Process - Rights and Responsibilities
ERIC EC Digest #E567
Author: Bernadette Knoblauch
Public Law 105-17, the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, clearly strengthens
the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. It builds on the
achievements gained under Public Law 94-142, the Education for the Handicapped
Act, and Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA). A fundamental provision of these special education laws is the right
of parents to participate in the educational decision-making process. This includes
the right to:
- A free appropriate public
education for your child. Free means at no cost to you as parents. Appropriate
means meeting the unique educational needs of your child.
- Request an evaluation
if you think your child needs special education or related services.
- Be notified whenever
the school wants to evaluate your child or change your child's educational
placement, or refuses your request for an evaluation or a change in placement.
- Informed consent. Informed
consent means you understand and agree in writing to the evaluation and educational
program decisions for your child. Your consent is voluntary and may be withdrawn
at any time.
- Obtain an independent
evaluation if you disagree with the school's evaluation.
- Request a reevaluation
if you think your child's present educational placement is no longer appropriate.
The school must reevaluate your child at least once every 3 years, but your
child's educational program must be reviewed at least once during each calendar
- Have your child tested
in the language he or she knows best. For example, if your child's primary
language is Spanish, this is the language in which he or she must be tested.
Students who are deaf have the right to an interpreter during the testing.
- Review all of your child's
school records. You may request copies of these records, but the school may
charge you a reasonable fee for making the copies. Only you, as parents, and
those persons directly involved in the education of your child will be permitted
access to personal records. If you feel that some information in your child's
records is inaccurate or misleading or violates the privacy or other rights
of your child, you may request that the information be changed. If the school
refuses your request, you have the right to request a hearing in order to
challenge the questionable information in your child's records or you may
file a complaint with your state education agency.
- Be fully informed by
the school of all rights that are provided to you under the law.
- Participate in the development
of your child's individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family
service plan (IFSP), if your child is under school age . The school must make
every possible effort to notify you of the IEP or IFSP meeting and then arrange
it at a time and place that is convenient for both you and the school.
- Participate in all IEP
or IFSP team decisions, including placement.
- Request an IEP or IFSP
meeting at any time during the school year.
- Be kept informed about
your child's progress at least as often as parents of children who do not
- Have your child educated
in the least restrictive environment possible. Every effort should be made
to develop an educational program that provides your child with the services
and supports needed in order to be taught with children who do not have disabilities.
- Voluntary mediation or
a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school that can not
be resolved informally. Be sure you make your request in writing, date your
request, and keep a copy.
What Are Your Responsibilities,
as a Parent, in the Special Education Process?
Parents have a key role
in the special education process. The following suggestions may offer some guidance:
- Develop a partnership
with the school. Share relevant information about your child's education and
development. Your observations can be a valuable resource in your child's
- Ask for an explanation
of any aspect of the program that you don't understand. Educational and medical
terms can be confusing, so do not hesitate to ask.
- Make sure the IEP or
IFSP goals and objectives are specific. This will ensure that everyone teaching
your child is working toward the same goals. Take the IEP or IFSP home to
think about it before you sign it.
- Make sure your child
is included in the regular school activities program as much as is appropriate,
including nonacademic areas such as lunch and recess and other areas such
as art, music, and physical education.
- Monitor your child's
progress and periodically ask for a report. If your child is not progressing,
discuss it with the teacher and determine whether the program should be modified.
As a parent, you can initiate changes in your child's educational program.
- Try to resolve directly
with the school any problems that may occur with your child's assessment,
placement, or educational program. In some situations, you may be unsure of
how to proceed to resolve a problem. Most states have protection and advocacy
agencies that can provide you with the guidance you need to pursue your case.
- Keep records. There may
be questions about your child that you will want to discuss, as well as meetings
and phone conversations you will want to remember. It is easy to forget important
information that is not written down.
- Join a parent organization.
Besides sharing knowledge, experiences, and support, a parent group often
can be an effective force on behalf of your child. Parents often find that,
as a group, they have the power to bring about needed changes to strengthen
As the Parent of
a Child with a Disability, What Can You Offer the IEP or IFSP Process?
Parents of children with
disabilities should be involved in the process as much as they want to be and
as much as they can be. The following are some ways in which parents can become
- Before attending an IEP
or IFSP meeting, make a list of things you want your child to learn. Take
notes about aspects of your child's behavior that could interfere with the
learning process. Describe the methods you have found to be successful in
dealing with these behaviors.
- Bring any information
the school may not already have to the IEP or IFSP meeting. Examples include
copies of medical records, past school records, or test or evaluation results.
Remember, reports do not say all there is to say about a child. You can add
real-life examples to demonstrate your child's ability in certain areas.
- Find out what related
services are being provided, and ask each professional to describe the kind
of service he or she will be providing and what improvement you might expect
to see as a result of these services.
- Ask what you can do at
home to support the program. Many skills your child learns at school can also
be used at home. Ask to meet with the teacher when your child is learning
a new skill that could be practiced at home.
- Discuss methods for handling
discipline problems that you know are effective with your child.
- Regard your child's education
as a cooperative effort. If at any point you and the school cannot reach an
agreement over your child's educational and developmental needs, ask to have
another meeting. This would allow time for you and the school to gather more
information. If there is still a conflict over your child's program after
a second meeting, ask for a state mediator or a due process hearing.
- When you feel teachers
and school personnel are doing a good job, tell them.
What Resources Are
Available to Help You?
Your local and state education
agencies have information to help guide you through the special education process.
Since the specific criteria and procedures used by school districts may vary,
your local director of special education and his or her staff can help you access
such information. Additional resources are available from national organizations.
Some of them will also be able to direct you to local and state chapters that
can provide more local support:
The ARC of the United States
500 East Border Street, Suite 300
Arlington, TX 76010
Children and Adults with
Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD)
499 NW 70th Avenue, Suite 308
Plantation, FL 33317
The Council for Exceptional
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191
Learning Disability Association
4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
National Information Center
for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
PO Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
Bernadette Knoblauch is
an Associate Director at the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
ERIC Digests are in the
public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated, but please acknowledge
your source. This publication was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department
of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, under contract
no. RI93002005. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect
the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
The Council for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191
Toll Free: 1.800.328.0272