The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes the legal framework by which students with formally identified special needs receive the assistance they need to succeed. According to IDEA, every student has the right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). This legal concept means that every student, regardless of his or her ability, is entitled to receive education that prepares them for independent living, further education and employment. To ensure each child receives a FAPE, students with special needs require Individualized Education Plans (IEP), which must be custom-tailored to each individual’s needs and goals. For those earning their Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education, learning how to hold productive IEP meetings is essential.
The Basic Role of School Administrators
School administrators on the IEP team may be principals, assistant principals or directors of special services. Any person acting as an administrator at an IEP meeting should have the capacity to authorize funding for the services and accommodations that students need. Depending on your specific position at the school, as an administrator, your role is most likely a supportive one at the meeting. You will:
- Act as a meeting facilitator
- Bring knowledge of general education curriculum
- Identify and interpret relevant testing data
- Design and/or implement the student’s IEP-mandated services
- Authorize funds for services
The Responsibilities of School Administrators
If you work in a smaller, more rural school, you may have a more hands-on role on the IEP team. You’ll need to ensure that organization and preparation for the meeting are completed in a timely manner. These include the following steps:
- Ensure that the parents receive the draft of the proposed IEP before the meeting
- Schedule the IEP meeting on a timetable that complies with IDEA requirements
- Arrange for all IEP team members to be present at the meeting
- Confer with the IEP team members to develop a meeting agenda and to gain an understanding of the student’s current abilities and needs
Best Practices for IEP Meetings
Federal and state regulations require all IEP team members to work toward a general consensus. It’s essential for each party to take a collaborative and cooperative approach to the meeting. As a school administrator, you can strike a collaborative tone right from the start. Ensure that each team member, including the parents, has a fair amount of time necessary to express concerns and suggestions. It’s essential that the parents and student in particular walk away from the meeting with the understanding that their voices have been heard, and that their input has been central in the shaping of the IEP document.
The Critical Errors to Avoid
Of course, school administrators and teachers must ensure that their actions are in full compliance with IDEA and any state regulations. But quite often, something as simple as a slip of the tongue can lead to a summer mired in due process hearings. Hold productive IEP meetings by avoiding the following statements:
- “We do this for every student.” (This implies denial of an individualized plan.)
- “The district can’t afford that equipment.” (The U.S. Supreme Court prohibits the use of cost as a factor in denying special education services.)
- “The board won’t authorize that.” (The board is obligated to provide anything included in the IEP.)
Enhance your understanding of special education in the modern world by earning a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education. You’ll explore special education law, ethical stewardship, and cross-cultural competencies. Use the Request More Information link to find out about becoming a doctoral student at Grand Canyon University.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.