Many school districts, such as Union, Gaston, and Wake Counties, in North Carolina are using a notice titled Attorneys and Advocates at IEP Meetings & Interacting with School Staff provided by the law firm Campbell Shatley, PLLC who represents school districts in special education matters. Some school districts like Gaston County Schools disclose that it was provided by the law firm and others like Union County Public School use their own letterhead without any indication that the notice was made by an outside law firm.
A parent or legal guardian must understand their child’s rights, because any voluntary decision that is made with regard to a written IEP must be made with the informed consent of the parent.
The school district has a chain of command and procedures based on state and federal laws, which requires compliance based on dates, disability type, and issue at the time. A parent must communicate with the school and keep records:
● Communicate in writing by email, letter, or other form that documents delivery and receipt by the school,
● Request an IEP meeting at any time and for any reason,
● Request all education records to be sent before any meeting and between
● Keep all education records in a safe and organized manner, and
● Grant or restrict access to any Student Records at parental discretion. (1)
WARNING: A parent should verify that the proper roles of the IEP team and other people in the IEP meeting are listed correctly on the Invitation to Conference, the Prior Written Notice, and all other communication. If further action is required, any role like advocate or attorney will be used to show that you had legal representation. A supportive friend, family member, or another parent who lacks education and training in special education law should NOT be listed as an advocate.
The school district will have at least three people and sometimes up to ten people who have knowledge and special expertise regarding the child in the IEP meeting.
A parent must protect the best interest of the child by forming their part of the IEP team:
● Set the best date and time for everyone on the IEP team,
● Actively participate as part of the IEP team with the school staff,
● Decide when the child is necessary, if at all possible, but it is only optional,
● Bring other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, such as a supportive friend or another parent and if needed a
non-legal, yet knowledgeable advocate, or attorney,
○ Disclosing attendance of anyone other attorney is not required, and
● Appoint a representative at parent’s discretion, if needed. (2)
The school district is a represented party in special education matters with staff attorneys and outside attorneys who train and educate the school staff on educational law and special education law. A parent has the right to hire an attorney to assist in this
process by fully explaining the actions, consequences, or concerns being discussed in
the IEP meeting:
● Inform the school staff that an attorney or an attorney-agent advocate will attend the IEP meeting, and
● Complete all forms such as the Invitation to Conference to disclose that an attorney or an attorney-agent advocate will attend the IEP meeting.
NOTICE: The Campbell Shatley, PLLC Notice used by many school districts incorrectly implies that the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) “strongly discourages'' the practice of bringing an attorney or advocate to an IEP meeting, stating that having one present could create an “adversarial atmosphere,” and hinder the meeting for the child. Letters to Garvin and Clinton focus only on the School Districts having an attorney present without the parent having an attorney, and the Letter to Serwecki covers an issue when a parent cannot attend. (3, 4)
1. Letter to Garvin, 30 IDELR 541 (OSEP 1998): The school district wanted to give full access to Student Records without parental consent prior to the filing of a [request for a] Due Process Hearing. FERPA prevents it.
2. Letter to Serwecki, 44 IDELR 8 (OSEP 2005): The parent had a protective order, but retained the right to attend or to appoint a representative to attend the IEP Meeting
3. Letter to Garvin, 30 IDELR 541 (OSEP 1998): The school district wanted Legal Representation at IEP meetings.
4. Letter to Clinton, 37 IDELR 70 (OSEP July 2001): The NY school district had an attorney at IEP meetings even when the parents would not have an attorney
VIA: Email to (Principal Email)
(Name of Principal)
(Name of school)
(Address of school)
RE: Requesting Testing/ Evaluation for Special Education
Dear (Name of Principal),
I am writing to express my concern about my child, (name of child), and their academic performance. I believe that they may have a disability and would like to request that they be evaluated for special education and related services.
I would appreciate hearing from you within the next ten days regarding this matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (Your email).
Thank you for your help in this matter.
cc: (Name) Special Education/ Exceptional Children's Director,
(your school district)
(Address of SPED/ EC Director)
VIA: Email to Recipient)
RE: Our Phone call/ meeting on (date)
Dear (Recipient's Name),
Thank you for taking the time to (meet with me/talk to me on the phone) on (date). I appreciate your concern for (child's name).
• I understand from our discussion that you are concerned about ____________________________. • As I mentioned, I am concerned about ____________________________.
You feel that ____________________________ will help and the school has agreed to ____________________________. I also said that I would ____________________________.
Thank you for your help.
(Your Phone Number)
VIA: (Email, Mail, etc)
(Name of EC Teacher or Case Manager)
(Name of school)
(Address of school)
RE: School Records
Dear (Name of EC Teacher),
I am the parent of (name of child). I am writing to request access to his/her school records. I would like to make an appointment to review and make copies of all school system records and files concerning my child. Please have someone available to answer my questions about the records. I need to review the records before (date) so that I can prepare for (an IEP or mediation) meeting concerning my child.
Thank you for your help.
(Your phone number)
cc: (Name of Principal)
(Name of school)
(Address of school)
An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan that outlines the specific services and supports that will be provided to a child with a developmental delay or disability and their family. The IFSP is developed by a team of professionals and the family, and it is based on the results of a developmental evaluation. The IFSP is designed to meet the unique needs of the child and family and to support the child's development and participation in family and community activities. The IFSP includes goals and outcomes for the child, a description of the services and supports that will be provided, and a schedule for the delivery of services. It also includes information on how progress will be monitored and how the IFSP will be reviewed and revised as needed.
When a child becomes eligible for early intervention services, the agency workers and the family work together to write the IFSP. The IFSP is a process and a written document that provides documentation of desired outcomes, services, strategies to meet those outcomes, and the results of intervention efforts. The IFSP serves children from birth through their third birthday. At that time, if the child is still in need of services, they will transition to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is similar to the IFSP, but services are "child-centered" and the IFSP services are "family-centered."
The IFSP must be based on the family's resources, priorities, and concerns relating to the child's development. The IFSP must be in writing and it should include:
The designated coordinative agency (for example, the Public Health Department, Children’s Developmental Services Agency, Governor Morehead School and the NC Schools for the Deaf) is responsible for providing the required services. Required services are determined by federal regulations and must be made available if needed by the child or family, desired by the family, and identified on the IFSP.
The North Carolina Infant-Toddler Early Intervention Program (IT-EIP) is a program that provides services to children from birth to age 3 who have developmental delays or disabilities. The program is designed to help families and caregivers support the development of young children and to promote the child's participation in family and community activities. Services provided through the program may include developmental evaluations, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, and assistance with obtaining equipment and adaptive devices. Eligibility for the program is determined by the child's ability to benefit from the services and is based on the results of a developmental evaluation.
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