Put Communications Between Teachers and Parents in the IEP

A new tactic being used by schools against parents of children with disabilities is to require / funnel all communications with the school through one person, usually the case manager.  We’ve seen numerous questions by parents if this is illegal or whether parents can request two-way communication be listed as an accommodation in the IEP.

Yes it is, yes it can and it should be.

But you won’t find the requirement in IDEA.  You’ll find it in ESSA.  Read on.

Not in IDEA

IDEA does not have a requirement or regulation that says that there should be ongoing communication between teachers and parents of children with disabilities.  Probably because Congress felt that such communication was basic common sense and they wouldn’t need to actually write it into a law.

What IS in IDEA is the following:

IDEA guarantees parents and their child with a disability numerous legal rights identified as “Procedural Safeguards”.  See 20 U.S.C. §1415; 34 C.F.R. §§300.500-520.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is not only the child with the disability that has legal rights under IDEA, but the parents are also entitled to assert legal rights on their own behalf under IDEA.  Winkelman v. Parma City School Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 127 S.Ct. 1994, 1996 (2007).

One of the key Procedural Safeguards is “an opportunity for the parents of a child with a disability . . . to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child.”  20 U.S.C. §1415(b)(1); 34 C.F.R. §300.501(b)(1) (emphasis added.)  The parents of a child with a disability are mandatory members of the IEP Team.  20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(1)(B)(i); 34 C.F.R. §300.321(a)(1).  Indeed, “the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child” is critical in developing the child’s IEP.  20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(3)(A)(ii); 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(1)(ii); see also Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988); Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49, 53, 126 S.Ct. 528, 163 L.Ed.2d 387 (2005) (Parents play “a significant role” in the development of each child’s IEP.)

Parental participation in an IEP meeting is so vital, it is set forth twice in the IDEA regulations.  34 C.F.R. §§300.322(a), (c) and (d) (emphasis added); 34 C.F.R. §300.501(b)(1).

But that is all concerning parental participation in the development of an IEP.  These provisions don’t discuss the daily, ongoing communication with the school.

Now, we look at ESSA . . .


In 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, 20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq. (2017) (“ESSA”).  This was an amendment of the prior No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”).

The ESSA guarantees parents of a child with a disability to participate “in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities” and “play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning.” To accomplish that goal, parents are “encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s education at school . . . [and carry] out of other activities, such as those described in section 1116.” 20 U.S.C. §7801(39) (emphasis added.)

The activities referenced in “section 1116” state that parents may engage in to participate in their child’s education include, inter alia, ongoing communications between teachers and parents and classroom observation. 20 U.S.C. §6318(d) (emphasis added.)

Put Two-Way Ongoing Communication in Your Child’s IEP

Thus, since Congress deemed this so important that they wrote it into law, it is important enough to make it part of your child’s IEP.  Show them the law quoted above.  (Maybe even print out this article and bring it to the IEP meeting.)  Tell them that you want this accommodation written into the IEP, especially if the school is trying to deny this right of access.

I’m quite sure that even teachers would welcome such ongoing dialogue.  The key is not to abuse this right – don’t contact the teachers several times every day.  Be reasonable as teachers have other students and their parents to meet this obligation.  But, if you do so reasonably, there is no legal basis for a school to block such regular and common sense communication.

It’s no longer just common sense – it’s now the law.


13 thoughts on “Put Communications Between Teachers and Parents in the IEP”

  1. The school monitors all my communications. The case manager receives it from myself or from a teacher and then forwards it to the Director of student services. My child is at an out of District placement and the out of District communicates my conversations and concerns to my home school District. Any responses I receive clearly are filtered. Is this legal? It feels like I am a criminal. I feel harassed.

    1. I understand your difficulty. The article maps out your rights. Beyond that would be giving legal advice and I cannot do that without an attorney-client agreement in place. You can contact my office to determine if we are able to help you further.

    1. I can’t give legal advice on this blog. All I can do is comment that I have not seen this part of the law changed or repealed, so it is still good law as of the date of this comment.

      1. I am confused because under the statutes that you quote it appears they are only applied to Title 1 schools and in the context of parent involvement in that school. Also according to the language that I have pulled up, the language refers to school staff not teachers.
        “(D) ensuring regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and school staff, and, to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.”

        Could you clarify if I’m misunderstanding something?

        1. You are correct that the ESSA is directed at Title 1 schools. However, other parts of this blog post explain that the same principle applies pursuant to IDEA, which means any school that receives federal funding for special education under that title also must provide adequate parental participation, which would include communication with teachers and staff. There is no distinction between “school staff” and “teachers”; they are synonymous. Teachers are staff.

          Bottom line is that schools must provide adequate information, feedback, and interaction with parents for special education students or a claim for violation of such parental participation under IDEA can be made if it causes a denial of FAPE. I hope that clarifies this.

  2. I was wondering are school districts allowed to deny IEP meeting requested by a parent? I have recently requested in writing an IEP because his doctor ordered some testing and it was found that he had a new diagnosis. I submitted a letter in writing for an IEP along with the reports 2x now and both times my requested was denied. I want to add a new diagnosis/classification to my son’s IEP and I submitted the paperwork to the case manager and I was told that I could submit documentation have a change in classification at his 3 year testing, which is not due until 2022. He was recommend specific services by his doctor and this cannot really wait until next year? Is this allowed as well?

    1. While I cannot provide legal advice in your specific case, but in general, no, a school may not deny a request for an IEP meeting by a parent of a child who already has an IEP. This is an issue of parental participation and IDEA protects that a parent should always be involved in any decision regarding their child’s IEP. See 34 C.F.R. 300.501. If the school district is denying an IEP meeting, they must provide a Prior Written Notice with an explanation of why they are refusing the meeting. IDEA says “Written notice that [provides lots of information and an explanation] must be given to the parents of a child with a disability a reasonable time before the public agency . . . refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child.” 34 C.F.R. 300.503. I hope that answers your general question on this issue.

  3. I took my son for a SSI evaluation this morning, and follow my advisement of the series of events in which my family has and currently is going through with our school district I was advised to seek an attorney.
    Can a school district deny services to a child in which they are transitioning out of a program due to their inability to obtain consent for revaluation when they have been previously provided consent for initial evaluation. After how many unfounded child abuse reports made by a school district is it considered harassment and a direct means on their part to retaliate. One more thing…Can a school release a child without prior written consent, ans no knowledge of who the individual is for that matter.
    I have so much more to question except it would take a book to state it all. Three children within one district.

    1. I can’t provide specific legal advice, but you can find a special education lawyer at http://www.copaa.org or http://www.wrightslaw.com.

      As to your question about whether a school district can deny services because a parent does not provide consent to a reevaluation, the answer is essentially no. If a parent does not consent to reevaluations, the school district can choose to not perform the reevaluations or file for due process to enforce reevaluations by proving they are necessary. 20 U.S.C. 1414(c)(3); 34 CFR 300.300(c).

      To change (or eliminate) eligibility of a child with a disability who has previously been deemed eligible, a school district must perform evaluations. 20 U.S.C. 1414(c)(5); 34 CFR 300.305(e).

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