Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

legal_mailbag_transparentOne of the students in my school has a learning disability and receives special education services, including paraprofessional support. He works hard and has made great progress under his IEP. By contrast, his mother is a drama queen, and she makes demand after demand. Last year, she wanted weekly meetings with all her son’s classroom teachers, and earlier this year she demanded that the special education teacher create a communication log to keep her apprised of her son’s progress on a daily basis. Given how well her son has been doing, her various requests have been over the top, but she has been very persistent. As a result, we have provided her son more services than are necessary to meet his special education needs.

Well, no good deed goes unpunished. Rather than thanking us for the extraordinary program we have provided her son, the mother is now demanding another PPT meeting to review whether her son should receive a summer program. There is no way that will happen, but she has further complicated the situation by insisting that the paraprofessional who supports her son attend the PPT meeting. The paraprofessional supports other students as well, and she has better things to do than sit in a PPT meeting for two hours. Can I just draw the line here and tell the mother no?

At the End of My Rope

Dear End:

You can certainly draw the line, but not there. You can leave to the PPT the decision as to whether to provide a summer program. You can even leave to the PPT the decision whether to cut back on the services provided. However, given a new law that took effect on July 1, 2015, you cannot deny this request by the parent to have the paraprofessional assigned to her son attend the PPT.

Specifically, Section 277 of June Special Session Public Act 15-5 now provides that parents, guardians or surrogate parents:

have the right to be present at and participate in all portions of such meeting at which an educational program for such child or pupil is developed, reviewed or revised, and (iii) have the right to have advisors of such person’s own choosing and at such person’s own expense, and to have the school paraprofessional assigned to such child or pupil, if any, to be present at and to participate in all portions of such meeting at which an educational program for such child or pupil is developed, reviewed or revised. (Emphasis added).

Moreover, school officials are now required to notify parents, guardians and surrogate parents of children in need of special education of this new right to have the paraprofessional assigned to their children attend PPT meetings.

Given this change, you may well want to figure out how to provide training to your paraprofessionals, either in general or specifically before they participate in PPT meetings. When paraprofessionals participate in PPT meetings, they should understand the PPT process and how the PPT determines and defines the elements of a free appropriate public education.

Please submit your questions to: legalmailbag@casciac.org.