Last Updated on August 28, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Parents often do not realize they don’t have to wait for the annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting to address special education student issues. They can simply ask for one. But, when SHOULD a parent ask for an IEP meeting? What is “enough” to warrant parents pulling the entire IEP team together?
Holding a Student IEP Is No Bother, It’s Their Job!
Often parents are pretty nice, tolerant people. They are aware that IEP meetings are big, and take the time of many professionals. So, some parents don’t want to “bother” the IEP team members with “small” matters, like a student’s IEP needs.
These school people with degrees are important after all, right?
School staff also may make parents feel bad for calling IEP meetings. They have to go through the trouble (sigh) of calling many people together and getting substitutes for teachers, etc. This “time waster” guilt trip placed on special needs parents has the purpose of discouraging parents from calling IEP meetings.
Parents need to remember that serving students is literally the reason school staff have their jobs. The speech and language therapist is there ONLY to help special needs students. The resource teacher would not have a job if they were not supposed to help special needs students.
The student IS the client of the schools, and school staff often forget this. Parents should not.
The school staff and their schedules are not more important than the IEP student and their needs! IEP meetings are no trouble and parents can ask for one any time they want.
Times Parents Should Request an IEP Meeting Can Vary
Schools won’t often step up and set IEP meetings unless under legal obligation or an emergency occurs, so if needed, a parent must request one.
Per Education Code 56343(c): An IEP must be held when: “The parent or teacher requests a meeting to develop, review, or revise the individualized education program.”
Whether a parent should request an IEP will depend on the student, their life and their needs. IEP meetings are to review and change services, supports, accommodations and provide other items to help the special needs student. If that purpose is remembered, it will be easy for parents to know when an IEP should be requested.
Here are some times when parents may want to convene this important student meeting:
New Disability Discovered
IEP students can be qualified under a variety of categories for an IEP, such as autism, traumatic brain injury or hearing impairment. Often students have only one qualifying category listed in their IEP. However, students can have (and may need) a secondary or even a third category of impairment listed in their IEP, for which they can receive services.
If a student has one disabling condition in their IEP, and they develop a new disabling condition which may also qualify for IEP services, the parent may want to bring the student’s IEP team together to talk about it.
For example, a student is qualified as having a severe orthopedic impairment but now has an intellectual disability. Totally new and different services may need to be put in place and an IEP meeting should be convened. At the IEP, the team can add the new category of impairment along with services and supports to address the identified needs.
Outside Assessment to Review
Often parents obtain assessments outside the school setting from a medical provider, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, behaviorist or other qualified provider. If a new assessment report has student supports which need to be implemented in school, a meeting can be requested.
At the student’s IEP meeting, the team can add any new accommodations, services and goals needed to address the new category of impairment.
Student is Struggling
Sometimes an IEP is put in place and the student is still having significant difficulties in class after the IEP has been implemented for some time. Maybe the student is still not getting most of their work turned in. Or, perhaps the student is having repeated behavior issues and their behavior plan needs to be adjusted.
If the current plan is failing, this may be a time to call an IEP team together. The team can review what is occurring and discuss what can be tweaked on the student’s IEP plan to help them succeed.
More Services Needed
Even if no dramatic issues are apparent, a parent may notice that a student needs new, different, or increased services. Maybe the parent has noticed that the student is not gaining from the one time a month meeting with the speech and language therapist or is regressing in certain skills. If the parent thinks the student needs additional services, an IEP meeting can be requested to discuss.
Traumatic or Major Event
Sometimes a student has a large situation occur in their life which needs to be addressed by the special education team to support the student.
Perhaps the student was just suspended for touching a peer inappropriately or got in a fight. Maybe the student is facing a parental divorce and has checked out in school. This can be reviewed by the team to develop support for the student as needed.
IEP Not Being Implemented
A parent can ask that certain teachers (who may not be implementing the IEP) be specifically invited to the meeting. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee which general education teacher will attend.
If a neglectful teacher does not arrive, the parent can schedule a meeting with them outside the IEP process.
How Soon Do IEP Meetings Need to Be Scheduled?
For students already qualified for an IEP, a meeting should be convened within 30 days of a parent’s written request. This excludes days between school sessions (such as summer vacation) and vacations longer than 5 days.
Michelle Ball is an attorney for students who advocates for students across California. As an education lawyer since 1995, she has seen a lot and can guide special needs parents in Placerville, Auburn, Roseville, Lodi, Hanford, and many other locales.