Should you bring food to an IEP meeting?


Eileen Miller does not give legal advice and is not responsible for final advocacy decisions. Below are my experiences and observations when attending IEP meetings. 

Ok, I must admit that I love a good donut. It’s not something I often buy so when I have one; it’s a treat. So, do I bring donuts with me to an IEP meeting? I have never brought and don’t ever plan to bring donuts or any food to an IEP meeting. Never did as a parent when I was in the trenches with my daughter or as an advocate. Here is why –

According to the Procedural Safeguards, parents are an equal member of the IEP team. Once a parent brings food to the meeting it changes “equal member.” I never get offered food from the school, and they are the ones holding the meeting. I do greatly appreciate it when the school offers me water, but that doesn’t happen the very often. I also feel that once a parent brings in food to a meeting it creates a causal environment. IEP meetings are business meetings. It’s not about adults sitting around the table making small talk. It should stay child focused.

I understand that the thinking is if I’m kind and sweet to the school staff they will be the same in return and give me what I want for my child. To me, that feels like a buy off, and I never want to feel like that as a parent or an advocate. What I want in a meeting is for ALL of us to discuss a child’s unique needs, collaborate, and keep the meeting child-centered. I never want to second guess why changes were made or not made at a school meeting.

Here are a few things that I always bring to my meetings I attend.

1.    Coffee or water depending on what time the meeting is scheduled. 

2.    A recorder: I always record my meetings. You will never remember everything that was said, and you need to follow up with a recap email.

3.    The child’s reports and data: Hopefully, the school shared this ahead of time. If not please make sure you get reports with the data. Don’t let the school talk numbers without documents. You can be lost in all the numbers that are thrown at you. Schools have the reports and data. If the staff doesn't bring the documents to the meeting that you need, ask them if someone can step out and get you copies.

4.    A list of concerns: Write out your concerns and have data and documents to back up those concerns. Check these concerns off so that you make sure each one is discussed. Things can get missed if they are not checked off.

5.    Collaborate mindset: The best way to get collaboration is to ask questions. If the school tells you no, don’t argue with them. Ask them to write the reasons for the no in the notes. Follow up by asking, “What is the criteria for a yes?” Then you know where the gap is and how to strategize going forward. You now have a written account of what was said.

There is a time and a place for gift giving and showing appreciation. I don’t believe it should be at the IEP meeting. You are welcome to stop by the school at another time to share and show your appreciation. If fact, I would encourage it, if you have an excellent meeting. Meetings for me will always stay child focused and I will leave the food for another social occasion. Consider this in mind the next time you have a scheduled IEP meeting.