Recently I was asked by another mom what she is allowed to ask for and what her son is allowed to get. As a mom with a child on the spectrum, Killian has an Individualized Education Plan, otherwise known as an IEP. This is extremely important because Killian works differently than a neurotypical child and needs special breaks and assistance maintaining his focus and behavior.
First, I want to state that the legal aspects may change by state (and obviously country) so make sure you look into the benefits of your area. I am in Oregon, USA so I will be referencing what is accurate for our circumstance.
Before every IEP meeting, you will be offered a thick packet that includes procedural safeguards and parental rights. If you are not offered this, then this is your first red flag warning that the school is not following their legal responsibility and may try to get away with not abiding by the IEP.
Another helpful thing that I highly recommend if you are new to the process is to bring an experienced friend, colleague, or relative to help you with your meetings. You are advocating for your child. They are advocating for you. You are always legally allowed to have a parent advocate who can help you stand your ground if the staff tries to bulldoze you. They can also help you remember things that you may have forgotten about or not even thought about asking for.
Every parent has the right to participate in all decision-making meetings held in order to create an IEP for their child. These meetings are backed by FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and include the child’s eligibility, evaluation, educational placement, and anything else pertaining to their education. In the case there isn’t a parent available for these meetings, a surrogate parent should be appointed by the district to help represent the child adequately. It is very important that you or the child’s other parent be at every meeting but we understand that life can get in the way. In the case of needing to find a parent replacement, you need to let the IEP staff know at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. There is a sign-in sheet that everyone needs to sign prior to the meeting’s start.
In the case of any changes in identification, evaluation, and educational placement initiated by the school district, the parent has the right to receive prior written notice. You should also receive a written notice of the date, time, and location of the meeting either in the mail or sent home in your child’s backpack.
Parents also have the right to provide an informed, written consent for the special education IEP before the assessment process or the provision of special education and related services. This consent is also necessary before any changes are done to the program already in place. Parents should only supply their consent once they have a clear understanding of the IEP team proceedings. NEVER SIGN BEFORE READING AND UNDERSTANDING EVERYTHING FULLY! Also, parents should be provided with an interpreter if their native language is different from English or in case they are deaf. Keep in mind; parents also reserve the right to refuse the evaluation or educational placement of their child. Parents have the right to disagree with any proposals presented to change their child’s placement. When a disagreement surfaces, the child should remain in their current program until resolved. If a disagreement arises, parents are free to seek voluntary and impartial mediation to help find a mutually agreed-upon solution regarding the child’s special education IEP.
Every parent reserves the right to audit the school’s educational records regarding their child’s IEP records. If at any time you need or would like another copy, they must provide every paper in the IEP file. In the case of any complaints concerning the provision of FAPE, to the child, parents have the right to a hearing. During the hearing, the parent can request that an advocate, attorney, or if appropriate, their child be present. Furthermore, parents have the choice to make the hearing public. Making the hearing public could aide in your case by drawing the attention of the media and fellow parents to push back at the school and fight for your legal rights, holding the district and officials accountable. It would also let other IEP parents know that something may be up and should look into their child’s plan to make sure everything is being honored.
Children enrolled in special education have specific rules regarding their suspension or expulsion. If these instances extend for more than ten days, an IEP meeting should be called to assess how their disability could be contributing to the child’s misconduct. Additionally, the participants should discuss the potential for an alternative placement as an alternative. The parent is an essential member of the IEP team and therefore, should actively participate in the progress of their child’s education and performance. IDEA guarantees the rights of parents formulating the necessary educational programs and decisions that will benefit their child. It is, therefore, important for parents to exercise their rights responsibly to guarantee the success of their child. The world of special education is a big one. This means there’s a lot of information parents should be aware of describing the intricacies of service, schools, behaviors, and tips and tricks to gaining proper opportunity. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make future decisions for your child with special needs to ensure their success. Special Education Resource was explicitly created to help parents of children with special needs find the information and assistance necessary to help their child reach their excellence.
IEP COMPLIANT OPTIONS FOR PARENTS
- School District Complaints: Search your district’s website and look for whatever formal grievance procedure they have, and file one. Ask to present it at the next school board meeting if you are comfortable public speaking. Take some folks with you for moral support. Again, having a parent advocate is super important.
- If you live in an area where the county oversees education, I would look and see if there is a county-level complaint above the school district level complaint.
- State Compliance Complaints: Each state should have a State Department of Education website where this information will be available. However, a compliance complaint is just that–about compliance. Most often it means that you did not receive the IEP Meeting Invitation 10 days before the meeting. Or that they did not complete the evaluations within the mandated 60 days. If you have great data and documentation that the team is not following the IEP as written, you can try filing a compliance complaint. But do not be surprised if they bump you back to using your Procedural Safeguards.
- State Complaints-Professional Boards: Again, this will vary from state to state. But there are state licensing boards for nurses, OTs, PTs and certifications for teachers. You should know that if you file a complaint against a professional and that person belongs to a union, that union will defend them. That is why people pay union dues. Again, just letting you know what you are up against. You also will have to demonstrate that the offender actually violated state laws regarding their profession, their state’s practice act, or similar.
- FERPA complaints– A friendly reminder that educational records are governed by FERPA, not HIPAA. And of course, you’re going to have to read through FERPA and discern which portions were violated. According to the USDOE website: A parent of a student under the age of 18 at an elementary or secondary school or a student who is at least 18 years of age or attending a postsecondary institution at any age (“eligible student”) may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) regarding an alleged violation of a school’s failure to comply with his or her rights under FERPA. A parent of an eligible student generally may not file a complaint under FERPA, as the rights afforded to parents are transferred to the student when he or she becomes an eligible student. Here is FERPA information for Parents, and FERPA information for Students. How to file a complaint is linked at the beginning of this bullet point.
- Office of Civil Rights Complaint– OCR is a federal office, therefore federal laws apply. That link will explain how to file a complaint. OCR complaints must be completed within 180 days of the last event.
One large incentive for schools to follow through with IEP procedures and guidelines and well as proving the services that were agreed upon in the meeting is to keep their funding. Schools are given grants and support through educational foundations and government means. If they are found guilty of not following these rules then their grants and funding gets pulled.
At any time during the school year, you may request an additional IEP meeting to follow up on your child’s progress or make changes to the plan. If revisions are made, then they have 60 days to implement those changes (30 days for preschools) and 30 days to respond to your revision requests.
You are your child’s biggest tool in their tool belt. You are going to be the one who makes the biggest impact in their life. Never stop fighting for them and for yourself. And most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help.
-The Lazy Mama