ERIC Identifier: ED437766
Publication Date: 1999-06-00
Author: Knoblauch, Bernadette - McLane, Kathleen
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
Rights and Responsibilities of Parents of Children
with Disabilities: Update 1999. ERIC Digest #E575.
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consent is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time.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
--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.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES, AS A PARENT, IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION
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 observation can be a
--Ask for an explanation of any aspect of the program that you don't
understand. Educational terms can be confusing, so do not hesitate to ask.
--Make sure the IEP or IFSP goals and objectives are specific and measurable.
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. You have 10 school days in which to make a decision.
--Make sure your child is included in the regular school activities
program as much as is appropriate, including, at least, lunch, recess,
and non-academic 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 evaluation, placement, or educational program. Most states
have protection and advocacy agencies that can provide you with the guidance
you need to resolve a problem.
--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
--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 special services.
AS THE PARENT OF A CHILD WITH A DISABILITY, WHAT CAN YOU OFFER THE
IEP OR IFSP PROCESS?
Parents of children with disabilities can and should be involved in
a number of ways, including the following:
--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.
--When you feel teachers and school personnel are doing a good job,
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 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, 500 East Border Street, Suite 300, Arlington TX 76010; Tel:
Children with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD), 8181 Professional
Place, Suite 201, Landover, MD 20785; Tel: 301.306.7070.
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston,
VA 20191-1589; Tel: 888.cec.sped (Toll Free); Tel: 703.620.3660.
Learning Disability Association (LDA), 4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh,
PA 15234; Tel: 412.341.1515.
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
(NICHCY), PO Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013; Tel: 800.695.0285 (Toll Free);