Dear Legal Mailbag:
Recently, we welcomed a new student to our school. He receives special education services, and we are confident that we can meet his educational needs. However, I wish that his mother felt the same way.
When the student was enrolled, we promptly held a PPT meeting to plan our implementation of his IEP and we have no plans at this time to change his program. That didn’t stop his mother from inviting a large group to the PPT meeting, including her best friend, her minister, her son’s outside therapist and his former teacher (whom the mother paid to take a personal day to attend the meeting). In my most charming way, I suggested to the mother that we would not be allowing such a large group to attend the next PPT, explaining that they will not be needed then because we will know her son’s educational needs better at that time. However, I quickly realized that I had inadvertently picked a fight.
“I think you know,” she told me, “that I can bring whomever I want to a PPT meeting, and I don’t appreciate your trying to bully me.” I protested sincerely that I was just trying to be helpful, and she moderated her tone. “OK, you seem reasonable, and maybe I won’t need my minister the next time. But I will require that my son’s paraprofessional attend the next meeting, understood?”
I mumbled something non-confrontational, but I have absolutely no interest in finding coverage for the para to join the crowd at the next PPT meeting. Please tell me I don’t have to.
Keeping It Simple
You are going to have to loosen up with the coverage. The mother now has the express legal right to require that her son’s paraprofessional attend the PPT meeting. As amended in 2015, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-76d provides in section (a)(10) that a parent may require “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.” The Connecticut State Department of Education has since clarified that “the school paraprofessional assigned to such child or pupil” refers to a paraprofessional, instructional aide, or similarly described support as indicated on pages 2, 8 and/or 11 of the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). If there is no such support for the student identified in the IEP on one of these pages, the parent does not have the right to require that a paraprofessional attend the meeting.
The law does not address the question of coverage, and you will simply have to release the paraprofessional to participate in the portion of the PPT during which the student’s program is “developed, reviewed or revised.” Also, you may wish to provide some training about the PPT process to paraprofessionals now that parents may require their presence at the meeting, given that many paraprofessionals do not have any experience in participating in PPT meetings. Their factual observations about the child in question may be helpful to the deliberations of the PPT, but you may not want them to offer their opinions concerning educational programming. Training in the PPT process may help paraprofessionals stay in their lane.
The statute also addresses the larger question of the parent’s inviting others to attend the PPT meeting, and again the parent has the right to decide. Section 10-76d(a)(10) also provides that parents have “the right to have advisors of such person’s own choosing and at such person’s own expense” attend the PPT meeting. If the number of advisers the parent invites to the meeting is ever a concern, you may of course raise the issue with the parent as a matter of discussion. Bottom-line, however, the statute gives the parent the right to decide whom to invite to the PPT meeting.