Parents Can Now Request Leave Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to Attend IEP Meetings

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Many students with ADHD qualify for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to cover special education services that accommodate their unique educational challenges (for more information about IEPs and ADHD, check out this earlier post). These plans can be incredibly valuable when it comes to making sure that kids with ADHD get the services they need to succeed at school. However, obtaining these plans for kids and teens with ADHD and requires that parents attend school meetings at least annually (sometimes more frequently) after an initial plan has been established. IEP meetings are held regularly to assess the student’s progress toward the goals that are documented in the IEP. In addition to a parent or guardian, meetings are attended by a school administrator, a school psychologist, and teacher(s), and occasionally other professionals like an occupational therapist or speech pathologist. IEP meetings include discussions about recent test results, accommodations and interventions that have been in place, progress being that has been made on previously identified academic or behavioral goals, and the development of a revised plan for the next progress period.

When a parent has a job that comes with little or no protected vacation or sick time, the ability to get time off to attend an IEP meeting can be at the employer’s discretion. Unlike time-off for pre-planned medical appointments, which has been protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), attendance at IEP meetings has historically not been covered by any Federal Law. This changed in August 2019, when the US Department of Labor issued an opinion letter stating that employees are entitled to intermittent FMLA leave to attend IEP meetings (the full opinion letter can be read here FMLA2019-2-A). In the letter it is noted that while FMLA leave could be used for time off to attend doctors’ appointments related to the child’s condition, under the policy in place at the time it could not be used to attend IEP meetings related to the same condition – despite the fact that a doctor had indicated that these school services were a necessary part of the child’s treatment.

Children and teens with ADHD who qualify for IEPs do so under the “other health impaired” qualification and require ongoing interventions at school for the treatment of their chronic condition. Therefore, the precedent laid out in this opinion letter applies to ADHD as well. It’s important to note, however, that the opinion letter only covers leave for IEP meetings specifically, and not other school meetings like 504 Plan meetings or parent-teacher conferences. Fortunately, at least some states have separate laws on the books to cover parental time off for attendance at other school meetings and activities (i.e., California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C).

If you are interested in using FMLA leave to attend IEP meetings, talk to your employer as far in advance of the meeting as possible. The requirements for FMLA leave qualification for the purposes of attending medical appointments will also apply to leave requested for IEP meetings. So, for example, your employer can require that you provide documentation of your child’s ADHD diagnosis and can require (with some exceptions) that the meeting is scheduled at a time that is least disruptive to the employee’s workday. While this change to FMLA access will not fully alleviate the significant burden that parents face when juggling employment and raising a child with ADHD, it is a step in the right direction and can provide at least some relief for highly stressed families.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


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This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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