10 days advanced notice – Maryland law (COMAR) states that you should receive a written invitation 10 days in advance of a scheduled meeting (unless you voluntarily waive the right). This rule is designed to ensure your “meaningful participation” in the team meeting. To demonstrate, imagine you are arrested and charged with a crime. When you show up to court 2 months later, your lawyer is handed all the evidence against you for the first time (when the prosecution has had months to review the same evidence). This scenario is illegal, because it does not allow the defense lawyer the opportunity to “meaningfully participate” in their client’s defense. This Maryland law is designed to allow you time to prepare questions, evidence, witnesses, and so on, prior to participating in the team meeting.
Invitation Content – Maryland law (COMAR) states that the invitation must list the following:
1. Purpose of meeting – Are you meeting to: determine whether an evaluation is necessary; discuss what assessments to conduct; conduct a assessment (i.e. FBA); review the completed assessment report and make a determination of eligibility? In order to adequately prepare for the meeting, you have to know the purpose of the meeting.
2. Meeting date, time, and location – You are afforded 10 days’ notice to clear your schedule and make travel plans. Although the district is not legally bound to consult your availability, I would argue that it sends an unintended message (we don’t care if this meeting time and date fits your schedule) when they unilaterally choose the date and time to meet.
3. Participants – If you are meeting to discuss your child’s struggles in math class, you want to ensure that the math teacher will be at the meeting. Md. Law allows schools to say “math teacher” will attend, as opposed to saying “Mrs. Smith” will attend. However, if the invitation states “Mr. Jones” will attend, and “Mrs. Smith “ attends in his place, you have the right to object, because the district did not comply with Maryland law.
Meeting documentation – A copy of any documentation that will be reviewed and/or discussed at the meeting needs to be provided to you 5 or more days in advance of the meeting. Again, this is designed to give you time to: review the document; prepare a rebuttal; gather additional research; and meaningfully participate in the meeting.
School File – If you need to review any documentation in your child’s school file to prepare for the meeting, issue a written request to your principal asking to review the file at least 5 days in advance of the meeting so that you can “meaningfully participate” in the scheduled meeting.
School failure to meet deadlines – When and if the district fails to meet these deadlines (i.e. does not give you 10 days written notice of a scheduled meeting), you have a decision to make on how to respond (see my blog post titled Rules Vs. Strategy). When and if you choose to raise the issue, there are two potential arguments you can make. The second is far more effective than the first.
1. You can argue that the district broke the law. The problem with this is that the district will argue that their failure to comply with the law had no negative impact upon your child.
2. You can argue that by providing you with less than 10 days’ notice, the district denied you the opportunity to “meaningfully participate” in the meeting. Thus, the document that was developed/agreed upon/etc. is flawed because it lacks your informed participation. This argument shows the impact of their failure.
Meeting conflict – If the district: picks a date and time to meet without consulting you; issues you a written invitation; and you can’t make it at that date and time, you have the option to decline the meeting. The district can respond in one of two ways. They can choose to reschedule at a mutually agreeable time, or, they can claim they attempted to include you, and hold the meeting without you. If such a conflict ever arises, politely ask the district to reschedule. If they refuse and try and move forward without you, contact me or another advocate for assistance. Although the district will argue that they are in their rights to move forward without you, I have a strong counter opinion.