Schools would be required to notify parents of students with disabilities that they can invite people with additional knowledge or expertise to participate in individualized education program meetings under the proposed Think Differently about Education Act.
These IEP members invited by parents can include people who know the child or who have special expertise about that child's special education services.
The bill, H.R. 4259, was introduced by Rep. Marcus Molinaro, R-New York, and approved 39-0 Thursday during a House Committee on Education and Workforce markup session.
In voicing support for the bill, which will now move to the House floor for consideration, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledged that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act already allows parents to invite others to be part of the IEP team meetings. This bill, supporters said, would help make sure schools notify parents of this right.
“This proposal appears to restate present law and ensures that parents are aware of and can exercise a right they already have under current law, so I am not opposed to it," said Ranking Member Bobby Scott, D-Virginia. "However, I want to make clear that I am not advocating to further amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at this time."
Also included in the legislation is a substitute offered by Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Florida, that he said would change the parental notification requirement from occurring at the beginning of each school year to occurring each school year prior to the first convening of the IEP team meeting.
Bean explained that he made the proposal because most annual IEP team meetings take place in the spring in preparation for the IEP to be up-to-date for the start of the next school year. Students' IEPs must be updated annually.
"When parents are informed of their rights, they are more likely to become active participants in the child's education and look out, because when parents are involved in their kid's education … exceptional students will thrive," Bean said.
IDEA already includes school-to-parent prior written notice and procedural safeguards notice requirements for when schools are adding, changing or denying special education services to students.