Facilitated IEP Pilot Program Promotes Collaboration
June 09, 2017
Beginning July 1, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education Policy and Procedures (OSEPP) began implementing a statewide pilot for Facilitated IEP meetings.
Using a Third Party to Guide the IEP Process
IEP facilitation is an option for using a third party (facilitator) to promote effective communication and assist the IEP team in developing a mutually acceptable IEP. It is a free and voluntary service that is designed to promote effective communication with ground rules that provide structure and focus for the meeting, considers all possible solutions, and where all parties are treated fairly and with respect. There is a strong focus on listening for the purpose of understanding. IEP Facilitation focuses on the needs of the child, the IEP process and an agreed upon IEP document.
Requesting a Facilitated IEP Meeting
Either a parent or a school district can request IEP Facilitation. As the process is voluntary, both parties must agree in order for facilitation to occur. IEP Facilitation must include: the required IEP team members to complete the IEP process; including the parent, and when appropriate the student. It may also include attorneys, advocates and other relevant parties who have knowledge of the student, with exception of any consented to excusals prior to the meeting.
The IEP meetings are facilitated by impartial individuals not employed by either the school district or the OSEPP, but contracted and assigned by the OSEPP. Facilitators have both knowledge and training on the process. The facilitator is not an IEP team member, nor has an interest in advocating for either side. Facilitators are NOT decision makers and are not participants in the IEP. Rather, they are there to guide the process of an IEP meeting.
Facilitated IEP meetings are only available on a first-come first-served basis. The process of requesting a Facilitated IEP meeting is as follows: The school schedules the IEP meeting and sends out the notice to the parent. If the district and/or the parent is interested in IEP facilitation, the request for a FIEP meeting should be made as soon as possible to allow enough time for the coordinator to reach both parties, assign a facilitator (if one is available in the appropriate time frame), etc. The facilitated meetings should be conducted in a timely manner.
Certain Circumstances Can Prevent the Assignment of a Facilitator
- Both parties do not agree to facilitation.
- The request is not received with sufficient time to assign a facilitator (timeline requirements).
- The demand for IEP facilitation exceeds the number of available facilitators.
IEP Facilitation does not relieve the school district of the responsibility to meet regulatory timelines. If an agreement is reached on the IEP, the school district is required to complete the IEP document and provide written notice to the parent; as well as send written notice to the parent regarding provision of services. The only record kept of the Facilitated IEP meeting is the date, time and location of the meeting, surveys, and the result. Neither the facilitator, nor OSEPP will keep a copy of the IEP document.
To prepare for a Facilitated IEP meeting, parents/caregivers can:
- List student’s strengths and weaknesses
- Prepare a written list of issues to discuss and questions to ask
- Organize documents
- Make a list of what has not been working
- Become informed about educational rights