From: DOE – Assistant Superintendent of Special Education
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 1:20 PM
Cc: Haymes, Patricia (DOE)
Subject: Advocates at Special Education Meetings
TO: Special Education Directors
FROM: John Eisenberg, Assistant Superintendent
SUBJECT: Advocates at Special Education Meetings
It has come to our attention that a substantial number of local school divisions may have written policies or meeting protocols in place that prohibit special education advocates from speaking at special education meetings, including IEP meetings, eligibility meetings and manifestation determination reviews. Rather, the advocate is told that he or she may confer privately with his or her client, but that only the parent is permitted to speak in the meeting. We believe that this is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and its corresponding Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia. In particular, the Regulations state that a parent has the discretion to invite individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding their child, to be a member of the IEP team. Moreover the determination of knowledge or expertise is made by the parent. There is no exclusionary language within IDEA or the Virginia Regulations that limit any team member’s right to speak at an IEP or eligibility meeting.
We ask that you please distinguish this practice from our advice that local school divisions have the responsibility to ensure that the parent understands the discussion at the table, and is providing informed consent. In addition, nothing in the Regulations prohibits local school divisions from imposing reasonable meeting expectations, such as treating IEP team members with respect and courtesy. When these norms break down, whether on the part of the parent, advocate or school personnel, the local school division representative certainly may call for a break, or adjourn the meeting.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Pat Haymes, Director, Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services, at (804) 786-0116 or email@example.com.