The Under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, as it is commonly known delineates that schools must establish policies and procedures that demonstrate their establishment of educational opportunities all students, including those with disabilities.

While IDEA itself is a federal mandate, states have adopted their regulations requiring public schools to establish an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to meet the particular needs of every student.  The IEP includes evaluation, reevaluation, and the assessments of children who need special services such as a speech therapy pathologist.

Often, parents who have special needs children such as speech therapy are unfamiliar with this mandate and the corresponding regulations. The informed administrator can play a crucial role in assisting parents and children through the process and lay the foundation for the necessary collaborative focus that the child will require throughout his/her academic career.

This being the case, it behooves every elementary school principal to become familiar with the particular regulations in his/her state.  An invaluable resource that both explain IDEA and those relevant IEP requirements are located at


The child’s IEP is the product of a collaborative effort involving the student’s parents, teachers and others who are interacting with that child on a regular basis. The objective is to identify the needs of a student with a who either is plagued by a disability or is gifted in some way and then to recommend those services that will best serve the student’s needs.

In essence, the IEP is a tool that will best ensure that the particular student’s needs are being met. After the initial recommendation, the IEP is then used to evaluate the student’s progress towards the goals set forth, in effect serving as a monitor of the progress or lack thereof.

The IEP team consists of the student (if and when appropriate), his/her parents, at least one of the student’s teachers and a district representative who is charged with supervising the services being administered.  This representative must have knowledge of the general curriculum, awareness of available resources, and the authority to allocate those resources.

Often either the principal or assistant principal fills this role and must understand how to provide with those services, such as a speech therapy clinician for a child with a speech-language difficulty. The school administrator needs the knowledge of both IDEA, the student’s IEP, and knowing how to access the resources if there is any hope of remaining compliant.

Compliance or Else- Need Another Speech Therapy Pathologist?

Unfortunately, administrators who fail to assume responsibility for ensuring that every IEP is followed meticulously risk being in noncompliance which could carry unpleasant repercussions. Take, for example, a child’s whose IEP requires speech therapy twice a week.  If that child only sees the SLP once a week, this could have grave consequences for the principal.

It has gone so far that Grievance Boards have even upheld removing principals from their school for noncompliance with their IEP team’s requirements. In the case of Kay Williams v. Cabell County Board of Education (1996), the Education Board removed an elementary school principal citing the following failures:

  1. Take responsibility and administrative leadership
  2. Ensure teachers implemented the IEP
  3. Cooperate with the parents

As you can see, this is no game.  So, how can principals guide their IEP teams?

  1. Communicate regularly with special education teachers and the children’s parents.
  2. Be proactive by heading off problems before they become irreparable.
  3. Assure that everyone on staff is fully educated and trained to implement IEPs correctly.

By giving the proper time and respect to IDEA and careful implementation of each student’s IEP, and not slacking off when another special needs provider is necessary such as a speech therapy pathologist, the kids will be happier, and the administrators will be safer!