Is the ARD Committee a single entity? Or a group comprised of two parties?

The required members of an ARD Committee include a number of school employees along with the parent or adult student. The law refers to the IEP Team (what we in Texas call an ARDC) as a single entity which makes decisions on a consensus basis. But the law also makes numerous references to disagreements at the ARD and provides dispute resolution mechanisms to address them. Those references make it sound like the ARDC consists of two separate parties—the school and the parent/adult student. What gives?

This obscure point was addressed in a footnote in a decision from the 8th Circuit. The parent objected to how the court referred to the “IEP Team” as the school district members of the Team, omitting the parent and her advocates. Is it proper to use the term “ARD Committee” or “IEP Team” when referring only to the school district members of the group? In other words, is it correct to say things like “The IEP Team called for a change of placement, and the parent disagreed.” Isn’t the parent a part of the team?

The court put it like this:

We recognize that the statute defines IEP team to include the child’s parent….But while it is technically inaccurate to use this term to refer only to the District employees on the IEP team, this error has no impact on the outcome of the case. When there is a dispute within the team, the ultimate statutory obligations of the IDEA rest on the school district, and the parent can initiate a due process proceeding to challenge the school’s conclusion.

That makes sense. You may have a dozen people at the meeting, but there are two distinct parties. The school proposes; the parent agrees or disagrees. The parent requests; the school agrees or disagrees. Of course there are often disagreements among the school district members of the Team/Committee, but at some point the district has to speak with a united voice.

It’s J.P. v. Belton School District No. 124, decided by the 8th Circuit on July 26, 2022. It’s published by Special Educator at 81 IDELR 124.


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