ERIC Identifier: ED262499
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Morgan, Daniel P. - Myette, Beverly
Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Parents' Rights and Responsibilities. 1984 Digest, Revised.
Public Law 94-142 clearly defined the rights of handicapped children and
their parents. A fundamental provision of the law is your right to be in the
educational decision-making process, including your 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
--Be notified whenever the school wishes to evaluate your child or to change
your child's educational placement, or refuses your request for an evaluation or
for a change in placement.
--Initiate an evaluation if you think your child is in need of special
education or related services.
--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consent is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time.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 outcome of the
--Request a re-evaluation if you suspect your child's present educational
placement is no longer appropriate. The school must re-evaluate your child at
least every three years. But, your child's educational program must be reviewed
at least once during each calendar year.
--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. Also, students who are deaf have the right to an interpreter
during the testing.
--Review all of your child's records. You may obtain copies of these records,
but the school may charge you a reasonable fee for making copies. Only parents
and those persons directly involved in the education of your child will be
permitted access to personal records. If you feel that any of the information
contained in your child's records is inaccurate, 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 then have the right to request
a hearing in order to challenge the questionable information in your child's
--Be fully informed by the school of all your rights that are provided to you
under the law.
--Participate in the development of your child's individualized education
program (IEP). The school must make every possible effort to notify you of the
IEP meeting and to arrange it at a time and place that is convenient for you.
Remember, your child's IEP cannot be implemented without your written consent.
--Have your child educated in the most normal school setting possible. Every
effort should be made to develop an educational program which will provide the
greatest amount of contact with nonhandicapped children.
--Request a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school that
could not be resolved informally.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES, AS A PARENT, IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION
Parental responsibilities to ensure that a child's rights are being protected
were less clearly defined in P.L. 94-142 than were parental rights. These
responsibilities vary considerably depending on the nature of the child's
handicapping condition and other factors. In accepting these responsibilities,
some of the following suggestions may be helpful:
--Develop a partnership with the school. You are now an important member of
the school team. Share with the school relevant information about your child's
abilities and behavior, as well as any concern you may have about your child's
education. Your observations and suggestions can be a valuable resource for your
--Ask for clarification of any aspect of your child's education that is
unclear to you. Educational and medical terms can be confusing, so do not
hesitate to ask.
--Understand the program specified on the IEP before agreeing to it or
signing it. Ask yourself if what is planned corresponds with your knowledge of
your child's needs.
--Take note of the regular school activities included in the educational
program for your child. Do not forget nonacademic areas such as lunch and recess
and other areas such as art, music, and physical education. Your child should be
included in these activities.
--Learn as much as you can about your rights and the rights of your child.
Ask the school to explain these rights, as well as the policies and regulations
in effect in your district and state before you agree to a special education
--Check your child's progress. If your child is not progressing, discuss it
with the teacher and determine if the IEP should be modified. As a parent, you
can initiate changes in your child's educational program.
--Discuss any problems that may occur with your child's assessment,
placement, or educational program with the school. It is best to try to resolve
these problems directly with the school or district. In some situations, you may
be uncertain as to which direction you should take to resolve a problem. Most
states have Protection and Advocacy agencies that can provide you with the
guidance you may need to pursue your case.
--Keep records. There may be many questions and comments about your child
that you will want to discuss with the school, as well as meetings and phone
conversations you will want to remember. It is easy to forget information useful
to your child's education that is not written down.
--Join a parent organization. In addition to offering the opportunity to
share knowledge, experiences and support, a parent group can be an effective
force on behalf of your child. Many times parents find that as a group they have
the power to bring about needed changes to strengthen and broaden special
AS THE PARENT OF A HANDICAPPED CHILD, WHAT CAN YOU OFFER THE IEP PROCESS?
In the final analysis, parents of handicapped children should be involved in
the IEP process as much as they want to be and as much as they can be. Varying
degrees of involvement are possible. The following suggestions are ways in which
parents can become involved in the IEP process:
--Before attending the IEP meeting, make a list of the things that your child
can do and of the things that you think your child should learn during the
school year. Check your list with the school's list of skills to be included in
the IEP. Discuss any differences between the lists. Take notes about your
child's behavior which could interfere with the teaching process. Describe the
methods which you have found successful in dealing with these behaviors.
--Bring any information the school may not already have to the IEP 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
--Besides your child's teacher, many other specialists and professionals may
have contact with your child. These professionals may be providing "related
services" to your child. Ask each professional to describe the kind of service
he or she will be providing and what growth you might expect to see as a result
of these services.
--Ask what you can do at home to support school programs. Many skills that
the child learns at school can be used at home. Ask to meet with the teacher
when your child is learning a new skill which could be practiced at home.
--Make sure the goals and objectives on the IEP are specific. This will
ensure that everyone teaching your child is working toward the same goals. Be
sure that you understand and agree with each of the goals and objectives on the
IEP before signing it.
--After the IEP meeting is over, your job as parent is not finished. You
should follow your child's progress in school throughout the year. For example,
it may be helpful to request a copy of your child's assessment reports and IEP.
Periodically, ask for a report on your child's progress to be sure you know what
kind of progress is being made.
--Education should be a cooperative effort. If, at any point, you and the
school cannot reach an agreement over your child's educational needs and IEP,
ask to have another meeting.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Council for Exceptional Children, l920 Association Drive, Reston, VA
American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilites, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, NW
#817, Washington, DC 20036
National Association for Retarded Citizens, P.O. Box 6109, 2709 Avenue E.
East, Arlington, TX 76011
National Association of the Physically Handicapped, 6423 Grandville Avenue,
Detroit, MI 48228
United Cerebral Palsy Association, 66 East 34th Street, New York, NY 10016
National Center for Law and the Handicapped, 1235 North Eddy Street, South
Bend, Indiana 46617
American Civil Liberties Union, 84 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011