On May 2, 2019, the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which issues policy letters to “provide information, guidance and clarification regarding implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” issued Letter to Haller, and answered a question regarding “school administrators attending the [individualized education program (IEP)] meeting as non-contributing observers.” Letter to Haller, (OSEP 2019). OSEP emphasized “attendance at IEP Team meetings should be limited to individuals who would contribute to decisions about the appropriate services to be included in the child’s IEP,” and “attendance at IEP meetings should be limited to those who have an intense interest in the child.” Id. (citing Cong. Rec. § 10974 (June 18, 1975) (remarks of Sen. Randolph)). OSEP also reminded Districts to be mindful of the fact confidentiality of student information in IDEA matters is paramount. OSEP concluded its policy letter with advice for what Districts should consider if they are contemplating having a school administrator observe an IEP meeting: “a public agency should be mindful of the interests of the child, including the confidential and sensitive nature of discussions that occur and the personally identifiable information that is exchanged during those meetings.” Id.
For parents, when you receive your child’s IEP meeting notice, make sure to review the proposed attendance list. If there is a school administrator listed who will be an observer, or who does not have a specific purpose noted for being at the student’s IEP meeting, you may want to ask what their purpose is for attending the meeting. If there is no purpose for their attendance, and you do not want this person to attend your child’s IEP meeting, you can consider requesting the District remove this participant. It is always important to remember you have rights as parents, and as an IEP Team Member.
Written by Alison K. Morris, Esq. of the Westchester Office.