Increasing the dialogue among stakeholders in New Jersey’s special education system

The Office of Special Education Programs, OSEP, issued a response last year to a letter seeking clarification on a school district’s options when a parent brings an attorney to an IEP meeting without giving the district prior notice. The letter addressed two questions: (1) whether the school district can prevent the IEP meeting from proceeding and, (2) whether the IEP meeting could be postponed until the school district had the opportunity to bring its own attorney.

In Letter to Andel, OSEP underscores that IDEA does not require parents to give prior notice to the district of the parent’s attorney attending the IEP meeting. Only school districts are obligated to give notice before bringing an attorney to an IEP meeting. In addition, either the parent or a school district may bring any individual that has knowledge or expertise regarding the child to the IEP meeting. A school district that tries to prevent an IEP meeting from occurring because a parent brought an attorney or advocate would be interfering with the parent’s rights under these regulations. The letter notes, however, that although it is not required, the parent should provide the school district with advance notice if an attorney will be present.

In regard to the second question, OSEP determined that a school district might reschedule the IEP meeting as long as the parent agrees and the student’s right to free appropriate public education is not delayed or denied. If, however, a parent insists on the IEP meeting occurring as scheduled, the school district would have to proceed and cannot prevent the parent’s attorney from being present and participating.

Finally, the letter reiterated OSEP’s longstanding position that attorneys present at IEP meetings may cause an adversarial atmosphere and, therefore, OSEP recommends that either party not invite attorneys.

Read the letter here.

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