By Julie Bawden-Davis
When a school in Hawaii failed to include the parent of a special education student in a meeting to amend the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), the parent sued and the court ruled in his favor. The same scenario could occur at your educational institution if you don’t have an effective IEP amendment protocol in place.
If a student’s IEP requires amending due to a change in academic status, it’s important that your learning institution follows standard procedures to ensure those amendments are expediently made; otherwise, you could open your school up to unwelcome legal action.
Keep in mind that once an IEP is put in place, it’s not a static document. Just as a child’s educational path changes, so can his or her IEP. The responsibility to keep the IEP up-to-date and effectively serving each child’s educational needs falls on the educational institution.
IEP General Requirements
At a minimum, IEP meetings should be held on a yearly basis. At that time, a thorough review is required to ensure that the goals identified in the original IEP are being achieved. If some goals are falling short or new issues have arisen, all circumstances should be noted, along with amendments and revisions that will enable the child to meet identified educational goals.
Parent involvement is important to the success of an IEP, and parents should be present at all scheduled meetings. Their presence should also be documented.
Steps to Making Amendments
Amendments to an IEP can be made by the entire IEP team at an in-person meeting or via a conference call or video conference, providing all participants agree with the method of meeting.
Although amendment meetings that arise in between annual meetings aren’t always required, and changes can be made to the IEP with verbal agreement from parents, it is advisable to conduct the meetings anyway. This helps ensure that all parties involved understand the amendments. Misunderstandings and feelings of lack of involvement or control over the process among parents may result in discontentment and increase the likelihood of legal consequences.
The following should occur as a result of an amendment meeting:
- A written document created to amend the IEP. The changes should be made in the amendment section of the IEP, or the changes can be added as an attachment to the original IEP.
- Members of the school’s IEP team and parent(s) are informed of all changes.
- The parents receive a copy of the amended IEP within 30 days of the date the amendments were made. It is advised that everyone involved in the IEP process receive written documentation of the amendments.
- Teachers and other service providers of the child who aren’t a part of the IEP team are apprised of their responsibilities regarding implementing the amended changes. These instructions should include all specific accommodations and identify the support required to implement the changes.
- The annual meeting should be held as scheduled. Amendments in no way change the date of the required annual meeting.
As these recommendations regarding amending student IEPs illustrate, the more thorough your educational institution is at taking care of amendments, the more likely you are to protect your school from lawsuits and ensure that special education students receive the highest quality education possible.
The information provided in these materials is intended to be general and advisory in nature. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) will be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of 4/20/15.