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Do parents have a choice about whether or not an interpreter is present?

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I am advocating for a Family, English is not their home language. Dad does not want an interpreter at the IEP meeting. he doesn’t feel he needs it, his social anxiety is too high to allow him to use one in front of 10 adults he doesn’t know, and the district only scheduled one hour for the IEP meeting—he knows this is not enough time for him to use an interpreter  

We told the district he doesn’t want an interpreter, but they are making the choice for him— they insist they will have one there.

When I go to the federal Department of Ed website, it looks like schools have to offer an interpreter and if a parent declines, they have to offer a form to sign declining the interpreter; it’s the parents choice.

Am I reading this right? Does the dad have the right to decline? And does the district have to give him a form allowing him to decline?

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Can you send the link to what you reference?  I'm not seeing it, but I did a really quick search.

I see another problem (maybe bigger or the main problem) in that the school is limiting the time for the IEP meeting.  If more time is needed for him to make use of an interpreter, they should give it to him.  Otherwise, they're not actually providing an interpreter.  And if he can't "participate meaningfully" without an interpreter and without enough time given to make use of an interpreter, they are violating his rights as a parent under the IDEA.  Not to mention discrimination against him if he has a diagnosed disability.

If the school district continues to be difficult in this area, I would suggest requesting a facilitated meeting, if your state offers those.  That would ensure the meeting is scheduled for an appropriate amount of time.  Make sure to tell the facilitator that the use of an interpreter requires some extra time for the meeting.

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From what I've been told, it's the school's party & up to them to invite the people who are needed and parents don't get a say in this.  I'd tell the dad to let them have the interpreter there but then have him tell them their services aren't needed.  Parents have to sign a form to excuse a required IEP team member.  An interpreter is not required under IDEA.  (If the parent asked for the IEP to be written in their native language, it might be required by state regs.)

Realistically, an IEP meeting will take longer if an interpreter is needed.  If they usually do 30 min IEP meetings, an hour sounds right with using an interpreter.

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There were so many things wrong with the way this was set up. They only allowed one hour for eight people to discuss a fairly complex document they’d never seen before, in an unfamiliar and confusing format. they arrived 25 minutes late, but proceeded anyway.  It seemed like their plan was a quick run through of the IEP they developed outside the meeting and then hand dad a pen to sign off. I slowed things down w questions, we didn’t get to the end of the IEP before everybody had to leave, we had to reschedule. We requested that the rescheduled meeting be two hours. They indicated that they saw this as a significant accommodation, impossible to meet in a timely manner. They rescheduled the meeting for three months later, June. we did engage an outside facilitator for the follow-up meeting. It did make a difference in their responsiveness.

We signed the papers agreeing to initiate the evaluation in November, they didn’t conduct the evaluation until March. Extending the IEP meeting date til June meant the student did not receive any help for the entire year of 8th grade.

 The student is now in high school, with the IEP developed last June but never implemented. Her high school has very different services and resources, so the IEP is not very helpful, but they won’t revisit it until the end of the semester. It’s like dad said it feels like they don’t really want his daughter to be successful in school.

there are a lot of different issues, for sure, but specifically dad would like to know the law on the use of interpreters. 

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It's BS that you can't revisit an IEP because it's 'too soon'.  I remember when my child had a rough year and we met 3X between September & December.  You especially need to tweak if an IEP is written for MS and now the child is in HS.  Best practice is to include people from the HS and have some things change with how the IEP gets done between June & August.

I'm not aware of a law about interpreters.  The PA IEP Invite has a box to check if you need an interpreter.  If you don't check it, you'll not have an interpreter at the meeting.  Can you share what state you're in as there could be a state law that governs this.  This is all I found:  https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.322/e

If the eval was completed outside of allowable timelines, a complaint should be filed IMO.  PA rules are 60 calendar days but many states use school days where it could stretch things out quite a bit.  (Student also needs to be available.  If they are out sick, I think most places give the school more time.)

If the parent signed off on the IEP, the school should be implementing it.  In every state, a 1st IEP needs to be signed to be implemented.

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So I will try to say this gently--but Dad needs to focus on other things.

What I've observed in 13 years of advocacy is this--when parents are unable to see the big picture or are overwhelmed and don't know what to focus on, they tend to pick one small black & white, concrete, tangible detail...and focus on that.

The interpreter issue is black and white--either the law says they can or can't, and either the interpreter is there or they aren't.

But, now, the whole focus of the dispute is the interpreter. And not FAPE.

This is not a battle I would fight, and here's why.

IDEA does not clearly define this. However, it is VERY hard to get someone the school invited to a meeting uninvited. And as I stated above, it changes the focus of your communication.

The school could say that they have trouble understanding Dad's speaking, and that's why they want an interpreter. 

Any dispute resolution person (mediation or DP) will side with the school on this one, imo. The school must provide IEP information to the parent in a language that the parent can understand. 

There are so many other pieces to this where you have described that Dad is not being allowed 'meaningful participation' in the IEP process. That is where I would focus my energy if I were this family's advocate.


Just play it forward--ok, great. The interpreter is uninvited to the meeting and doesn't come. Yay, you won.


Now what? You still have described several other errors (limiting meeting time, possible predetermination) that are much bigger fish to fry. 


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