Effectively Advocate on Behalf of Your Child at Special Education Meetings

October 26, 2015


What can I do about being intimidated at special education meetings? I recently requested that my son’s school district convene a special education meeting, commonly called an IEP meeting, to discuss his special education program and services. At the meeting, thirteen people from the school district were present. I felt intimidated and unprepared. Over my objections, the school district tape recorded the meeting.


In order to advocate more effectively for your child at special education meetings, prepare for them beforehand. Review your child’s most recent Individualized Education Program (IEP), if your child has one. Your child’s IEP is a written document that acts the roadmap as to how the school district will provide your child with a free appropriate public education. The process of developing the IEP, with parents as full and equal participants with school personnel, determines exactly what program and services your child will receive. You might draft key portions of the IEP ahead of the meeting.


Contribute to the meeting by providing the persons in attendance a summary of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, levels of functioning, and special needs. During the meeting, state any concerns you may have for enhancing your child’s education.


You have the right to bring people to the meeting with knowledge or special expertise regarding your child. The school district has a similar right. You might take a friend, relative, regional center case manager, or attorney.  It is up to you to determine whether the person you invite to the meeting has the requisite knowledge or special expertise. In other words, if you think your next-door neighbor has knowledge about your child, you can invite your neighbor to the meeting.


Before you sign the IEP, take it home and read it to make sure that what is included in the IEP is what was agreed to at the meeting. By taking these various steps you will increase the likelihood that your child will receive an appropriate education.


As for tape recording an IEP meeting, in California, a school district has a legal right use a tape recorder only if it provides the parent with at least twenty-four hours advance notice. Also, a school district cannot use a tape recorder if the parent objects. A parent has a right to review and inspect tape recordings made by a school district, request that they be amended, and challenge them at a hearing. Since the school district used a tape recorder despite your objections, and the school district appears to have failed to provide you with advance notice, the school district violated legal rights that are designed to protect you.


If you have concerns about your child’s special education or whether your child should receive special education, consider consulting an attorney.


Martha Millar Law

California special education and special needs lawyer




Please note: The information in this article should not be construed as legal advice, but is general information only. Please do not depend on this information in place of legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney.

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