8 Parent Rights Regarding Special Education You Should Know

parent rights special education

For parents of children with disabilities or delays, it’s imperative that you understand your Parent Rights to best advocate for your child’s educational needs. When stakeholders (i.e., teachers, therapists, etc) gather to discuss your child’s needs related to special education, the law outlines procedures and policies the school district must follow. Failure to follow said law can create an opportunity for a family to initiate litigation that often does not end in the school district’s favor.

One of those things the school must do is provide parents with a copy of their Parent Rights once per year. This is a powerful document that is many pages long, admittedly intimidating, and often is not read or understood by parents and even teachers.  Let’s break down this resource for palatable consumption:

1. Your child’s information is confidential.

Parent Rights says:
You have the right to:

    • Restrict third-party access to your child’s records by withholding consent to disclose records;
    • Be notified and receive copies before information in your child’s record is destroyed; and
    • Be told to whom information has been disclosed.

2. You must be given the opportunity to consent to an initial evaluation and also give consent before your child is placed in special education.

Parent Rights says:
You have the right to revoke consent in writing at any time subsequent to the consent for initial provision of services.

3. An initial evaluation must be completed within 60 days of the school receiving the initial parental consent for testing, unless the referral occurs less than 30 days prior to the end of the school year or in the summer.

Parent Rights says:
You have the right to:

    • Have your child assessed in all areas related to any suspected disability;
    • Have more than one assessment or piece of data used to determine eligibility and the appropriate educational program;
    • Provide information on other privately obtained assessments (conducted by qualified examiners) and have that information considered in the process of determining whether your child is a child with a disability and the educational needs of your child;
    • Have the evaluation administered in your child’s native language or mode of communication; and
    • Have a reevaluation at least once every three years.

4. The school is required to provide written notice of meetings, proposed evaluations, changes in program related to eligibility, and access to Medicaid benefits.

Parent Rights says:
You have the right to:

    • Have that notice in writing, in your native language, or other principal mode of communication, at a level understandable to the general public;
    • Be notified of each evaluation procedure, test, assessment, record, or report the school system has used as a basis for any system-proposed action or basis for refusal;
    • Notice before a school system accesses your child’s or your public benefits or insurance for the first time, and prior to obtaining the one-time parental consent and annually thereafter; and
    • To be present at all IEP Team meetings, including the right to (a) have the meeting at a mutually agreeable time and location, (b) be notified of whom will be in attendance, and (c) bring anyone with you that has knowledge or expertise about your child with a disability.

5. You can request a copy of all documents that will be reviewed before a scheduled meeting.

Parent Rights says:
You have the right to:

    • Inspect and review all education records relating to your child without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an Individualized Education Program (IEP), or due process hearing, or resolution session, and in no more than 45 days after your request has been made;
    • Have your representative review the records; and
    • Ask for an explanation and interpretation of any item in the records.

6. You can request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at the expense of the school district each time they conduct an evaluation of your child with which you disagree with the results.

Parent Rights says:
If you request an independent educational evaluation of your child at public expense, your school system must, without unnecessary delay, either:

    • (a) file a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation of your child is appropriate; or
    • (b) provide an independent educational evaluation at public expense, unless the school system demonstrates in a due process hearing that the evaluation of your child that you obtained did not meet the school system’s criteria.

7. You have the right to file a written formal complaint alleging violation of an IDEA requirement.

Parent Rights says:
The complaint must be a signed, written complaint that sets forth an alleged violation of the IDEA. The complaint shall include a statement that the local system has violated the requirements of IDEA and the facts on which the statement is based. Decisions of state complaints are issued by the GaDOE within 60 calendar days, unless extended for extenuating circumstances. You have the right to be told by the local system of any free or low-cost legal and other relevant services available (e.g., an expert on disability conditions that may be a witness at the hearing) when you request information or you or the system initiate a due process complaint.

8. Your child must be educated within the least restrictive environment.

Parent Rights says:
This term is used to describe the right for a child with a disability to remain with his or her peers without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate for his or her education. Each child is different and the IEP Team (which includes the parent) determines the setting for special education services to be delivered. A child should remain in the regular classroom with special education and related services provided in the regular classroom unless there is evidence that this environment is not successful even with supports and services.

Each allowance described above is further expanded in the actual Parent Right’s document, which is required to be provided at your child’s special education meeting annually.

What can we do to help?

We provide this blog as a resource to parents in our community; posts are often written based on questions we receive. We also offer consultations, where we can review your child’s records and provide our opinion based on the facts before us. And finally, we are available for hire to attend IEP meetings with clients who have been evaluated by our practice. We use our first-hand knowledge of your child to best help you advocate for favorable outcomes in your child’s education.

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