Understanding Parents' Rights in Special Education
Parents have the right to ensure that their child receives a free, public education that meets their unique needs. Remember, special education teachers want to help your child. Working with a team of qualified educational specialists and teachers is the best way to develop a plan that works for everyone.
Laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act clearly define your rights to contribute to your child’s educational plan. Note that your child’s school must inform you of all of your and your child’s legal rights.
All special ed students are legally entitled to an appropriate free public education. That means that it should come at no cost to you and tailored to the specific educational needs of your child.
Your child should receive their education in the least restrictive environment possible, and the school should make every effort to provide support so that they can be taught in the same classroom as children without special needs.
You can request that the school evaluate your child for special education or other services, or the school may contact you to request an evaluation. Either way, before the evaluation, you will be asked to voluntarily sign an informed consent form. You have the right to withdraw consent at any time.
Note that you also have a right to request your child be evaluated in the language they understand best. For example, if your child comes from a bilingual home, they must be tested in their first language. Any students with hearing impairments are also entitled to an interpreter.
If the school wishes to change your child’s placement or refuses to evaluate your child, they have to notify you. If you do not agree with these changes, you can request an independent evaluation.
You can also request an evaluation if you feel your child’s placement is no longer appropriate. Legally, the school must reevaluate your child every three years, but they must review the educational plan yearly.
You have the right to review any of your child’s educational records. You can also request a copy, though the school can charge you reasonable fees to create copies for you.
If you review your child’s records and feel that anything is incorrect or violates your child’s rights or privacy, you can ask the school to change the information. If they refuse, you can ask for a hearing to challenge the information you feel is inaccurate. You can also contact your state’s education department to file a complaint against the school.
An IEP is a written statement that lay out the educational plan for your child, and you have a right to be involved in the development of these plans. The school must make reasonable attempts to notify you when an IEP meeting is occurring and work with you to arrange a time, date, and location that is reasonably convenient for you and the school. You may also request a meeting at any time during the school year.
If you and the school cannot come to an agreement about what is best for your child, you can request mediation or a due process hearing. Make this request in writing and keep a copy for your records.