Your Special Education Rights
As the parent of a child with special needs, you have rights when it comes to your child’s education. Let’s talk about a few of them. You have the right to:
- Request an evaluation of your child to determine if he/she has a disability. Parents may request that their child be evaluated. We are often the first to notice that our child’s learning, behavior, or development may be a cause for concern. If you are worried about your child’s progress in school or think they may need some extra help, you can request that your child be evaluated. Many schools require referrals to be in written form (and I HIGHLY recommend doing this. More about that later).
- Meet with the school district to decide whether or not to assess your child. Based on a teacher’s recommendations, observations, or school test results, a school may also recommend that a child be evaluated. The school MUST (by law) ask parents for permission to evaluate and the parents MUST give their informed written permission before the eval can be conducted.
- Be fully informed regarding testing: what test will be used and why? What are the findings? What are the implications? The school is required by law to notify parents in writing that they’d like to evaluate. This is called prior written notice. Parents have the right to be fully informed, understand what’s being proposed, understand what the evaluations mean, and understand their right to refuse consent for evaluation, AND how to exercise their rights under federal law if the school refuses to evaluate: IDEA’s procedural safeguards.
- Ask for an independent evaluation (IEE) at public expense if you disagree with the School’s evaluation results. If you do not agree with the results of the school’s evaluation of your child, or if you think the school’s eval doesn’t reflect your child’s needs, you have the right to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). You may ask that a professional evaluator who is not employed by the school district conduct another evaluation of your child. The school district must provide you with information on how to obtain the evaluation and about the school’s criteria. Once you obtain an IEE, the school district MUST consider the results of the evaluation.
- Actively participate in the IEP process is an equal member of the Team. You are your child’s best advocate and expert. You have the right to actively participate as an equal team member. As a parent, your input to your child’s education includes goals, what’s important to you and your child, your concerns and suggestions, likes/dislikes, and learning styles (just to name a few). You are the expert!
- Call an IEP meeting. You have the right to call an IEP meeting. Different states have different laws as to timelines. But remember – IF THE REQUEST IS NOT IN WRITING – IT DOES NOT EXIST. If you need help writing a request for your school – let MSNN help you!
- Be fully informed about the programs and your progress. You have this right by receiving frequent progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, observing in the classroom, and having reasonable access to staff.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. EVER.
- Understand what the school professionals are saying about your child. If you don’t understand what the school professionals are saying about your child, ask questions and make them explain. Understanding IEP goals, IQs, data ranges, etc. is difficult for even the most seasoned of parents. Take the time to ask questions and understand what they’re saying. You don’t want to miss something important.
- Agree or disagree with the other members of the team. When the family and school don’t agree, it’s really important to discuss the concerns and try to find a compromise. If that isn’t possible, you need to be aware of both the federal and state procedural safeguards, which include ways that parents and schools can resolve disputes, such as resolution process, mediation, due process complaint, due process hearing, and state complaints. If you need further help, the best place to search online is your State Department of Special Education. You can also get in touch with us here at MSNN and we can help.
- Bring another person (or persons) to the meeting. I ALWAYS recommend bringing another person (or persons) with you to the IEP meeting. Sometimes, an IEP meeting can feel like an interrogation, and it’s helpful to have others on your side. You can bring others who have knowledge or expertise in your child, friends, family, an advocate, etc. If you’re interested in having an advocate attend, shoot us an email – we can help!
- Take the prepared IEP home to review it before signing it. Federal law says that you can take the IEP home to further review before you sign it. (However, you should agree to sign where it shows you attended the meeting). If you are uncomfortable with the IEP or feel that you have not had enough time to go through it, don’t be afraid to ask for a continuation meeting.
- Review your child’s records & Receive Copies. You can inspect and review your child’s educational records, request explanations and interpretations, request copies, and request that your representative (advocate/lawyer) be given access to inspect and review. Schools must comply with the parent’s request to inspect and review without “unnecessary delay”, typically no more than 45 days after the request has been made. Check your state laws for more information.
Remember – YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S EXPERT. You are the most important member of the IEP Team. You are there to protect your child, make sure he/she receives an appropriate education, and ensure their success. I know it’s hard to learn and understand education jargon, language, acronyms, and everything in between – but we’re here to help! You got this!