NYS SRO Rebukes School District for Giving Parent the Brush Off
A recent decision from State Review Officer Justyn P. Bates caught my eye because it illustrates the importance of documenting requests to an IEP team to guard against the careless disregard of a parent’s rights during an IEP meeting.
In this case, the IEP team held a meeting in August 2016 at which the parent expressed concerns about the program recommended for her child. The parent then obtained an independent educational evaluation and requested that the IEP team reconvene to consider the new evaluation. Parent also requested that the psychologist that conducted the evaluation attend the meeting.
The IEP team met on Oct. 7, 2016, however it did not invite the psychologist to participate. When parent asked the IEP team whether it intended to call the psychologist to participate by phone, a team member stated that “we’ll call him if we need him.” Simply put - the parent got the brush off. The IEP team did not recommend any changes to the student’s IEP following the meeting.
In decision No. 17-078, SRO Bates concluded that the school district’s actions denied the parents a FAPE. Under the IDEA, the parents are entitled to invite individuals having knowledge or special expertise regarding their student to the IEP meeting. Whether the individual has the “special expertise” required by the statute is up to the parent, not the other members of the IEP team. Here, the parents specifically requested that the psychologist participate in the meeting and the purpose of the meeting was to review the psychologist’s evaluation. The SRO therefore concluded that the IEP team’s actions denied the parents meaningful participation in the meeting.
The court rejected the district’s contention that the parent’s request was not clear, as multiple emails were introduced that confirmed the parent’s intent to include the psychologist at the meeting.
A less careful parent, however, may not have prevailed. In arriving at her decision, the SRO cited the multiple emails in evidence in which parents requested that the psychologist attend the meeting. The SRO distinguished this from other cases in which it was not clear whether the parents had requested an individual attend the IEP.
So, parents – document everything! It may save you from getting the brush off at your child’s next IEP meeting.