Tip #1: Know your rights!
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004) was enacted by Congress in order to protect the rights of children with disabilities, as well as their parents. The stated intention of this important legislation was to ensure every child an education that meets their unique needs and prepares students for further education, employment, and independent living. The IDEA provides parents and children with “procedural safeguards” which ensures accountability on the part of the district. Here are just a few of your important rights under the IDEA:
- The right to your child’s educational file. The local educational agency must provide you with your child’s complete cumulative file within five business days of receipt of written request. When it comes to navigating your child’s special education plan, it is critical to stay informed of any developments in the child’s program.
- The right to call IEP meetings. As a Parent, you are a member of the IEP team. That means that you have the right to convene IEP meetings when necessary. The educational agency must respond to this request within a reasonable time. Make sure to send all requests in writing, and keep copies for your file. Send via certified mail if possible.
- The right to participate in your child’s educational program. When determining the most appropriate services and placement for your child, the school, district, or other educational agency has a legal obligation to provide you with a host of options. You have the right request further information if you are unsure about a decision regarding your child’s education. More importantly, you have the right to provide input. The IEP team may not make unilateral decisions without your consent.
- The right to Prior Written Notice. If a school, district, or other educational agency expresses an intent to change a child’s services, placement, evaluations, or eligibility status, they are required to give parents advance notice in writing. This is called “Prior Written Notice”. The school must provide documentation in writing before taking the proposed action, in order to allow parents time to respond. 20 U.S.C. Section 1415 (b)(3).
- The right to consent. The school must obtain informed parental consent before providing special education services or evaluations.
- The right to evaluations. Parents have the right to request an initial evaluation for special education eligibility, which must be completed within 60 calendar days of the district’s receipt of written consent (assessment plan). 20 U.S.C. Section 1414 (a)(1)(C). The school must then reevaluate at least every three years. Further, the educational agency has a further duty to reevaluate (no more than once a year) if the student’s educational needs change, or if Parent requests a reevaluation.
- The right to Independent Evaluations. If you disagree with the substance or procedure of a district’s assessment, you have the right to obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (“I.E.E.”). An IEE is a neutral, unbiased evaluation of your child which is provided by the district, free of charge. You have the right to choose your own independent evaluator. (“Letter to Parker”, wrightslaw.com/info/test.eval.choice.osep.htm)
Stay tuned for more “IEP Tips for Parents” from Powers Grewal PLC, Special Education Attorneys in Riverside, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego.