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Legal Rights of Parents in Special Education and Mainstream Classrooms

written by: Barbara • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/12/2012

Parents have legal rights to be in special education and mainstream classrooms. Defining those rights must reach beyond the inferred into the actual rights that parents have in school communities. The parent-teacher classroom collaboration can provide optimal support for students with special needs.

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    Parents in the Classroom

    For some parents of students with disabilities, the need to be in the classroom may be more about their needs, than their student's desire to have them there. However, strong parent advocacy in the classroom can insure IEP (Individualized Education Plan) compliance under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004 for their special needs students if they know what to look for in teacher instructional implementation and lesson planning. Read on to see what successful advocacy can look like for parents:

    • Insure that your student's schedule matches the IEP goals and objectives. If the student needs a pull-out class for reading or math, make sure there is a study skills class that provides that additional assistance and tutorial support or an Instructional Assistant (IA) in the classroom providing that support. Students with special needs should have a complete schedule with no holes or missing classes during the school day. If students are fully mainstreamed, the schedule should include a language arts class, math class, social studies, science and other elective classes that meet graduation requirements and diagnostic learning requirements. Parents must be in the classroom and in the counseling office if their student's schedule is out of IDEA and IEP compliance requirements.
    • Make sure that student's minutes on the IEP for writing, reading, math and any behavioral skill instructions are being met in the classroom or in a resource room. If students are given 300 minutes for math during the week, do the math and make sure that students are not being shortchanged in the learning process for math instruction and tutorial support.
    • Instructional Assistant (IA) support if indicated in the IEP should be a reality in the classroom. If the student's IEP indicates that an Instructional Assistant should be in your child's language arts class to help with organization of his/her classroom assignments and turning in of assignments, parents in the classroom can make sure that there is compliance.
    • Assistive technology support may be indicated in the classroom for students with visual, auditory or physical impairments in the IEP. Parents can make sure that their students are receiving assistive technological assistance as indicated in their plan.
    • Parents can also insure that students with disabilities are being given the appropriate level of instruction, reading materials and lesson modifications as indicated in their IEPs. If students are being given Algebra 1 books and instruction when the indication is for Pre-Algebra lesson planning with modifications, then parents can work with their student's teachers and Special education case managers to make sure that their student's math needs are addressed appropriately using the right learning materials, the right instruction, and the right assessments to measure learning outcome.
    • Parent-teacher collaboration can create additional instructional benefits and reinforce the learning for students beyond the classroom. When teachers provide parents with instructional guidance and specific learning tools that are beneficial in reinforcing the classroom learning at home, the learning process can become accelerated and consistent for students with special needs beyond the classroom .

    When parents and teachers collaborate in the classroom, the students become the beneficiaries of a powerful partnership. Parents have a legal right to be in the classroom and provide advocacy for their special needs students. Parents can't interfere with teachers and disrupt the learning process for their students or other students, but they can become the necessary voice of compliance when their student's IEP needs aren't being addressed by teachers or the school community under IDEA.