Monday, April 6, 2009

NC: DPI's Response to Our Open Letter re IEP Meetings without Parental Particpation

We finally received a response from North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction regarding the Open Letter we sent to them to clarify if a district could hold an IEP meeting without parental participation, despite a written request from the parents to reschedule  the IEP meeting as the date/time were not convenient. 

The response from DPI is as follows. See if you can make any more sense out of this than we've been able to thus far. We've highlighted some of the more "interesting interpretations" and placed our notes in brackets. We're also working on a response and will let you know if we hear anything more.

Dear Ms. Searcy,
In response to the questions you submitted on behalf of the parents of a North Carolina student with disabilities, the Exceptional Children Division is unable to respond to specific questions about a particular child or case other than to state that the parents misinterpreted the LEA's intentions.  [Note: Did you catch that? They can't comment other than to say that the parents misinterpreted the LEA's intentions. What? Is that their standard response to all inquiries? The parents misunderstood? Without even knowing who in this particular district refused to reschedule the meeting, without even knowing the name of the Local Education Agency this district falls into, DPI KNOWS the parents misinterpreted the LEA's intentions. Hmm...ok, then. Guess the district employee didn't really mean it when he wrote the meeting would occur as scheduled and then emailed it to the parents then. Good to know.]

The parents should contact the Exceptional Children Program Director regarding any concerns about a written communication.  They may contact a Consultant for Dispute Resolution in our office or may exercise their due process rights as specified in the Procedural Safeguards regarding concerns about a procedural violation.  [Note: Why would the parents need to do this, though? We asked DPI to clarify if the district was violating the law, aka "committing a procedural violation." DPI said "no," sort of...we think? Maybe? We don't know, we can't tell, but it certainly seems that way. So if DPI is saying that the district aka LEA is not violating these parents' rights, and since DPI runs the Office of Dispute Resolution in N.C. then what would be the point of exercising due process, when DPI obviously already has their mind made up that the district intended no harm - without seeing any evidence!]
The North Carolina Policies Governing Services for Children with Disabilities does not differ from the IDEA regulations regarding parental participation in meetings. [Note: But then there's this statement. North Carolina's policies do not differ from the federal law. So...if the district held that meeting without the parents, despite the parents requests to reschedule the meeting so they could attend, then the district would be in violation of IDEA? See, this is what we wanted DPI to clarify, since they're the governing education body in North Carolina. The laws appear to support the parents in this case, but DPI doesn't appear to be interpreting those same statutes the same way.] 
Lynn M. Smith, Consultant for Dispute Resolution
NC Department of Public Instruction
Exceptional Children Division
6356 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-6356
(919)  807-3978 phone
(919)  807-3755 fax

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