As you can see many of the Districts’ Attorneys may being overstepping their role greatly in the IEP process especially the usual suspects based on the authority cited below. This gives even greater wait to the recording and when a District’s Attorney acts this way to have it reflected in the notes. Please see below.
A family’s attorney may attend an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting as a representative of the family and provide legal advice and advocacy for the family. The attorney’s role is to ensure that the family’s rights are protected and that the student receives an appropriate education that meets their unique needs.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a family’s attorney can participate in the IEP meeting and provide input and recommendations for the student’s education. However, the attorney cannot make decisions for the family or the IEP team, as that responsibility lies with the IEP team (Letter to Texas Attorney General, 23 IDELR 697 (OSEP 1995)).
In addition, the attorney may help the family understand their rights and the options available to them, such as mediation or due process, if they disagree with the school district’s decisions regarding the student’s education.
Letter to Texas Attorney General, 23 IDELR 697 (OSEP 1995)
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Retrieved from https://sites.ed.gov/idea/
The “Letter to Pennsylvania Department of Education, 55 IDELR 246 (OSEP 2010)” provides guidance on the role of school district attorneys in IEP meetings. In the letter, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) responded to a question from the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding the attendance of attorneys at IEP meetings.
The letter states that school district attorneys may attend IEP meetings but their role is to provide legal advice to the agency and not to represent the agency. The letter further clarifies that attorneys should not make decisions or participate in the development of the student’s IEP, as those responsibilities belong to the IEP team.
Here is an excerpt from the letter: “Although IDEA does not address the specific role of attorneys in IEP meetings, attorneys may attend IEP meetings to provide legal advice to the agency, but not to represent the agency. The role of the attorney is to advise the agency representative regarding the legal requirements of IDEA and State law, not to speak on behalf of the agency.”
In addition to the letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are other statutory documents, legal opinions, letters, and rulings that address the role of attorneys in IEP meetings. For example, the IDEA regulations state that the school district must ensure that the IEP team includes individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student, and that the school district may invite other individuals to attend the IEP meeting if they have knowledge or expertise regarding the student (34 CFR § 300.321).
Furthermore, in a guidance document titled “Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Eligible for Transportation,” the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explains that attorneys may attend IEP meetings but should not participate in the decision-making process or speak on behalf of the school district (OSERS, 2017).
As for other sources that address this issue, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has issued several letters of clarification regarding the role of attorneys in IEP meetings. For example, in a 2006 letter to a parent advocate, OSEP stated that “an attorney for the school district may attend IEP meetings to provide legal advice to the school district, but may not participate as a member of the IEP team” (Letter to Mr. Levy, 46 IDELR 50 (OSEP 2006)).
In terms of court decisions, there are cases that have addressed the issue of attorney participation in IEP meetings. One such case is R.B. v. Mastery Charter School, 762 F.3d 362 (3d Cir. 2014), where the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the presence of an attorney at an IEP meeting did not necessarily deprive the student of a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of their IEP. However, the court emphasized that the attorney’s role should be limited to providing legal advice and that the district representative must be the one to make decisions on behalf of the district.
Overall, while school district attorneys may attend IEP meetings, their role is to provide legal advice to the district and not to participate in the decision-making process or act as a member of the IEP team.