According to federal and state law, parents are equal partners in the team. However, this situation does not always play out as described. First of all the school team is made up of multiple school personnel. So that means any issue that is voted on, the school wins. It is not unusual for school personnel to meet prior to a team meeting and decide ahead of time what the school position is going to be.
What's a parent to do if the team's view of a situation differs from that of the team. First and foremost, parents need to remember that the child will belong to the parent forever. Whereas, the team will be done with this student in a few months or a year or two. That gives the parent a lot more skin in the game.
So step one. Parents should arrive at the meeting dressed like a grown up. Ones appearance speaks a lot toward ones credibility.
Secondly, parents should come with a friend, advocate or other parent. It is good to have two sets of ears hearing what is being said. It doesn't hurt to bring a small tape recorder either or else have the second person take complete notes.
Thirdly, parents should cross-examine presentations made by the school personnel regarding a child's needs. How often has the child been observed? Has the child been tested? Has the professional met with the child? How do these experiences compare with other children of a similar age. Parents should be prepared to provide the same standard when presenting their views as to the child's needs. When a parent simply says, "I believe my child can do better than that", it is not a strong case without evidence.
Fourthly, parents should summarize what is being said and attribute comments to the specific speaker.
At the end of the meeting, if parents disagree with the conclusions of the team, it is important for the parents to make sure they are summarizing the comments accurately.
Finally, parents should ask what the next level of appeal is. There is usually another level that can review school based decisions.
Remember, the child belongs to the parents. Their stake in the situation is the greatest of all, other than the child him or herself. The cost of a mistake is borne by the child and the family, not the school system. Go for the gold.