Law Office of Michelle Ball Disabilities,Special education/IEP Yearly IEPs Are Important For Student Success (And Legally Required)

Yearly IEPs Are Important For Student Success (And Legally Required)


special education student IEP

Last Updated on August 14, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Parents sometimes wait for schools to tell them when special education IEP meetings (Individualized Education Program meetings) are needed and put special education on autopilot. Maybe the parent is too busy or trusts the school to take care of it. The school staff would tell the parent if something was needed, right?

Maybe or maybe not. What if all is not actually well for the student and the parent just does not know it? What if one of the most basic special education mandates: the requirement that student IEP meetings be held at least annually, is not being done? This is a problem.

IEP team success
IEP meetings are not just friendly get togethers – they are critically important for special education student success

IEP Meetings Support Special Education Success

Well crafted student special education plans start with productive IEP meetings. IEP meetings are where the student’s special education team reviews progress, updates student goals, and adds, removes or adjusts services, accommodations and supports. Student IEP meetings are also to ensure student goals are aligned with current grade level standards.

IEP plans which come out of these meetings are often critical for the student to receive their services

How Often Must IEPs Be Held?

Per federal law, IEP meetings must be held at least annually. This means that at least one time a year, a student IEP meeting with a general education and special education teacher (if applicable), administrator, and other relevant personnel must be scheduled.

In most school districts, annual IEPs happen timely. In some school districts, they do not.

What Can A Parent Do If An Annual IEP Meeting Is Not Held?

Parents need to contact their school if a yearly student IEP meeting does not get scheduled. The school’s legal obligation to hold the IEP annually can be raised by the parent, and they can demand a prompt student IEP meeting.

Arrangements to ensure it is not missed again should also be developed.

What If a Parent Cannot Meet on an Annual IEP Date?

A parent is a critical member of the IEP team and school districts are supposed to work collaboratively to determine an IEP date. If a parent is told that an IEP meeting is scheduled on September 15, and they cannot make it, the parent can ask for another date and time. The meeting should be rescheduled.

What If a Parent Delays Setting an IEP Meeting Date?

If a school proposes date after date for an IEP, and a parent just won’t commit, it is possible an IEP meeting may proceed without the parent in attendance.

IEP meetings lead to student success
Student success occurs after effective annual IEP meetings are held as IEPs map out goals, services and supports

This should rarely occur. But, if it does, a school can try to justify the IEP meeting being held without a parent, by showing a lot of meeting requests, offers to change dates, and lack of parent cooperation in scheduling. The school may also allege that the student’s education would have been negatively impacted were a meeting not held.

Thus, parents should work with schools to schedule an IEP date as needed, so they do not miss it.

No Free and Appropriate Education Without Annual IEP?

Failing to convene an annual IEP breaches a student’s legal rights. This error can support an argument that a student did not receive a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE).

If a school misses the annual IEP by a few days, they will argue it was a harmless procedural error for the student, and may wiggle out of this breach if challenged.

Lack of Annual IEP Causes Problems

Not holding an annual IEP meeting creates problems for both schools and students, as the student may not thereafter advance adequately or make meaningful progress in school.

Lack of the annual IEP meeting can prevent a student from getting increased services they need, and ensures new accommodations are not put in place. New goals vital to the student’s continued progress may not be developed. As a result, the student may struggle, receive lower grades, may act out in school, and may feel inadequate.

A school district may find itself in hot water for not convening a student IEP meeting timely. Parents need to make sure that the school does its job and holds the annual IEP meeting every year.


Special education student lawyer Michelle Ball assists parents and students across California with IEP meetings, special education, 504, and other special education problems. As an education attorney with her office in Sacramento, Michelle can assist statewide from Lincoln to Roseville, Berkeley to Los Angeles and beyond.