IEPs (Individualized Education Programs)

An IEP describes both a process and a written document. Once your child is found eligible for special education, you will participate in the process by attending an IEP meeting at your child’s school at least once a year. At this meeting, you and the other members of the team will write an IEP document that describes your child’s educational needs and the services that will be provided to meet those needs.

The IEP should include:

  • a statement of your child’s present levels of educational performance;
  • a statement of measurable goals, including short- and long-term objectives;
  • a statement of the special education and related services that your child needs;
  • an explanation of the extent to which your child will not participate with nondisabled children; and
  • projected dates for services to begin.

The IEP team

As the child’s parent, you are an essential member of the IEP team.

The IEP team consists of:

  • the child’s parents (see What do we mean by “parent”?);
  • at least 1 general education teacher, if the child receives or will receive services in a general education classroom;
  • at least 1 special education teacher or provider (for example, a speech therapist or occupational therapist);
  • a qualified representative of the school district or LEA;
  • the person who conducted the assessment or someone who can interpret the results of the assessment, if the results of an assessment are being discussed;
  • other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child, at the discretion of the parents or LEA; and
  • the child (as appropriate; however, must be invited to participate when discussing career and education goals after high school).

After the IEP meeting

At the meeting, you will be asked whether you consent to the IEP developed for your child. If you need more time to review the IEP and other materials before consenting, you may ask for the meeting to be continued at another time. Once you give your consent in writing, the school district must implement the IEP as soon as possible. If you do not consent, the district is not required or allowed to provide the proposed services to your child.

If your child is eligible but you do not agree with the level or type of services offered in the IEP:

Parents are an important part of the development of the IEP. They should be asked to give their opinions on the services offered, including the type, frequency, and location where services are provided. If you disagree with the school district about the proposed level or type of services, you have several options:

  • You may refuse to sign the IEP at the initial meeting and take it home to review further. If you refuse to sign the IEP, the school district is not required or allowed to provide the proposed special education services to your child. If the purpose of the IEP is to determine eligibility, your child will not be considered eligible until you sign the initial IEP. If you are attending an annual review of an existing IEP and you refuse to sign the IEP, the prior plan will remain in effect until resolution.
  • You may sign the IEP and write a note next to your signature saying that you agree for the school district to start providing services to your child, but you do not agree that the offer of services is appropriate. This can be done with a simple sentence on the signature page or can be written up in a “Parents’ Addendum to the IEP,” which lays out your concerns in greater detail.  One situation in which this can be helpful is when the parents and the school district agree on the type of service offered (such as speech therapy), but do not agree on the amount offered (more or less speech therapy than the parents believe is appropriate for the child’s needs). Signing only an authorization of services can allow the student to start receiving important services while protecting the parents’ right to oppose the IEP and allowing for continuing negotiations with the school district.

If the school district fails to implement the services agreed on in the IEP:

If a parent or a person who holds educational decision-making rights agrees to an IEP and the school fails to implement the agreed services and supports, a parent or educational rights holder may file a complaint with the California Department of Education’s Special Education Division.

This process is only used when a school district fails to provide the services and supports that are agreed on by the IEP team. If a parent or educational rights holder disagrees with the school about eligibility or about what services will be provided, this is resolved through a hearing process. Click for more information on the right to request a hearing.

IEP Review

An IEP meeting must be held at least annually. However, if you are concerned about problems with your child’s current IEP or feel that a new, unaddressed educational issue has arisen for your child, you do not have to wait until the annual IEP meeting to have these issues reviewed. Instead, you can request that an IEP meeting be held to discuss your concerns. Once the school receives your meeting request, the meeting must be held within 30 days.