Last Updated on February 12, 2024 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 wonder who has to attend a student IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting. Can a parent make a certain teacher, psychologist, or other school staff member attend an IEP meeting?
Maybe, but generally, not so much.
Okay, so how can parents get certain school staff to a student’s IEP?
What School Personnel MUST Attend an IEP Meeting?
IEP attendance may seem somewhat random, but it is not. Schools are guided by special education laws. They also will often do the bare minimum required.
- One general education teacher
- Special education teacher(or special education provider) of the student
- Representative who knows the services, resources, specialized and general education options available
- Individuals who can interpret assessment results, if any (e.g. psychologist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, etc.)
These are the bare minimum of who MUST attend an IEP from the school and/or school district.
Who MUST Also Be Invited?
Parents also must be invited to a student IEP meeting, but ultimately, if a school fails to get a parent’s attendance after valid attempts, the IEP may proceed without them.
When a student is transitioning to adulthood or out of high school and/or the meeting is about their transition, the student must also be invited to the IEP meeting. Usually this transition meeting occurs the last semester of their education.
The student can also be invited as appropriate, but ultimately, if the student is a minor, their attendance is up to the parent.
Can a Parent MAKE the School Bring Particular Staff Members?
No, a parent cannot make a school bring a particular teacher, psychologist, aide, or other specific people to an IEP, unless they fall within the mandates above.
However, a parent CAN request that certain school staff be invited to the meeting. For example, if there are issues in science, the parent can ask that the science teacher attend. If the school brings a math teacher instead, did they violated IEP laws? No, not technically.
A parent can also ask that, if only one general education teacher will attend, that that person is the science teacher and hope that the school complies.
What About a Certain School Psychologist of a Parent’s Choosing?
Can a parent ask for a certain psychologist attend, such as Joe Blow, who is in the District office? They can ask, but can be denied.
Parents can ask to switch psychologists or providers, and perhaps the school district will grant that request (particularly if there are good reasons which are documented). If the switch is made, that new psychologist would be the one to attend IEP meetings.
If not, the psychologist (or other provider) assigned to the student will be the one to attend.
So, no, unfortunately a parent cannot MAKE a school district bring a certain staff member. So long as the school complies with the minimum legal requirements, they can refuse this request.
HOW to Get the Staff a Parent Wants to Attend a Student’s IEP?
So, how does a parent get a school staff member they want to attend a student IEP? There are a few ways.
First, a parent can simply ask if that person can attend. For example, can the science teacher just attend? A parent can ask the IEP coordinator and express the reasons it is vital for the student, such as they are failing science, the teacher is not implementing accommodations, etc.
Second, a parent can ask that staff member if they would be willing to attend (if they are not being asked by the school). For example, if the aide may not be invited, but the parent wants them to attend, they can ask the aide if they could still come. Maybe they will.
Parents can also politely solicit the staff member’s input for the IEP via a written submission. Perhaps the psychologist, staff member or aide would send them a communication on how the student is doing and their recommendations?
Third, parents can ask for a change of personnel prior to the student’s IEP. Parents can, if they have valid reasons, ask for a change of staff, so the new person can attend IEP meetings.
For example, if parents think the psychologist is discriminating against the student, they can ask to switch psychologists. It may be worth a shot. The better the arguments, the better the chances.
Unfortunately, it may be tough to get specific people ordered to an IEP by a school.
Parents Can Bring Professionals They Want to the Student’s IEP
Even if parents can’t control who the school brings to an IEP, they CAN control people THEY bring.
If parents don’t like the people the school is bringing, they can add to the IEP team by bringing their own student IEP advisors.
For example, if parents don’t like the school psychologist, they can bring an outside educational psychologist to add information and opinions.
If they think the social worker at the school is not honest, they can bring the student’s outside therapist to opine on what the student needs.
And of course, parents can always bring an attorney😉…
Michelle Ball has been assisting special education parents as an attorney since 1995. As a student lawyer, she attends IEPs, reviews proposed IEP documents, and advises and helps students in many ways. She can assist throughout California, in Sacramento, Roseville, Elk Grove, San Diego, Fresno, Yuba City and many other locales.