|Congress' has repeatedly found that "the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by … strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home.” §601(C)(5). IEP meetings are the primary venue for parental participation. The following issues have stifled parent ability to be full partners in the process and should be corrected:
- Provide Useful, Simple Interpretive Guidance to Parents, and Making Clear Parents are Equal IEP Team Members and the Administrators at IEP Meeting must Have Authority to Commit Resources.
Appendix A to the 1999 regulations provided interpretive guidance that was of great assistance to parents. 34 C.F.R. § Pt. 300, App. A. In a simple Q&A format; it provided information about the role of parents whom it clearly stated were "equal” members of the IEP team; and answered questions about parental participation and other important issues. But Appendix A was eliminated from the 2006 regulations and the current Regulation commentary shifts the playing field in favor of school districts. Only when parents are equal partners in the process can children receive the educational benefits that Congress intended. In 1999, Appendix A had made clear that role and OSEP should issue similar guidance today.
- Reverse Commentary and Letters Impairing Parent's Right to Invite Related Services Professionals and Other IEP Team Members to IEP Meetings.
IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B)(vi) and the regulations, 30 C.F.R. § 300.321(a)(6) and (c) allow parents and school district--at their discretion--to include on the IEP team individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the child, "including related services personnel as appropriate.” The decision is made by the party doing the inviting. But in the regulations commentary, the Department of Education unilaterally opined—without basis--that parents cannot to require other LEA employees not designated by the school to come to IEP meetings and that the school district can determine whether they will attend. 71 Fed. Reg. 46674. See also Letter to Anonymous (2003), Letter to Byrd (2003). OSEP should retract the commentary and letters, as contrary to the regulation and statute.
- Clarifying Letter to Anonymous (2008), in which OSEP claimed that IDEA does not establish any particular time frames for obtaining consent to an evaluation and OSEP would not impose one. This letter should be reversed because it inappropriately allows schools to undermine the 60-day deadline.
- OSEP's Interpretation Eliminating Stay-Put for Children Transitioning from Part C to Part B is Inappropriate and Should Be Reversed (Pardini).
In Pardini v. Allegeheny Intermediate Unit, 420 F.3d 181 (3d Cir. 2005), the Court held that the Part C placement is stay-put when a child transitions into Part B special education. Continuing services while disagreements are worked out preserves the child’s ability to continue to learn, progress, and improve. But OSEP has rejected this interpretation. In the Part B regulations, it did so without notice and comment, simply making the change in the final version of 34 C.F.R. § 300.518. Consequently, parents were taken by surprise, lacking the opportunity to comment and oppose the concept. (OSEP eventually provided notice and comment for the change by including it in the Part C NPRM; the final Part C regulations are pending with OMB with a final deadline in late January 2009.) The danger in OSEP’s approach is that it disrupts the child’s ability to learn and progress and to have a smooth transition. Moreover, because there is no stay-put alternative other than Part C for three year olds (the child cannot simply be placed into regular education) the regulation effectively gives them no stay-put rights. This is wrong and must be changed.
- Retract Letter to Mamas (2004) and Make Clear Parents' and Experts' Rights to Observe in the Classroom.
Parents and their experts often need to observe the classroom. To fully participate as team members they should have the right to observe the child's education in progress, a proposed placement, whether accommodations and services are being provided, and other matters.
COPAA is actively working on Legislative fixes to the foregoing issues.