Future Reflections Winter/Spring, Vol. 14 No. 1
This checklist contains the federal legal requirements governing the individualized education program (IEP) process and suggestions for making the process as productive as possible. Please note that state laws impose a number of additional requirements on school systems. Please also note that any time the words þschool systemþ are used, the reference is also to any public agency that is responsible for the provision of special education services to students with disabilities.
___1. After the initial determination that a student needs special education, a meeting must be held within 30 days to develop an IEP.
___2. A meeting to review or, if appropriate, revise an IEP must be held at least one time per year.
___3. The IEP must be in effect at the beginning of each school year.
___4. The parent(s) must receive notification of the meeting early enough to ensure that they will have the opportunity to attend.
--The meeting must be scheduled at a mutually agreed to time and place.
--The meeting notice must indicate the time, purpose, and location of the meeting and who will be in attendance.
--If the purpose of meeting is to determine transition services, the meeting notice must also indicate that the purpose of the meeting is transitional planning; indicate that the student will be invited; identify any other agencies that will be invited to send a representative to the meeting.
___5. If neither parent can attend, the school system must use other methods to ensure participation, including individual or conference telephone calls.
___6. A meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the school system is not able to convince the parent(s) that they should come to the meeting. If the school system proceeds without the parent, the school system must have a record of its efforts to arrange a mutually agreed on time and place for the meeting.
___7. When a parent does attend the IEP meeting, either in person or by other means, the school system must ensure that the parent understands the proceedings at the meeting. This includes arranging an interpreter for parents with deafness or parents whose native language is not English.
___8. The parent has the right to review the student's complete education file prior to any meeting.
--It may be helpful for parents to review school records prior to an IEP meeting, including assessment results, medical reports, and records from other agencies with which the student may be involved. It also may be helpful for parents to talk with the student's teacher(s) and with the student him- or herself.
--Prior to the meeting, it is helpful for parents to think about the areas in which the student needs special attention, the kind of attention that would be most successful, long- and short-term goals for the student, and the kind of education setting the parents think would be most appropriate for the student.
--It is also helpful for parents to think about what modifications might be needed in order for the student to participate successfully in the regular education and nonacademic programs. Modifications might include curriculum changes, testing procedure changes, a one-to-one or classroom aide, a computer, etc.
--After thinking about these issues, the parent(s) should write down any thoughts, questions, or concerns and organize any documents they want to bring to the meeting.
--The parent(s) may wish to contact an advocacy or parent education organization for advice, information, or assistance prior to the meeting.
___1. The following participants must be at the meeting:
--a representative of the school system who is qualified to administer the provision of special education;
--the student's teacher;
--one or both of the student's parents;
--the student, if appropriate;
--and other individuals at the discretion of the parent or school system-for example, therapists from the school system or outside agencies.
___2. For a student who has been evaluated for the first time, a member of the evaluation team must also attend the meeting. The school system must also ensure that the school system representative, the teacher, or some other person who is knowledgeable about the evaluation procedures used and the evaluation results is present at the meeting.
___3. If the student does not attend the IEP meeting at which a transition plan is developed, the school system must take other steps to ensure that the student's preferences and interests are considered.
___4. If the representative of any other agencies invited to a meeting at which a transition plan is developed do not attend, the school system shall take other steps to obtain participation.
--Parents are members of the team. They should feel free to ask questions and participate in the discussion at the IEP meeting. The discussion should be based on cooperation and mutual concern for the student.
--Parents should ask for an explanation of assessment results, unfamiliar terminology, and recommendations.
--It is helpful to proceed through each item on the IEP, addressing any areas of disagreement or concern on the parents' part. It may be helpful to look at each goal and objective and determine if it has been met, partially met, or not met. Going through this process will help identify goals and objectives that need to be changed and goals and objectives that should be carried over to the new IEP.
--The meeting participants should discuss the type, amount, and frequency of any related services the student requires.
--The meeting participants should discuss whether the student needs assistive technology devices and/or services to benefit from his/her education.
--The meeting participants should discuss the amount of programming the student will receive in regular education and in nonacademic and extracurricular activities and services. As part of this discussion, the meeting participants also should discuss any supportive aids or services or any modifications necessary to enable the student to benefit from participation in regular education and activities.
--The meeting participants should discuss whether the student needs extended school day or extended school year services.
___1. The IEP must be developed at the meeting. It is permissible for the school system to come to the meeting with a draft IEP, but the parent(s) must have the opportunity to participate in the development of the final IEP.
___2. The IEP must be developed before any placement decision is made.
___3. The IEP must include a statement of the student's current educational performance.
--a statement of annual goals including short-term instructional objectives;
--a statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided;
--the extent to which the student will be able to participate in regular educational programs;
--the projected dates when services will begin and how long they will last;
--and appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and timetables for determining, at least annually, whether the short-term instructional objectives are being achieved.
___4. The IEP for each student, beginning at age 16 or younger, if appropriate, must include a transition plan comprised of:
--a statement of the needed transition services based on the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests;
--needed activities in the areas of instruction, community experiences, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
--If the committee decides that some of these services are not necessary, the IEP must include a statement to that effect and the basis upon which the determination was made.
--If appropriate, a statement of each agency's responsibilities should be included on the IEP.
Note: If any other agency fails to provide agreed-upon transitional services contained in the IEP, the school system must initiate a meeting as soon as possible to identify alternative strategies. (This provision does not relieve the other agencies of responsibility to provide or pay for services.)
___5. The parents shall receive a copy of the IEP if they request a copy.
--The IEP should include all areas in which the student needs specially designed instruction.
--The IEP should be designed to enable the student to attain knowledge and/or skills and should not be a repetition of subjects already mastered by the student.
--The IEP should include any supportive services or aids or modifications necessary to enable the student to participate in regular education or nonacademic or extracurricular activities.
--The IEP should include any assistive technology devices or services necessary to enable the student to benefit from his or her education.
--The IEP should include extended school day or extended school year services if the committee determines that such services are appropriate.
--The IEP should include any testing modifications that will be provided to the student.
--The IEP should include the type, amount, and frequency of any related services the student requires.
--The IEP should include the persons responsible for implementing each piece of the IEP.
--The parent should always request a copy of the IEP.
___1. The IEP must be implemented as soon as possible following the IEP meeting.
___2. The student's placement must be based on the IEP and must be the least restrictive environment in which the IEP can be implemented. Unless the student's IEP requires some other arrangement, the student's placement must be in the school he or she would attend if not disabled.
Note: Federal and state special education laws include a number of procedural safeguards, one of which is the parent's right to challenge any aspect of a student's special education services or placement, including the school system's failure to implement the IEP.
*Jennifer Haber, a law student at the University of Maryland law School, was an intern at the Maryland Disability Law Center during the fall of 1994. Leslie Seid Margolis is a managing attorney at the Maryland Disability Law Center, Maryland's protection and advocacy agency.