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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

legal_mailbag_transparentThis is my 20th year in education. When I first started teaching, my administrators told me that a principal or administrator had to be present at every PPT. Later, I became a principal, and my special education director told me that the law had changed and principals or other administrator did not need to be present, but rather someone designated by the principal could properly run the meeting. However, he emphasized the importance of principals being present when possible to build trust with families, and he advised me that principals should always present at the more high-level meetings that may also include a central office representative.

I now work in a magnet school, and the district is again telling me that principals or other administrators should be present at all PPTs. Moreover, administrative interns are also saying that Shipman & Goodman representatives at their classes have also told them that a principal or other administrator needs to attend every PPT. However, when I went on-line to be sure I had the most updated information, the Shipman & Goodman PowerPoint I found seems to indicate a district designee is all that is necessary. What is the right answer? Under Connecticut law, does a principal and/or a person possessing an 092 have to be present at every PPT or can it be a designee?

Seeking Truth

Dear Seeking:

The practical answer is and has always been that a principal or other administrator should attend every PPT meeting. However, given changes in the law and the way the current law is written, some uncertainty on this point is understandable.

Under prior law, an administrative representative was expressly required at PPT meetings, and that representative could be a principal or other administrator. The law has changed in the recent past, and under the current regulations, an administrator theoretically can designate a non-administrator to serve in that capacity. However, the responsibilities for that designee – the authority to supervise or provide special education services, the need to be knowledgeable about the general curriculum, and the need to be knowledgeable about district resources – make it advisable that an administrator (but not necessarily a principal) attend every PPT meeting.

As my colleague Pete Maher advises me, the previous Connecticut special education regulations that were effective until June 30, 2013, included the following definition of PPT:

(15) ‘‘Planning and placement team’’ means a group of certified or licensed professionals, who represent each of the teaching, administrative and pupil personnel staffs and who participate equally in the decision making process to determine the specific educational needs of the child and develop an individualized educational program for the child. These shall be persons knowledgeable in the areas necessary to determine and review the appropriate educational program for an exceptional child.”

Conn. Agencies Reg. 10-76a-1(15) (emphasis added).

The new Connecticut regulations, effective July 1, 2013, explicitly adopt as the definition of PPT (for special education) the IDEA’s definition of IEP team:

(14) “Planning and placement team” or “PPT” means the individualized education program team as defined in the IDEA and who participate equally in the decision making process to determine the specific educational needs of a child with a disability and develop an individualized education program for the child.”
Conn. Agencies Regs. § 10-76a-1(14).
Under the IDEA:

The term “individualized education program team” or “IEP Team” means a group of individuals composed of–

(i) the parents of a child with a disability;

(ii) not less than 1 regular education teacher of such child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);

(iii) not less than 1 special education teacher, or where appropriate, not less than 1 special education provider of such child;

(iv) a representative of the local educational agency who–

(I) is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;

(II) is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and

(III) is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the local educational agency;

(v) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in clauses (ii) through (vi);

(vi) at the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and

(vii) whenever appropriate, the child with a disability.

20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(B) (emphasis added).

As you will note, the IDEA does not strictly require administrative certification for the participant described in subsection (iv) above. However, the regulations specify that this participant must be qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education services, must be knowledgeable about the general curriculum, and must be knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the school district. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Education has explained that while a school district “may determine which specific staff member will serve as the [local educational] agency representative in a particular IEP Team meeting, so long as the individual meets these requirements,” that representative must “have the authority to commit agency resources and be able to ensure that whatever services are described in the IEP will actually be provided.” 71 Fed. Reg. 46,540, 46,670 (Aug. 15, 2006).

Given these requirements, we certain recommend and expect that an administrator (though not necessarily a principal) will attend every PPT meeting.

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