Understanding Your Parents’s Rights

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IEP Help Understanding Parents’ Rights

It is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)  that the school district offers you a copy of your Parents’ Rights (aka Procedural Safeguards), asks if you have any questions, and provides information as to who you can contact if you do have concerns regarding your Parents’ Rights. This must be provided at least one time per school year and is typically provided at the annual IEP meeting.

Recently while at an IEP, I was appalled at the way the district handled the most basic, yet extremely important aspect of the law – making sure parents are offered a copy of their procedural rights and asking if they have any questions.  At the beginning of this particular IEP meeting, a copy of the Parents’ Rights was placed underneath the attendance only sign in sheet as the sign in sheet was passed around for the participants to sign. When it reached the special education teacher, she noticed the copy of the Parents’ Rights, said, “Oh, this goes to the parent” and handed it to my client. I waited a few seconds to see if the teacher was going to ask the parent if she had any questions about the Parents’ Rights but when she didn’t, I felt obligated to ask my client if she had any questions and explain that if she had future questions she could call the numbers listed on the last page, or of course myself.

I was so appalled at the district’s nonchalant way of offering the parents a copy of the procedural safeguards because this document is a parent’s window to understanding their rights. Without it, parents are left in the dark and often feel that they have no rights.

Knowing Your Parents’ Rights and Using Them

As an advocate, I frequently hear, “I didn’t know I could do that.” This statement never surprises me because I have reviewed numerous copies of the parents’ rights/procedural safeguards that districts hand out to parents. Some of these copies are clearly written and outlined, while others may as well be written in ancient Greek. Regardless, even the ones that are well written are capable of putting the average person to sleep, quicker than counting sheep, due to all of the legal references and educational terminology. I would never discourage a parent from attempting to read the procedural safeguards documentation handed out by their district, but I would recommend a strong cup of coffee in hand while reading. For those who would like a quicker approach, here is a list of the most frequently asked questions by parents regarding their rights.

Top Ten Questions Regarding Parents’ Rights

1.     How do I get special education services for my child?
Request in writing that your child be tested for special education services. Once the school receives this written request, they have 15 calendar days to provide you with an assessment plan or a reason why they are denying the assessment at this time.

2.     Can I request an IEP? Or does my child only have one per school year?
Whenever you have a concern about your child’s special education program, you have the right to request an IEP meeting. There is no limit as to the number of IEP meetings that can be held within a school year. Make sure your request is in writing. Once the district receives the request, they should respond without delay. If you feel they are delaying your request, be sure to ask for their written policy. IDEA does not provide a specific timeline for when a parent requests an IEP meeting but most states and districts do have a written policy about this.

3.     My child keeps on getting suspended and sent home. What can I do?
 Request a manifestation determination meeting be held to determine if the behavior(s) that are resulting in the suspension are caused by your child’s disability. If they are, the district cannot suspend the child for these behaviors beyond ten school days. A behavior plan should be developed by the IEP team to help your child be successful in the school environment.

4.     Can I bring someone with me to the IEP meeting?
You can bring anyone who has knowledge of the child to the IEP meeting. This could include a relative, family friend, church pastor, outside service provider, or a special education advocate. You can bring a lawyer but if you bring a lawyer, you must notify the district that you are bringing one. This gives them the opportunity to have their lawyer present for the meeting.

5.     Can I visit my child’s classroom?
You can visit your child’s classroom but be aware that there are often limitations on the number of times per year, as well as the amount of time. These parameters are typically set by the school board and enforced by the site principal.

6.     Can I observe the district’s recommended placement before agreeing to it?
You do have the right to observe a recommended placement before your child is placed there. This gives you the opportunity to make an informed decision.

7.     What do I do if I don’t agree with the IEP?
You can sign in agreement and write in “with the exception of _________.” This enables the IEP team to move forward with the parts you agree with while you are resolving the other parts.

8.     Can I request time to review the IEP or do I have to sign at the end of the meeting?
You have the right to take the IEP home and review it before signing.

9.     Can I suggest goals to go into the IEP?
You are part of the IEP team and can request goals for the team to work on.

10. Can I get a copy of the IEP before the meeting so that I can review what will be           discussed?
Yes, you can ask for a draft copy of the IEP so that you can review it prior to the meeting. This way you are informed of what is being proposed and are able to actively give your input at the meeting.

Getting Additional Help with Your Parents Rights

If you need additional IEP help understanding your Parents’ Rights so that you can advocate for the needs of your child, contact a special education advocate who has expertise in this field. They will be able to guide you through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure your child is receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Some advocates also provide trainings for parents so that parents learn the necessary skills and information to successfully navigate through the special education maze for their child.

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