An Individualized Education Program (IEP) states what your child’s IEP team – including you – believes is necessary for your child to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
FAPE means an IEP that provides what the child needs to make progress toward ambitious goals. FAPE is not about the circumstance of COVID-19. If your child’s needs have not changed, the IEP might not need to change. The IEP team might need to be creative about how the IEP services are delivered because of remote learning or social distancing in the school building. But a change in the way services are delivered is not the same as a change in the services themselves.
Be careful about agreeing to change an IEP that reduces services or accommodations! Agreeing to a change in an IEP that reduces services or accommodations would create a new agreement about what the child needs to receive their FAPE.
Distance Learning Plans
Distance Learning Plans (DLPs) were invented in March of 2020 in response to COVID-19. They do not exist in the Special Education laws. The state told districts they cannot keep using DLPs in the school year beginning September/October of 2020. Instead any changes to services and accommodations need to be made through an IEP Amendment. This does not mean your child’s IEP should be amended.
Amendments are a team decision
If your district says the IEP must be amended, this is wrong. Amendments are a team decision. The district can’t change the IEP on its own without a meeting. COVID-19 has not changed this.
Although an IEP can be amended without a meeting, this is only possible if you, the parent, agree to the change, in writing, and you receive a copy of the written agreement document. Before you agree to changes, think about whether the change would still allow your child to receive FAPE.
Request a meeting
You might not be sure if you want to agree to a change or not. Or, you might know you do not agree to a change. In either case, request a meeting.
You have the right to an IEP meeting and for the meeting to be scheduled within 30 days and at a time and place you agree to. You have a right to a meeting with the full IEP team. If the school won’t schedule a meeting, they need to give you a written explanation for their refusal.
- Request the meeting in writing (including by email).
- Your IEP meeting may be in person, over the phone, or by video call.
- Districts must have your written agreement to excuse team members from a meeting.
- It is the district’s job to take whatever action is necessary to make sure you understand what is happening at the meeting.
Tips for the IEP Meeting
- Set the agenda. Decide ahead of time what you want to talk about at the meeting. Share this at the start of the meeting. If the district wants to make changes to different parts of the IEP, you will want to make sure time is allocated to each part (such as changes to goals, to present levels of performance, to the services page(s), or to the accommodations pages). You do not want to get to the end of the meeting and find you have not had time to talk about all the things you wanted to talk about.
- Ask questions. Why do they think this amendment is needed? If the reasons for the change are not related to your child’s specific circumstances, such as if they are related to a staffing or scheduling issue, then make sure the change does not deprive your child of FAPE.
- Be a problem solver. Make suggestions about creative ways services could be provided without your child losing access to the services and accommodations in the IEP.
- Be proactive. If there are different changes you want to see, be prepared to explain what changes you want, and why.
- Be clear if you disagree. If the IEP team cannot come to agreement about a change, then the representative for the district (the LEA Rep) will be allowed to make the decision. If this happens and the LEA Rep makes a decision you do not like, state that you disagree, and state why you disagree. Ask the person taking minutes to read to you what they have written down about your disagreement. Make a correction if they did not write down what you said correctly.
- Take notes or record your meeting. It is helpful for you to have your own notes of what was said at the meeting. However, if you are worried about paying attention to the conversation and taking notes at the same time, you can record the meeting. You can then listen to the recording later and take notes from the recording.
After the meeting
Did you come to agreement? Did the LEA Rep make a decision you did not agree with?
Either way the district needs to provide you with a Prior Written Notice (PWN /Form 7 / Form 7A) that explains the change, the reasons for the change, other options considered, and why those options were rejected. And, it needs to state when the change will be made.
If you disagree with the IEP amendment after the meeting you can continue to work with the district to try to find a solution. You can also use dispute resolution options. You can request Mediation, file an Administrative Complaint, or file for Due Process.