Photo by Steven DePolo

Photo by Steven DePolo

Parent’s Rights and Procedural Safeguards

 

Parents have certain rights when their child is participating in special education services. You will be given a copy of your rights several times throughout your child’s educational career, until graduation from high school or age 22. It’s important that you know and understand your rights under the Education Code in your state, along with the federal laws of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA or IDEIA).

 

Always remember to be an active member of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. You are responsible for your child’s education and welfare. Remember: where you may only have one or several children, your child’s special education case manager may have anywhere from 5 to 80 depending on the type of services your child receives. Typically, itinerant teachers, such a Speech-Language Pathologists, Adapted P.E. teachers and Assistive Technology teachers may carry caseloads of up to 80 students at several different schools. So while they are responsible for providing the highest quality services, your active participation will be more likely to assure that your child receives what they need to be successful in school.

 

You can find information on your state’s education code at the State Department of Education Website for your state. Parent’s Rights should be very similar between states, as IDEA and NCLB are the overarching federal laws for special education.

Here are some of the very basic elements to your Educational Parental Rights:

 1. Your child has a right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) at no cost to you in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that the IEP team deems appropriate (and you are a part of the team). This means that the public school cannot charge you for any special services or technology that the IEP team deems necessary for educational progress. This does not always mean the most expensive service or product, but what is needed to make progress on educational goals and objectives.

 

2. Timelines. There is a set of very specific timelines in place for educators to follow in assessing a child for special education services and for managing progress made on goals written into the IEP. If not followed, the district or county program is said to be Out of Compliance and may be at risk for fines, loss of funding, and possible lawsuits. It’s important that you know these timelines and help in the process by providing a reasonable and timely turnaround of documents to your child’s teacher or school psychologist to facilitate speedy services to your child.

 3. Consent. Your written consent must be given for formal assessment by school personnel for initial evaluations and triennial evaluations as well as any proposal to change programs or services.

 

4. You have the right to Due Process if you disagree with school personnel and cannot reach an agreement. You are not required to have an attorney, but a special education advocate or legal counsel may be prudent if you ever have to go to a due process hearing. This is not common. I will say, in my 20 years as a special education teacher, I have never been called to a due process hearing, because I always advocated for my students for the highest level of program and service available and worked collaboratively with parents and district administrators. Collaboration is essential in assuring your child a positive school experience. Mediation and Alternative dispute resolution is always available and is usually the best route to take for everyone.

 

5. Disciplinary Action. If your child is suspended for more than 10 days in a school year and for each and every 10 days, a special IEP meeting, called a Manifestation Determination, must be held. At this time, the team will decide if the suspendable behavior is caused by the child’s disability. In many cases, when a child with Emotional Disturbance is suspended, especially for violence or acts of anger, it may be considered part of their disability, and in that case, services and programs must be re-evaluated to make sure that your child is receiving the needed level of care in the school system. In any case, if you are being asked to “pick up” your child informally on a frequent basis or if your child is frequently suspended, there should be an IEP meeting called by either you or the teacher, to review placement and services for appropriateness. Don’t regularly “pick up” your child informally from school, as this causes your child to miss valuable instruction time, but instead insist on an appropriate Behavior Support Plan and personnel to assist your child in their educational environment.

 

Mediation and Parent Ombudsmen

 

Many districts have Parent Ombudsmen (or Parent ombudspersons) to assist parents with disputes, misunderstandings or difficulties with teachers and administrators. The local university may also answer questions for you if needed. If your district offers parent trainings, it will benefit you to attend. The more you know, the more likely your child is to receive appropriate services.

Questions

I hope this short overview is helpful to you. If you have specific questions you would like me to address in the area of obtaining educational services for your child who may have a mental illness, whether it is anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia, please let me know and I will attempt to address your questions and concerns.