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Expert Q&A

Can a school district forbid parents from meeting with teachers to discuss an upcoming IEP meeting?

What would be the best response to a school district saying that a parent should not be meeting with teachers to discuss (among other issues) accommodations for an upcoming IEP meeting? What should you do if the case manager has canceled your meetings with teachers before an IEP meeting? Is there a good way to change case managers in this instance?

Dear Jan:

There are no federal rules (and generally no state-specific rules) governing or limiting the circumstances under which parents and teachers can discuss issues concerning a student. As a general matter, parents and teachers are and should be free to talk about any issue at any time if they mutually wish to participate in the conversation.

If either party does not want to participate in the conversation, that is their option, unless the conversation is part of the standard procedure for teacher/parent communication. For example, a teacher must participate in conversations with parents at parent/teacher conferences, if the school uses this procedure for sharing information at specific times during the year. A teacher may also choose to call or receive calls from parents to discuss any issue on an ad hoc basis.

In addition, under some circumstances, the IEP or Section 504 plan may specify that the staff generally or a particular staff person will share information with the parents under specified circumstances, such as a weekly call about homework completion, a plan to call whenever there is a behavioral incident, a monthly team meeting, or the like.

However, schools may adopt policies which set forth how or under what circumstances communication should take place, which may limit the timing or frequency of communications (unless otherwise specified in the IEP or 504 plan). That said, whatever policies the school chooses to adopt must be shared with all parents and implemented in a consistent and non-discriminatory or punitive way.

In other words, it is inappropriate for an individual staff member to unilaterally make a decision that parents’ access to teachers should be limited or restricted, whether in anticipation of an upcoming IEP meeting or otherwise. As a practical matter, such communication should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, and can help to facilitate more efficient and productive IEP meetings.

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