Understanding the Prior Written Notice
Do not confuse the "Notice of Meeting" with your all important Prior Written Notice. The difference is explained below.
IDEA states that the Notice of Meeting will inform parents of "who will be in attendance" at the IEP meeting. This notice is required to list all the people who will actually attend and is sent to you before an IEP meeting. As a parent, you have the right to invite people who have knowledge of your child, and to have them included in the Notice of Meeting.
The second notice is written after an IEP meeting. This document is called Prior Notice and is the subject of this article. This is not a new document, but many people, including parents, are not aware of its importance in the IEP process. It can be a parent's best friend at a meeting, fully documenting all recommendations, including the parent's recommendations.
Prior Notice should say it all
When Prior Written Notice is filled out properly, there is less need for minutes of the meeting. In fact, states are often discouraging districts from taking minutes of a meeting since the Prior Notice now should say it all. The Prior Written Notice, when properly written, eliminates all doubts, misunderstandings, and the need for most written minutes. Notice the qualifier, "when properly written". You, as parent, may be responsible for seeing that Prior Written Notice contains everyone's recommendations.
Contents of Prior Notice
You must receive Prior Notice before any change in placement takes effect. This generally happens at the very end of meeting after the decisions have been made. Prior Notice must include among other things all changes in services and placements. Historically, in many districts, it will basically include changes in services, transportation, and supports, and is scanty in any other content. If your district is not familiar with the requirements of Prior Notice you might ask them to please read those requirements to the team so there is a common understanding of those requirements.
Your Key to Empowerment
Prior Written Notice is also required to list of all recommendations made by any member of the team, and the disposition of those recommendations. This means writing down any recommendation that is presented by a team member, whether it was accepted or rejected, and the rationale for any rejection of a recommendation.
If your district does not follow this requirement, you may want to keep such a record of disposition yourself during the meeting. You may use a Record of Proposals form for personal use. Remember, this may be the only full written record of discussion at the meeting. Since your record may not be considered an official part of the IEP you can ask the person leading the meeting to please also list the recommendations you have that are not yet recorded on the official Prior Notice. Then, ask the team to make a decision on each item, accept it, reject it, and if rejected, why. If they cannot give you an answer immediately on a recommendation then ask them to write down when you may expect a decision, and who will be in charge of the follow up on that proposal.
If the district does not leave enough room on its form to list every recommendation, it can add another page or whatever is necessary to have a complete record of recommendations for the IEP.
Be sure to study the little form I developed to track team recommendations. It has proved so useful that many districts in our state and some state departments of education have adopted it, or a variation of it , as a model. You can print my Record of Proposals Form and take extra copies to the meeting in case there is not enough space on the district's form to list all of the proposals from the meeting.
Articles at this site are not to be construed as legal advice.