Parents Have the Right to Challenge Special Ed Placement
All public schools in California are required by federal and state law to provide specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities. Every child has the right to receive Fair and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) at no cost to the family.
Parents must be consulted by the school before any change is made regarding their child’s special educational placement. If you are a special education parent who feels your rights are not being respected by your child’s school, you have the right to seek professional counsel and assistance from an experienced special education attorney.
Who Qualifies for Special Education?
Your rights as a special education parent are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that designates thirteen categories of disability:
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Deafness or hearing impairment
- Emotional disturbance
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Visual impairment
- Specific learning disability
- Other health impairments
You Have the Right to Participate in Your Child’s IEP
Federal law stipulates that special education students should remain with their peers as much as possible. The goal is to educate children in the least restrictive environment, which means all children should spend as much time as possible in a regular education setting.
Every special education student must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Before an IEP meeting, the school must provide the parent with written notice of when and where the meeting will take place, who will attend the meeting, and what the meeting will be about.
At an IEP meeting, the child’s parents or guardian, one general education teacher, and at least one of the child’s special education teachers must all be present. During this meeting, the parents and teachers will discuss the child’s needs based on observations about the child and any evaluations that may have been administered.
Parents must be given right to participate in the IEP and provide input about what’s best for their child. Together, the parents and teachers will come up with a placement plan that’s designed to best meet the child’s needs.
Your Rights as a Special Education Parent
Schools must provide an annual IEP meeting to review a special education student’s progress, but parents have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time if they have concerns about their child’s placement. You can ask your child’s teacher to schedule a meeting, or you can put your request in writing if you prefer.
As a special education parent, you have the right to:
- Receive prior written notice regarding any changes in your child’s placement
- Electronically record any IEP meeting if you notify the district 24 hours in advance
- Receive written copies of all assessments and procedures used to evaluate your child
- Receive a written description of any action proposed during an IEP
- Receive a written description of all factors relevant to actions proposed or refused for your child
- Receive a written description of all procedural safeguards designed to protect your rights
You Have Options If You Disagree with Your Child’s Placement
The first thing you will want to do if you have any concerns about your child’s placement is talk to their teacher directly. Many issues can be resolved this way. But if you have attended an IEP meeting and raised your concerns and you are still unhappy about your child’s placement, you may request an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) through your local Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).
Your SELPA can arrange a facilitated IEP meeting to help resolve the situation. A trained facilitator does not impose solutions. Instead, they are a neutral party who will help develop strategies to promote problem solving.
Special education parents who are not satisfied with their child’s placement also have the right to request a Due Process Hearing, which is a fair and impartial hearing conducted at the state level.
You have the right to be accompanied and advised by a special education lawyer during your due process hearing. You and your attorney may make an effort to resolve your issue by conducting a mediation conference prior to your hearing. If you prevail at your hearing, you may also receive an award to cover the cost of your attorney’s fees.
Are You Unhappy with Your Child’s Placement?
If you aren’t satisfied with your child’s special education placement, our legal team can sit down with your family and explain how to resolve the dispute. Contact Woodsmall Law Group today for a FREE consultation by calling (626) 440-0028.