By Nicole Bovelle
April 19, 2016
I have found that there are many important special education rights that parents miss, either because they do not know about their rights or they may be timid in exercising their rights as a parent. Read the Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Special Education and Common Questions about Special Education. Many questions are answered that are all related to your rights as a parent.
Children with special needs have often been misplaced in a educational setting, not given the proper services and/or do not have the appropriate goals and objectives. If you do not know your rights as a parent, this can happen to your child.
Do not be one of those parents! LEARN what you and your child have a right to!
You have the right to disagree and file a complaint.
You have the right to disagree with any decision made by the school district including your child’s eligibility of disability, evaluation, placement, and special education services. If you do not agree with any of the school district’s decisions, your first option is to talk it out and try to come to a mutual agreement with the IEP team. During this option, most issues are resolved as both parties (you and the school district) do not want to go through the process of mediation, resolution or a due process hearing.
If you and the school district cannot come to a mutual agreement, then you can enter into the process of mediation. During mediation, you, the school district and a mediator will speak openly about what areas are in disagreement and try to come to a resolution.
If you do not prefer the mediation route, you can file a due process complaint with the school system, where you would submit a written letter communicating the areas that you are in disagreement with in the school system. In the letter, it is important to note what areas you feel have been violated under the provision of IDEA.
After you submit your due process complaint, you will go through the resolution process, where the school district conducts a resolution meeting between you and any relevant members of the IEP team. The purpose of this resolution meeting is to again resolve the matter.
If resolution fails, then you will enter into the next step of the process called a due process hearing. During the due process hearing, you and the school district will submit your evidence to a hearing officer and your state’s Department of Education for the matter to be resolved. All of the steps for filing a complaint with the school district should be listed in your state’s Procedural Safeguards.
As you can see, participating in a due process hearing can be a long and tedious process. But, do not let this discourage you! If you feel that your child’s rights have been violated, first address them with the IEP team.
You have the right to receive prior written notice.
Prior Written Notice was established to prevent school districts from making decisions or changing a student’s IEP without the parent’s consent. All decisions concerning your child’s IEP are supposed to be IEP team decisions, and you are part of that team. Most school districts will give Prior Written Notice when they want to make a change in an IEP; however, they often will fail to give Prior Written Notice when a parent makes a request.
If your school district provided you with Prior Written Notice, it must include:
- the action that the school district proposes or refuses to implement;
- the reason why they denied implementation of the proposed action;
- the assessment tool that they are using to make the decision;
- alternatives to the proposed action; and,
- reasons behind their decisions.
If you did not receive Prior Written Notice, here are the steps you can take in order to receive notice, including a sample letter that you can use to submit to your school district. Remember, if it is not in writing, you have no documentation if you need this during a due process hearing.
You have the right to bring a person with you to an IEP meeting.
Do not feel like you have to attend IEP meetings alone. You have the right to bring your spouse, friend, advocate, attorney or anyone else who can provide you with support. It can often be intimidating walking into a room full of people without support. So make sure that you are able to find someone who can give you encouragement and reassurance as you go through the process.
You have the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation.
If you believe your child needs an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), then your have a right to request one. According to IDEA, “a parent has the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation at the public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency.”
This means that as a parent, you may wish to obtain an IEE if:
- you believe the school district’s evaluation was not thorough;
- you are in disagreement over the specific nature of your child’s disability, present levels of performance, and/or goals;
- or you believe that more or less services should be offered.
IEEs include psychological testing, education testing, therapy evaluations (speech and language, occupational therapy, and physical therapy) and behavior assessments. To obtain a list of qualified evaluators, you can request information from the school district. If you decide to obtain an IEE, know that even though school districts are required to pay for an IEE, they can delay authorizing the payment, which can cause a delay in your child obtaining their evaluation.
In addition, even after you obtain an IEE, school districts are not required to use the information or recommendations in the report. If you are having difficulties obtaining an IEE or with the school district’s policies, you should contact an attorney or advocate that specializes in special education law.
You have the right to receive your state's procedural safeguards or parental rights.
Under IDEA regulation, at least once every year, you should receive an explanation of your state’s Procedural Safeguards or Parental Rights. As states typically update their procedural safeguards every couple of years or so, make sure you are receiving the most updated version.
These procedural safeguards are your rights as a parent of a child with a disability and include information for special education guidelines. Since you are required to receive your procedural safeguards at least once a year, most school districts give parents their parental rights at your child’s annual IEP meeting.
However, you are also suppose to receive your parental rights before your child’s initial evaluation (or a parent requested one), when your file a complaint, during a manifestation determination review, and if you request an additional copy.
You have the right to call an IEP meeting at any time.
If you want to meet with the IEP team, you do not have to wait until the annual review of your child’s IEP. You can call a meeting at anytime during the school year. If you want to request a meeting, place it in writing and keep a copy for your records.
As states have different regulations and timelines about parent requests, it is important that you check with your state’s regulations to make sure they are following the correct timelines for your request.
You have the right to receive your child's educational records.
Every parent has the right to receive their child’s educational records. Schools are mandated to comply with a parent’s request to inspect and review records and respond to all reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of records.
If you want access to your child’s records, under IDEA and other federal guidelines, you can:
- inspect and review educational records;
- request explanations and interpretations of records;
- request copies of the records; and,
- request a representative be given access to inspect and review records.
The easiest way to access your child’s records is to submit a request in writing (here is a sample letter that you can use). Once you obtain your child’s records, make sure that you keep them organized for future use and for documentation purposes. Want to learn how to organize your child’s records, click here.
You have the right to consent, refuse or revoke services.
According to your Procedural Safeguards, you must give your consent for initial and re-evaluations, before the school district can provide any services for your child, when your child is placed in special education services, and during the transition planning process when employees of outside agencies are invited. Consent is always in writing and will include you signing a form for documentation.
You also have the right to refuse or revoke services. If you wanted to refuse or revoke services, you would submit a written letter stating what service(s) that you wanted to withdraw.
Nicole Bovell is a former special education teacher dedicated to helping parents with children with special needs. She has over 10 years of experience working with children with special needs and her Master’s and Education Specialist degrees in Special Education. She focuses on empowering parents to be the very best possible advocate for their child through her blog, Beyond Special Education and consultation services.