Schools and families continue to meet virtually to discuss special education services during the closures related to the coronavirus pandemic. Here are tips to help family members prepare for remote meetings to discuss a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), a Section 504 Plan, evaluation for special education services or something else related to a special education student’s needs and learning program.
For more comprehensive information, see PAVE’s article, “IEP on Pause? How to Support Continuous Learning with School Buildings Closed.”
- Determine a regular communication plan with the school. That might include email, telephone, text, web-based meetings, U.S. mail, packet delivery by school bus… whatever works for regularly checking in.
- Family caregivers can request meetings. PAVE provides a template to formalize the request: Sample Letter to Request an IEP Meeting. Included with the letter template is detail about who is required to attend IEP meetings, and those requirements have not changed.
- The Special Education Continuous Learning Plan is provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to support but not replace the IEP during the national crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the form is a sample meeting agenda.
- Consider confidentiality and privacy issues. Ask school staff to describe how privacy and confidentiality are protected through a suggested meeting platform, and make sure to have any passwords or PINs ready to use when you log in or call into a meeting.
- Before a meeting, ask to sign any necessary paperwork or releases to have special education records sent electronically via email. Special education records can include meeting notifications, IEP or Section 504 documents, assessments, progress reports, Prior Written Notices that describe meetings and planned actions, or other materials that contribute to the program review and goals.
- Review records before the meeting and write down questions to ask during the meeting. PAVE provides a Parent Handout Form or, for self-advocates, a Student Handout Form, that can help organize concerns and questions. Another version of a Parent Input Form is provided by the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
- Carefully review goals, services, accommodations, modifications and consider how they might apply or need to be adjusted for current circumstances. Think creatively and prepare to collaborate and request expertise from school staff. Pay special attention to the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. These present levels statements, within the first pages of the IEP document, describe how the student is doing and where there are challenges. Wrightslaw.com provides tools specifically to support parents in reviewing IEP present levels in preparation for a meeting during COVID-19.
- Consider whether the student will attend the meeting. A student who is 14 or older is invited as part of the state’s Pathways to Graduation planning. PAVE provides an article: Attention Students: Lead your own IEP meetings and take charge of your future.
- Communicate early—before the scheduled meeting—to request updates about progress, a student’s present levels of performance, or other concerns. If family caregivers build a handout for the meeting, that can be submitted ahead of time to ensure that this information is part of the agenda.
- Family members can request a practice session to test the technology. Part of that training might include practice sharing the screen to make sure everyone will be able to view important documents during the formal meeting.
- As with in-person meetings, family participants can invite support people. A friend or family member might be able to attend and take notes.
- Refer to parent and/or student input forms to stay on topic and ensure that all concerns and questions are addressed.
- When the meeting ends, family participants can ask for a copy of the program recommendations page.
- After the IEP meeting, the school provides a Prior Written Notice (PWN) to the family participants to review meeting notes and any decisions, agreements, or disagreements. Ask when and how the PWN will be provided. Family participants have the right to request amendments or corrections to the PWN.
- Be sure to leave with a clear action plan. Here are key questions to ask and record:
- What will happen?
- Who is responsible?
- When will the actions happen? Are there timelines?
- How will we communicate for follow through?
- As with any meeting, any unresolved issues can be addressed in a follow-up meeting.
To learn more, PAVE provides a six-minute overview of IEP basics and a 30-minute training video about special education.