home residential placements). For more information on services provided by other agencies, see Chapter 9, Information on Inter-Agency Responsibility for Related Services.


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