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Landmark case for special education meetings

In a milestone case regarding parent participation in IEP meetings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in favor of the parents in the case of Doug C. vs. Hawaii (12-15079).

IEP meeting

While individualized education programs have always intended to protect the rights of the students, find out how this landmark case means all the difference in the world to parents of students utilizing special education resources.

The IEP court case of Doug C. vs. Hawaii

When parent Doug C. requested that his son Spencer C.’s IEP meeting be rescheduled due to the parent’s illness on the morning of the scheduled date, the school took it upon itself to hold the IEP meeting without a parent present. As a result, decisions were made on his son’s behalf, moving the 18-year-old student with autism from the private special education facility, Horizons Academy, to the public high school’s workplace readiness program. And, although Doug C. lost the due process hearing and the appeal to the U.S. District Court, the IEP parent found victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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In the best interest of the child?

Despite Hawaii’s Department of Education’s argument that the IEP meeting needed to occur before the annual review deadline to avoid a lapse in service, the panel reiterated the department’s lack of authority to refuse services to a student whose annual review is past due. The court further ruled that the department had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by breaching parental participation requirements.

As a parent of a student with an individualized education program, your schedule does not take a backseat to the schedules and attendance of the school’s and district’s own representatives. However, IEP meetings can be held without the presence of the parent with parent’s permission.

“It is very important for parents to attend their child’s IEP meetings,” explains special education resource teacher, Mary Dominguez, MST, Collaborative Learning Services, LLC. “They know their child the best and need to know what the goals are for next year, so that they can also work towards them. Also parents need to be present because they need to advocate for their child and make sure they’re getting all of the services they need.”

The importance of IEP meetings

An IEP is a legal document detailing the rights, goals and course of your student’s special education needs. These services, which are provided free of charge to students with delayed skills or other disabilities, are outlined to allow you to effectively advocate your child’s educational needs. “IEP meetings can be hard and frustrating, and can be stressful,” shares Stephanie Willson. “[However] not attending it is allowing people who do not know your child or have your child’s best interests at heart complete control over your child’s education. I know my child best. My interest is for his continued improvement and growth, and education is one part of that. I participate in IEP meetings to ensure that he is getting a plan for his current school year that will benefit him the most.”

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While this landmark case for special education meetings is a huge win for parents and students with IEPs, stresses the importance that parents understand that your IEP rights differ between public and private schools: Parents who place their children with disabilities into private schools may not only miss out on services students receive in a public school, but your student may not receive these services at all. So, explore all of your options before making a decision about your youngster’s education to ensure you fully understand your child’s rights to an individualized education program.

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