A parent of a student with an IEP knows how critical IEP meetings are. They set the goals and plans for students to achieve their educational goals for the year. They are essentially a contract guaranteeing that a district will take the necessary steps for your child’s best academic health. Despite their importance, they always occur during ‘normal business hours’ and make it difficult for one or both parents to be there. Now, the Department of Labor suggests that you have the right to take time off from work to attend.

Though the decision is not a legal precedent, it does speak to the Department of Labor’s view on IEP meetings. Their August 8th statement is a response to a specific family’s situation, but does make widely applicable conclusions based in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Considering those acts:

  • In the cited case, the student’s IEP included a variety of professionals, specifically school psychologists, the family doctor, and an audiologist.
  • Based on the FMLA, the conditions of an IEP establishes “a… physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider and provides, in relevant part, that an eligible employee of a covered employer may take up to twelve weeks of job-protected, unpaid FMLA leave per year “to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.” “
  • Because the wife’s request for time off was rejected, her employer violated the conditions established in FMLA to allow her to care for her children’s health conditions.

So what does this mean for any family with a child who has an IEP? It absolutely adds more weight to the importance of an IEP beyond purely academic reasons. It also sets an example that can be used by a family needing another tool when advocating for the optimal treatment of their child’s IEP.

Since this decision was not made in a court, it isn’t quite a legal precedence, but it create a basis to present to your workplace should you need time to attend an IEP. This is great news for single-parent families, families with two working parents, or parents working in jobs with restrictive hours or in a position that does not offer paid time off. For me, as an advocate, this empowers me to help families I work with bridge any personal or professional gaps that may be an obstacle to helping their child in the IEP process!