Educate, Participate & Advocate
Well, October is here, and the excitement (and stress) of going back to school has settled down. Summer is a distant memory. We have settled into the comfortable and the familiar routines of school. But for many parents, this time of year brings ongoing concerns. The parent of the special needs child is just figuring out if the teacher is a good fit. Has everyone on the team read the IEP? Is the IEP being implemented as agreed, or is it even appropriate? And then there are the parents who have a child that is not in special education, but who struggles in school, with the work, the teacher, the other kids, and they don’t know why or how to help them.
Rights and Responsibilities
In a series of upcoming blogs, I aim to embrace the concerns and experience of the special needs family, educate parents as to their rights and responsibilities, and in the end empower parents to be their child’s best advocate. The blogs will be in divided into the themes of the basic Who, What, Why, When, Where and How questions of special education. My goal is to help you help your child.
Educate, Participate and Advocate
First, you must educate yourself on your rights and the law. Then you must actively participate in your child’s education. Finally, you must advocate. No one knows your child like you do. No one cares more.
So let’s begin the education, with a summary of your basic rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
Every child has the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
You have the right to have your child placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
You have the right to have your child assessed at no cost to you by the school district in which you reside, even if your child goes to private school.
If you disagree with your school district’s assessments, you have the right to request an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) paid for by your school district.
You have the right, once your child is found eligible for special education, to an annual Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting, and new assessments every three years (Triennial). You also have the right to request an IEP meeting any time, and the IEP meeting must be scheduled within 30 days of your request..
You have the right to file a compliance complaint with the California Department of Education (CDE) if your school district does not implement or adhere to the signed IEP.
If your child is not receiving FAPE, you have the right to file a Due Process Complaint which is an administrative law proceeding were an Administrative Law Judge will hear your case.
You have the right to appeal an unfavorable decision in federal or state court. There are many timelines and procedural requirements for filing a Due Process Complaint or an appeal, so it is important you educate yourself or seek advice from an expert in this area.
You have the right to examine and receive copies of all of your child’s school records, within five days of such request, and free of charge if you cannot afford to pay for copies.
You have the right to be informed of your procedural safeguards, in your primary language.