As a parent and special educational advocate for over 20 years I get frustrated by the treatment of parents by school personnel. This frustration becomes acute at individual educational plan (IEP) meetings when I experience the intimidation and retaliation that many parents also experience. I was recently advocating in a southern Illinois town for a young man with Autism when my frustration began to bubble over. After I calmed myself down after the meeting, I began writing a letter to the special education personnel in the school district where I attended the IEP meeting, for the parents. I documented things that were said, the nasty attitudes of the special education personnel, and the federal special education laws that I found were not complied with. I was pleasantly surprised when the next meeting seemed to be less contentious and more productive.
I realized that IEP summary letters could be used by all parents to document things that happen at meetings. You could document comments made by a special education person, you could document denials for needed services, or violations of IDEA 2004. Documentation is critical to win any dispute between yourself and special education personnel. This type of letter can be used at a due process hearing or a complaint to win a dispute with your school district.
Below are 9 things to include in your summary letter:
1. Name and address of your school districts special education director.
2. Date of the letter.
3. Begin your letter with “This letter is to clarify and discuss what happened at the IEP meeting of ___________(Date).
4. Use quotes as much as possible; “Mr. R. stated that ESY can only be given to a child that has regressed after a break or summer vacation.” This is not consistent with IDEA 2004, and the summary letter allows you to document what was said and the noncompliance with federal special education law.
5. Any important discussions that were not included in the IEP notes; such as your child’s behavior or specific related or special education services that you believe your child needs. Readdress your position on services that your child needs that the school refuses to provide.
6. Discuss what services and placement that you agreed upon, and also any services or placement that you did not agree upon.
7. Ask for PWN (prior written notice) on any service or placement that the school wants to give your child that you disagree with, or any service or placement that you believe your child needs and the school refuses to give them.
8. As much as possible quote IDEA 2004 or State Special Education Law to document any violations that the school personnel committed during the IEP meeting.
9. Type your name and address and below this place your child’s name, birth date, grade and school of attendance. Include this statement: Please keep a copy of this letter in my child’s educational record per FERPA (FERPA is the federal educational records law).
At the beginning of the meeting set a blank piece of paper next to you. Use this paper to put anything that is said or done, that you would like to put in your letter. Add an IEP summary letter to your other advocacy skills, and you may begin to see positive changes in your child’s IEP meetings. I have said for many years that schools get away with the horrible treatment of parents because of lack of accountability; this letter could force accountability on your school district, and change all that for you! Good Luck.