CASE NO. 2023030673
Student v. SAN JUAN UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Counsel for Student: Sheila Bayne
Counsel for District: Dee Anna Hassanpour and Matejka Handley
Representative for District: Robert Morgan
ALJ: Penelope Pahl
Date of Decision: July 10, 2023
Significant areas of law: General Education Teacher is a required participant in IEP meeting.
- Did District deny Student a FAPE by failing to have a general education teacher present at the IEP meeting?
FACTS OF THE CASE:
- Student was eleven (11) years old and eligible for special education under the category of intellectual disability.
- District DENIED Student a FAPE by failing to have a general education teacher present at the IEP meeting.
- An IEP team must include not less than one regular education teacher of the child, if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment. (20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B)(ii); 34 C.F.R. § 300.321 (a)(2); Ed Code § 56341, subd. (b)(2); Ed. Code § 56341.1 subd. (e).)
- A member of the IEP team shall not be required to attend an IEP meeting, in whole or in part, if the parent of the child with a disability and the local educational agency agree, in writing, that the attendance of such member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in that meeting. (Ed. Code § 56341, subd. (f).)
- Both state and federal statutes require that the excusal of a required IEP team member, due to the lack of need for their participation, be in writing and signed by the Parent. (20 U.S.C. (d)(1)(C)(iii); Ed. Code § 56341, subd. (f).) However, in this case no such excusal signed by Parent was available on record. Hence, the absence of the general education teacher was not legally excused.
- Student’s continued level of general education placement was required to be discussed as part of the continuum of placement options, even if ultimately the decision was to maintain Student’s current levels of general education participation.
- The general education teacher’s perspective was a required part of the team discussion to evaluate educational benefits of placement in a general education class; the non-academic benefits of such placement; the effect Student would have on the teacher and children in the general education class; and the costs of mainstreaming the student.
- The general education teacher was also required to participate in the discussion of any issues regarding behavior supports, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications and necessary supports for school personnel that would be provided for Student, to allow him to advance toward attaining his annual goals and to be educated and participate with other Students, both with disabilities and without. (20 U.S.C. § 1414 (d)(1)((A)(IV) and (d)(3)(C); Ed. Code § 56341(b)(2).)
- Any excusal without a general education teacher’s written input into the development of the IEP, delivered to each IEP team member prior to the meeting is invalid. (20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(1)(C)(ii)(II); 34 C.F.R. § 300.321 (e)(2)(ii); Ed Code § 56341(g).)
- Parent had second thoughts about Student’s placement in the independent living skills class after consenting to the IEP. Those concerns might have been eliminated – or possibly supported – by a general education teacher. Hence, Parent did not have the benefit of a discussion that included all required participants. His opportunity to participate in the IEP development process was seriously infringed due to non-availability of the general education teacher.
- District is ordered to convene an IEP team meeting that includes all statutorily required participants, within 10 school days of the beginning of the school year, to develop an IEP that considers the input of all team members. The IEP is ordered convened within 10 days school days of the beginning of the school year to avoid further delay in completing Student’s IEP, which has been delayed due to the improperly convened IEP.
- District is also ordered to provide one hour of group training, either in-person or virtual, regarding the requirements for IEP team meetings. This training must include all persons who participated in Student’s IEP development in any capacity. The training shall specifically include the rules regarding who is required to participate on an IEP team; the circumstances under which a usually necessary participant is not required to participate on an IEP team; the proper method, and timing, of excusing a necessary participant; and the further reporting obligations of a necessary IEP team participant to the remaining IEP team members upon being excused. This training shall not be provided by a member of District’s staff.