In the last ten years, Texas has taken interest in the growing use of “facilitated IEPs” to assist in dealing with “difficult” IEP meetings and resolving disagreements. In 2013, the Texas passed legislation addressing facilitated IEPs. IEP facilitation offered by a school is now an option for resolving disputes.
TAC 89.1196 (a) – IEP facilitation “refers to a method of alternative dispute resolution that involves the use of a trained facilitator to assist an admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee in developing an IEP for a student with a disability. The facilitator uses facilitation techniques to help the committee members communicate and collaborate effectively. While public schools are not required to offer IEP facilitation as an alternative dispute resolution method, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) encourages the use of IEP facilitation as described in this section.”
TAC 89.1196 (b) – A public school “is not prohibited from incorporating elements of IEP facilitation into ARD committee meetings that are conducted without the assistance of a facilitator as described in this section. For example, a public education agency may provide training on communication skills, conflict management, or meeting effectiveness to individuals who participate in ARD committee meetings to enhance collaboration and efficiency in those meetings.”
TAC 89.1196 (c) – A school “that chooses to offer IEP facilitation under this section may determine whether to use independent contractors, employees, or other qualified individuals as facilitators. At a minimum, and individual who serves as a facilitator must: (1) have demonstrated knowledge of federal and state requirements relating to the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities; (2) have demonstrated knowledge of and experience with the ARD committee meeting process; (3) have completed 18 hours of training in IEP facilitation, consensus building, and/or conflict resolution; and (4) complete continuing education as determined by the public education agency.”
TAC 89.1196 (d) – A school “that chooses to offer IEP facilitation under this section must ensure that: (1) participation is voluntary on the part of the parties; (2) the facilitation is provided at no cost to parents; and (3) the process is not used to deny or delay the right to pursue a special education complaint, mediation, or a due process hearing”.
TAC 89.1196 (e) and (f) – A school that offers IEP facilitation “must develop written policies and procedures that include: (1) the procedures for requesting facilitation; (2) facilitator qualifications, including whether facilitators are independent contractors, employees, or other qualified individuals; (3) the process for assigning a facilitator; (4) the continuing education requirements for facilitators; and (5) a method for evaluating the effectiveness of the facilitation services and the individual facilitators. (f) A public education agency that chooses to offer IEP facilitation under this section must provide parents with information about the process, including a description of the procedures for requesting IEP facilitation and information related to facilitator qualifications. This information must be included when a copy of the procedural safeguards notice … is provided to parents …”.
TAC 89.1196 (g) – “A facilitator under this section must not be a member of the student’s ARD committee, must not have any decision-making authority over the committee, and must remain impartial to the topics under discussion. The facilitator must assist with the overall organization and conduct of the ARD committee meeting by: (1) assisting the committee in establishing an agenda and setting the time allotted for the meeting; (2) assisting the committee in establishing a set of guidelines for the meeting; (3) guiding the discussion and keeping the focus on developing a mutually agreed upon IEP for the student; (4) ensuring that each committee member has an opportunity to participate; (5) helping to resolve disagreements that arise; and (6) helping to keep the ARD committee on task so that the meeting purposes can be accomplished within the time allotted for the meeting.”
TAC 89.1196 (g) and (h) – The facilitator contacts the parents and school representative to clarify the issues, gather necessary information, and explain the IEP facilitation process. A school offering IEP facilitation “must (i) ensure that facilitators protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information about the student and comply with the requirements in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations”.
TAC 89.1196 (i) – “The TEA will develop information regarding IEP facilitation as an alternative dispute resolution method, and such information will be available upon request from the TEA and on the TEA website.”
State Individualized Education Program Facilitation
TAC 89.1197 (b) – “IEP facilitation has the same general meaning as described in §89.1196(a) … except that state IEP facilitation is used when the admission, review, & dismissal (ARD) committee is in dispute about decisions relating to the provision of a free & appropriate public education to a student with a disability & the facilitator is an independent facilitator provided by the TEA.”
This service is provided at no cost to the parent or school, if both agree to participate. One party must submit the required form.
TAC 89.1197 (e) – TEA will provide an independent facilitator, if the dispute relates to “an ARD committee meeting in which mutual agreement about one or more of the required elements of the IEP was not reached and the parties have agreed to recess and reconvene the meeting … (3) The request for IEP facilitation must have been filed within five calendar days of the ARD committee meeting that ended in disagreement, and a facilitator must be available on the date set for reconvening the meeting. (4) The dispute must not relate to a manifestation determination or determination of interim (disciplinary) alternative educational setting… (5) The same parties must not be concurrently involved in special education mediation … . (6) The issues in dispute must not be the subject of a special education complaint or due process hearing…. (7) The same parties must not have participated in IEP facilitation concerning the same student under this section within the same school year of the filing of the current request …”
Within five business days of a request, TEA will determine whether the conditions listed above have been met and will notify the parties of its determination and the assignment of the independent facilitator, if applicable.
TAC 89.1197 (g) – If a special education due process hearing or complaint decision requires a school to provide an independent facilitator to assist with an ARD committee meeting, the school may request that the TEA assign an independent facilitator. Within five business days of receipt of a written request for IEP facilitation under this subsection, the TEA will notify the parties of its decision to assign or not assign an independent facilitator. If TEA declines the request, the public education agency must provide an independent facilitator at its own expense.
TAC 89.1197 (i) – “The independent facilitator assignment may be made based on a combination of factors, including, but not limited to, geographic location and availability. Once assigned, the independent facilitator must promptly contact the parties to clarify the issues, gather necessary information, and explain the IEP facilitation process.”
TAC 89.1197 (m) – “The independent facilitator must assist with the overall organization and conduct of the ARD committee meeting by: (1) assisting the committee in establishing an agenda and setting the time allotted for the meeting; (2) assisting the committee in establishing a set of guidelines for the meeting; (3) guiding the discussion and keeping the focus on developing a mutually agreed upon IEP for the student; (4) ensuring that each committee member has an opportunity to participate; (5) helping to resolve disagreements that arise; and (6) helping to keep the ARD committee on task so that the meeting purposes can be accomplished within the time allotted for the meeting.”
TAC 89.1197 (n) and (o) -“(n) An independent facilitator must protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information about the student and comply with the requirements in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations … “. “(o) The TEA will develop surveys to evaluate the IEP facilitation program and the independent facilitators and will request that parties who participate in the program complete the surveys.”
The TEA webpage on Individualized Educational Program Facilitation is at: http://tea.texas.gov/Academics/Special_Student_Populations/Special_Education/Programs_and_Services/Individualized_Education_Program_Facilitation/
- Texas Special Education Rules and Regulations
- Notice of Procedural Safeguards