Rights and Responsibilities of Parents of Children with Disabilities
Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, enhances the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. It builds on the rights provided under Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, of 1975. A fundamental provision of these laws is the right of parents to participate in the educational decision-making process. Currently this includes the right to:
- A free appropriate public education for your child. "Free" means at no cost to you as parents or to your child, except for incidental fees normally charged to parents of students without disabilities as part of the regular education programs. "Appropriate" means that your child's program must be individually designed to meet his or her unique educational needs.
- Request an evaluation if you think your child has an impairment that may require special education or related services. You also have the right to get an independent evaluation if you disagree with the evaluation obtained by the school.
- Be notified in writing ("written prior notices") whenever the school proposes any of the following: an evaluation to determine whether your child has a disability; a reevaluation; or a change in your child's educational placement. You are also entitled to be notified in writing if the school refuses your request for an evaluation or change in educational placement for your child.
- Informed consent. This means you understand and agree in writing to the evaluation and educational placement decisions for you child. Your consent is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time.
- Request a reevaluation of your child at any time. The school must reevaluate your child if conditions warrant, or if you or your child's teacher requests a reevaluation; but in any case, the school must reevaluate the child at least once every three years.
- 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. Students who are blind or visually impaired have the right to have the tests provided in Braille or large print, or to have the test read aloud.
- Have access to your child's education records. A school must comply with a parent's request to inspect and review his or her child's education records within 45 days of the receipt of the request. Generally, schools must have written consent from the parent before releasing any information from the student's records. However, records can be released to certain education officials without the parent's consent. If you feel that some information in your child's records is inaccurate or misleading or violates your child's rights, you may request that the record be changed. If the school refuses, you have the right to request a hearing, 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 and all procedural safeguards that the school must follow to ensure that the rights of all are protected.
- Participate in the development of your child's individualized education program (IEP) or, if your child is under age 3, individualized family service plan (IFSP). You have the right to participate in all IEP or IFSP team decisions, or any other decisions regarding your child. 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. The school is responsible for reviewing this plan at least once each year, but you have the right to request an IEP or IFSP meeting at any time during the school year.
- Be kept informed about your child's progress, by means such as periodic report cards, at least as often as parents of children who do not have disabilities.
- Have your child educated in the least restrictive environment. This means that, to the maximum extent possible, your child should be educated in regular classes with his or her non-disabled peers, and your child should receive supplementary aids and services in his or her neighborhood school. If education outside the regular classroom is determined to be most appropriate, your child should be educated in the most integrated setting possible.
- 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.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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