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Legal Rights For Parents Of Special Education Students

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Parents of children who qualify for special education services in school should have a solid understanding of their legal rights. Occasionally, parents will need to exercise these rights if mandated procedures are not followed. Here is a summary of the special education legal rights for parents.

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    Why Parents Should Know Their Special Education Legal Rights

    IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is a federal law that protects the rights of students who qualify for special education services. The parents of these children are granted certain legal provisions under IDEA as well. When meeting with teachers, administrators, and support staff members of the school district in order to determine their child's placement and services, parents should be certain that they have full knowledge of their special education legal rights. These rights not only allow parents to access their child's evaluation reports and school records, but also require that parents receive advance notice of meetings so that they may advocate for their child's special education rights when necessary.

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    Legal Rights Granted To Parents Of Special Needs Children

    Parents should stay informed of the rights they are provided under special education law while their children are enrolled in school. Special education legal rights for parents are known as procedural safeguards, and specifics are detailed as followed:

    --Parents are required to receive a written copy of their rights in regard to legal issues and IDEA when their child is first referred for evaluation, when the child is re-evaluated, when the written invitation to an IEP meeting is issued, if the parents file a complaint, and at any other time that the parents request this information. The school district is responsible for providing parents with documentation of their rights under special education law.

    --Parents must be informed in advance by the school district when their child is referred for evaluation, when evaluations are to take place, when an IEP meeting is scheduled, when an IEP is written or modified, and when their child's educational placement or support services are revised. Parents must also receive prior notification of disciplinary actions and formal hearings or mediations.

    --Parents must be consulted in regard to the date, time, and place of an IEP meeting. All parties should agree on a convenient time and location for the team meeting to occur.

    --Under IDEA, parents of special needs children have the right to read and examine their child's school records upon request. Examples of these records include evaluation reports, educational placement records, and documentation of any support services that the district provides for the child.

    --If parents determine that the school district is not meeting their child's needs as specified by the IEP, they have the right to file for a due process hearing. These hearings, which are held in the presence of an impartial officer, provide parents with the opportunity to voice their concerns in an attempt to resolve their dispute with the district.

    Special education legal rights for parents are an important component of IDEA, as these rights provide families of special needs students with the ability to advocate for their children and effectively communicate with school district members and administrators.