An ARD is a meeting between a parent and certain public school personnel to discuss a student’s special education program. These individuals make up the ARD committee and include a student’s parent, classroom teacher, a campus administrator, a special education teacher, and often other personnel who either work with the student or have expertise needed to guide the committee on a particular decision. ARD is an acronym that stands for the three main functions of the ARD committee. The committee can: (A) admit a student into special education; (R) review a student’s special education program; and (D) dismiss a student from special education. ARD is most often stated as a word and pronounced in a way that rhymes with the words “hard” and “card”. However, it is also sometimes pronounced as a statement of the letters A R D. Both pronunciations are correct. It is important to note that this is a term unique to Texas. In the rest of the country, this meeting and committee go by the name IEP (pronounced I E P). IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. Websites, books, articles, and federal laws and regulations with a national audience all use the term IEP instead of ARD. These terms are interchangeable. In Texas, the term IEP is typically reserved to describe the paperwork involved in an ARD meeting (as in “When you come to the ARD meeting next week we will review your child’s IEP.”)

It is important for parents and attorneys to understand some basic characteristics of ARDs. They are only for students who receive special education, or are being considered for special education based on formal testing by the school. Therefore, parents of students not in special education do not have a right to request an ARD. These parents have other rights which could lead up to an ARD, however. (These rights will be covered in another article titled “Requesting Special Education.”) Parents of students in special education have the right to request an ARD meeting at any time. The school will then schedule one on a day and time mutually convenient for all parties, or within five school days provide the parent a written notice explaining why the school refuses to schedule an ARD meeting. Schools are required to conduct an ARD meeting for every student in special education at least once a year to review the student’s progress and create a plan for the following year. This is often called an annual ARD, or simply an “annual.” A very important aspect to these meetings is that they cannot be conducted without the parent receiving appropriate notice. The school is also required to schedule the meetings at a mutually agreed time and place. Parents can notify the school that they cannot attend a scheduled ARD meeting and request that it be rescheduled. However, if the school has detailed records of telephone calls, correspondence and visits made to the parent=s home or place of employment and is still unable to convince the parent to attend a particular ARD meeting, the school may hold the meeting without the parent.

ARD meetings are held at the student’s school. There are usually between three to six members of the school personnel in attendance. Parents can request certain school personnel attend the meeting. Parents can also bring non school personnel with them to the meeting. It is not unusual for a parent to bring the child’s grandparent, an aunt, or even a family friend to an ARD to support the parent. These meetings are often conducted in what appears to be a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. But, it is very important to understand that there is a very formal structure to an ARD that involves a lot of paperwork and many decisions. The school personnel conduct between 20 200 ARDs each year. They are well trained on the intricacies of every checkbox and line on each of the dozens and dozens of forms that are being completed at each ARD meeting. School personnel are so familiar with these forms and the hundreds of decisions that are required at each ARD meeting that they can complete them in a very deliberate manner while appearing to be engaging in casual and informal brainstorming with a parent. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to understand the goals that school personnel are attempting to accomplish at each ARD: (1) create a legally defensible special education plan that complies with thousands of federal and state regulations; (2) obtain the parent’s written agreement to the special education plan; (3) conduct the meeting as quickly as possible (a common time frame is one hour); and (4) create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration with the parent. As it turns out, it is incredibly difficult to accomplish all four of these goals in a way that fully educates a parent of their rights and of the consequences of each of the hundreds of decisions made at each ARD meeting. Understandably, this can result in a parent’s dissatisfaction with the ARD process. If you know a parent who is experiencing frustration with their child’s public school, please pass this article on and let them know I am here to help them understand and exercise their rights and the rights of their child. Please contact George Shake at gshake@duffee-eitzen.com or (214) 416-9010.