IEP Signature Pages
The 2016-2017 school year is coming to a close, but IEP season is in full swing. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, your Local Educational Agency ("LEA," or your school district) must have an IEP "in effect" "at the start of" the 2017-2018 school year. This mandate generally means there is a race at schools to finalize IEP offers for the 2017-2018 school year in the month or so before summer break. You likely have, or will have in the near future, a new IEP document to sign and/or consent to.
In Southern California, we only typically see two IEP forms: the SEIS form (Special Education Information System, currently used by nearly 1,000 school districts) and the Welligent form (used by the Los Angeles Unified School District). Even if you do not have any current disagreements with your child's IEP offer (or your own IEP offer, if you are the student), it is still important to pay attention to the IEP document and how you fill out the IEP signature page. Each form has important information you should be aware of and raises questions you should be asking yourself. Remember, the IEP document is like a contract: you should be aware that it can be used to establish all kinds of things in the event of a disagreement down the line.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has developed its own system for tracking IEP documents, offers, and services. The program is called Welligent, and you can read about it here.
The Welligent IEP document has a number of sections you should be aware of, but today we will be looking exclusively at Section Q: Parent Participation and Consent.
Section Q has a number of items that you want to pay attention to.
First, did the parent actually attend the meeting? Did the student? Did you know about it? Consider the following section of the Welligent IEP form:
As you can see, the Welligent system checks by default that the Parent/Student has participated in the IEP meeting. We have often seen IEP documents that come with the top box checked ("Parent/Student (18-21) has participated in the IEP meeting"), even when the family was not included in the meeting but rather was handed a copy of the IEP document after the fact. In other cases, families have asked to postpone an IEP meeting because of their unavailability, only to find that the IEP document indicates that they "indicated before the meeting that they would not be able to attend." Remember that the LEA is supposed to cooperate with you to find an IEP date that works for your schedule. (You can read more about this in a case argued by Alexis Casillas in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. )
Second, were you given proper advance notice of the meeting? Did you consent to a waiver of IEP timelines for your own scheduling reasons? The signature page creates a record for the school district to show all of the times you were contacted about attending the IEP meeting:
Remember, you have a right to be included in the meeting. Failure to include you in the IEP meeting can only be excused if the LEA has made significant efforts to contact you. The record of efforts to contact you should be recorded in this box on the form.) You should confirm that the record is accurate.
Additionally, you should be given adequate notice before the IEP meeting to allow you enough time to be able to make arrangements to participate. We frequently see districts fail to send IEP meeting notices sufficiently in advance of meetings; other times, families receives notices on the date of the IEP meeting that are back-dated to suggest that notice was provided well before the meeting date. (In these cases, the fabricated notice date will usually be repeated on the signature page of the IEP document.) Make sure this section is accurate and indicate if it is not.
Third, the Welligent signature page provides some guidance regarding providing consent or disagreeing with the IEP document:
When you receive the Welligent form, consider the following questions: Did these boxes come pre-checked? Did the LEA conduct assessments? Was testing done in all areas of suspected disability? Were the assessments or assessment reports appropriate? Did they answer the questions you had in order for you to be able to provide informed consent?
Do you agree with the eligibility category? (Note that LAUSD's form does not typically allow for multiple eligibility categories to be indicated in their drop down menu.) Do you agree with the placement being offered? The services being offered?
Note: You can disagree with elements of the IEP document and offer even if they are not reflected in boxes in this section. For example, previous Welligent signature forms included a box for "Goals," but the current Welligent form does not. Nonetheless, you can still disagree with the goals stated in the IEP document, or the progress reported on goals. Similarly, you can disagree with the present levels of performance or the accuracy of meeting notes (if any are actually taken). In order to implement the IEP, however, the District will need you to check some of these boxes. That's not to say that you can't disagree and receive services; you'll just need to indicate certain things on the document.
Fourth, you have a section to spell out your concerns with the IEP:
Pay attention to this box. If there is a date entered, that indicates the comments have been finalized. But often we see no comments entered and the family's concerns not recorded accurately, if at all, in the Parent Comments section.
Fifth, there are some survey questions included in the Signature Page:
The Signature page asks if your involvement was facilitated by the District--these boxes often come pre-checked with "yes," so make sure you are comfortable with that statement.
Also, almost every IEP has this box about a survey pre-checked and the date of the IEP meeting automatically entered. Were you told about the survey? Did anyone actually talk to you about what it means? Did you do it?
The SEIS system uses California's State SELPA IEP Template. You can look up how the SEIS system works, and access various SEIS manuals to better understand the system online. (E.g. https://www.seis.org/features.aspx and http://palmdalesd.schoolwires.net/cms/lib/CA02000054/Centricity/Domain/61/SEIS%20IEP%20order.12%20pdf.pdf or http://www.sjcoe.org/selpaproceduralmanual/pdf/teacher/Section%2013%20SEIS.pdf)
The SEIS signature page has fewer things to be aware of, but you still should pay close attention.
For example, the IEP Signature and Parent Consent Page also serves as the IEP attendance sheet:
Remember, there are certain people who have to attend your IEP meeting: (i) the parents of a child with a disability; (ii) not less than 1 regular education teacher of such child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment); (iii) not less than 1 special education teacher, or where appropriate, not less than 1 special education provider of such child; (iv) a representative of the local educational agency who— (I) is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities; (II) is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and (III) is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the local educational agency; (v) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in clauses (ii) through (vi); (vi) at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and (vii) whenever appropriate, the child with a disability. Did the necessary participants attend?
Also pay attention to the sign-in sheet. Did someone come for a short time but not indicate as much on the IEP signature page or an excusal form?
Unlike the Welligent form, the SEIS form does not give you a lot of space to indicate your disagreement. There are no prompts ("assessments," "instructional setting," etc.), and there is minimal space for comments:
You can agree to "all parts," or all parts "with the exception of." But what do you do if you disagree with more than you agree with? Or you agree with only one portion of the offer? Do you want to reject the IEP offer? Is your child being exited? Did your child never have an IEP before and now doesn't qualify? Do you agree with that? In scenarios like these, the SEIS form can be confusing.
That said, you can take up as much space as you want (on this sheet, or add another page or write on the back), but make sure you are clear about what you are asking for. On this signature page, be clear about what you agree with and what you don't.
Signature: The actual signature section of the IEP appears next to another survey. Like the Welligent form, this IEP signature page also asks families to indicate whether or not the school facilitated parent involvement:
We often see this box pre-checked, so make sure that it indicates what you want it to. Don't affirm this statement if you did not intend to.
Medical billing. This section of the IEP signature page is often misunderstood, and you should discuss with an attorney whether or not you want to allow the school district to bill Medi-Cal/Medicaid for applicable services. This is particularly true in light of possible changes to healthcare coverage as a result of pending federal legislation.
List of received: At the bottom of this IEP signature page is a series of boxes that are intended to get confirmation that certain things happened at this IEP meeting.
We also frequently find that these boxes are pre-checked by school districts, so pay close attention to them. Did you actually get a copy of the Procedural Safeguards? Did you decline them? Did you receive the assessment reports? At the meeting, prior to the meeting, or sometime after the meeting? Did you get a full copy of the IEP document? When did you get it? That Medi-Cal benefits thing we discussed--did they explain it to you? Did you get materials about it?
Lastly, the "Individual Service Plan" box: this is a tricky box that can have a major impact on your family's rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If this box is ever checked, consult with a lawyer immediately.