Your child has the right to a free and appropriate public school education. As a parent, you have to be your child’s advocate; getting involved in his or her education is among the most important things you can do. Special needs includes learning disabilities, such as autistim and dyslexia, but it also includes gifted learners. You have a right to be a part of every decision regarding your child’s education, including the process of finding out if your child needs special services. Your input should be considered at every opportunity, since you know your child best. You can have an attorney help you understand yours and your child’s rights, and to make sure nothing is getting overlooked. There are many types of assistance available and you want to make sure that your child gets the help and scholastic opportunities they need throughout their school career.
You should familiarize yourself with the rights you have as your child’s advocate. These rights are federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
You have the right to request in writing that your child be evaluated to determine if he or she is eligible for special education and related services. This evaluation is more than just a single test. The school must gather information from you, your child’s teacher and others who would be helpful.
If the public school agrees that your child may have a learning disability or be an exceptional learner and may need special help, the school must evaluate your child at no cost to you.
The teacher can recommend that your child be evaluated, but you have to give your permission first.
If the public school system refuses to give your child an evaluation, they must explain in writing the reasons for refusal, and must also provide information about how you can challenge their decision.
All tests and interviews must be conducted in your child’s native language. The evaluation process cannot discriminate against your child because he or she is not a native English speaker, has a disability or is from a different racial or cultural background.
Your child cannot be determined eligible for special education services only because of limited English proficiency or because of lack of instruction in reading or math.
You, the parent, have the right to be a part of the evaluation team that decides what information is needed to determine whether your child is eligible.
You have the right to get a copy of all evaluation reports and paperwork related to your child.
You have the right to obtain an Independent Education Evaluation from a qualified professional and challenge the findings of the school evaluation team.
You have the right for your child’s evaluation to be completed within a specific timeframe; in Florida it’s 60 working days.
You and your child have the right to attend and participate in a meeting to design an Individualized Education Program (IEP) which must be held within 30 days of your child being found eligible for special education services. An IEP should set reasonable learning goals for your child and state the services that the school district will provide.
You and your child have the right to participate in the creation of the IEP, along with a team that will include: your child’s teachers, a representative from the school administration who is qualified to recommend and supervise special programs and services as well as representatives from other agencies.
Your child has a right to the least restrictive environment possible. Your child should receive instruction and support with classmates that do not have disabilities, to what extent is set up in the IEP. Special education services or supports are available to help your child participate in extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports.
You have the right to challenge the school’s decisions concerning your child. If you disagree with a decision that’s been made, discuss it with the school and see if an agreement can be reached. If all efforts don’t work, IDEA provides other means of protection for parents and children under the law. These other ways of settling your dispute allow parents and school personnel to resolve disagreements. Options include mediation with an impartial third person, a due process hearing or a formal hearing in a court of law.
An IEP meeting must be held once a year and comprehensive re-evaluation must be done every three years, unless the IEP team agrees that it is not necessary. However, you may request an IEP meeting at any time.