Can School Attorney's Legal Attend IEP Meetings?


Fly away!

Pete and Pam Wright are adjunct professors at William & Mary Law School where they co-teach a Special Education Law class and consult with the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic. Clinic students assist children with special needs and their families with eligibility or Individualized Education Program meetings, discipline matters, mediation, and administrative hearings.
Clinic students observed school district attorneys at some IEP meetings. Some attorneys were helpful. Others were adversarial. The law does not include attorneys as members of the child’s IEP team, so the students asked this question: “Can school attorneys legally attend IEP team meetings?”
What do you think?
Jeff Martin, parent of a child with a disability and law student in the PELE Clinic, offered to research the issue and write a legal memorandum to answer this question:
Whether an attorney for the school can legally attend
an IEP team meeting?
Jeff found information that supported his position that, in general, parent and school attorneys should not attend IEP meetings. A Policy Letter from the U.S. Department of Education to Senator Hillary Senator supported his position. Jeff’s Memorandum includes an Action Plan for PELE Clinic to use when dealing with school attorneys at IEP meetings.
Read Jeff’s Memorandum:
Letter to Clinton:


Well-Known Member
We have never had the SD's attorneys at an IEP meeting. Since H and I are both attorneys ourselves, we have not yet had to go down that path.

We have met with the SD attorneys outside the confines of a CSE meeting. The SD attorney joked that we were double teaming him but we wound up with what we wanted at that point.


Shooting from the Hip
I would think - now I have NO background in law, but - the SD attorney would only be able to attend with notice to and agreement of the subject child's parent(s)/legal guardian(s).

Conversely, if a parent believes it is time to bring in an attorney, notice should be given to the school; but, due to their requirements to provide the child with a FAPE, they would not have the choice of agreement or disagreement. HOWEVER, if the parent advised the school that they were bringing in an attorney, that would then waive the necessity of parental agreement to the school's attorney being present.

That's a common-sense approach, though...