Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Educational Advocacy Series: Part Three

CCAKidsBlog.org is pleased to announce that Paula Guzzo, CCA Board Member and Past Chair, is writing a series in October dealing with Educational Advocacy. This post is Part Three in our October Series. 
Please also check out Part One and Part Two.

Parent Participation in the Special Education Process

Paula, Scott, Aaron and President Clinton at the signing
of IDEA on June 4, 1997. Scott played "For He's A Jolly
Good Fellow" on his Liberator communication device
for the President Clinton.
Bob and I felt that we had to learn special education acronyms, procedures, and laws to adequately advocate for Scott. We recommend that strategy for all parents of children who receive special education services. Once you are informed, you will be more confident when you are preparing for and attending case conference meetings. You will most likely know more about the laws than some of the school employees in attendance. Special education department administrators typically know and understand the laws and appreciate when parents do also.

This entry has two parts. If you don’t care to read about Special Education Process Rights, skip them and go to Suggestions for a Smoother Case Conference Committee Meeting.

Special Education Process Rights
The Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) gives parents and their children with a disability the following rights for participation in the educational process:
  • A Free Appropriate Public Education for Your Child. Free means at no cost to you. Appropriate means meeting your child’s unique educational needs.
  • Have your child educated in the least restrictive environment possible. Every effort should be made to develop an educational program that provides your child with the services and supports needed in order to be taught alongside children who do not have disabilities.  Start with the position that your child belongs in ‘regular’ classes, and only allow special “pull-out” classes if the school and you agree to it.
  • Request an evaluation at any time you think your child needs special education services or related services. The request should be written and dated. Keep a copy for your records. Give it to one of the following school employees: teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, building principals or other administrators.
  • Be notified in the language you normally use whenever the school wants to: 1. Evaluate your child, 2. Change your child's educational placement, or 3. Refuse your request for an evaluation or a change in placement.
  • 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 school's evaluation.
  • Request a reevaluation if you think your child's present educational placement is no longer appropriate.
  • Have your child tested in the language they know best.
  • Review all of your child's school records. Give school personnel a dated, written request. Keep a copy for your records. You may also request copies of any part of the records, but the school might charge you a reasonable fee for the copies.
  • Request that information in your child’s records be changed if you feel that it is inaccurate, misleading or violates the privacy or other rights of your child.  Give the dated, written request to school personnel. Keep a copy for your records.
  • Request a hearing if the school refuses your request to change or remove the questionable information in your child's records. If you’d rather, you may file a complaint with your state’s Division of Special Education.
  • Be fully informed by the school of all rights that are provided to you under the law.  Ask school personnel to tell you of your rights.
  • Participate in the development of your child's individualized education program (IEP), or individualized family service plan (IFSP) if in preschool. 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 you and school personnel.
  • Participate in all IEP or IFSP team decisions, including placement.
  • Request an IEP or IFSP meeting at any time during the school year.  It is advisable for you to make this request in writing and keep a copy for your records.
  • Be kept informed about your child's progress at least as often as parents of children who do not have disabilities.
  • File a complaint with your state’s Division of Special Education if the school has violated federal or state laws that apply to special education programs.
  • Voluntary mediation or a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school that cannot be resolved through case conference committee meetings. Put your request in writing, date it, and keep a copy.

Suggestions for a Smoother
Case Conference Committee Meeting

  • Ask for all anticipated proposals or changes to be shared with you before the conference. You don’t want surprises in the conference clouding your thinking. Receiving the information at least 3 days in advance is recommended.
  • Ask for your child’s progress-to-date information and goal achievements to be provided in advance (at least 3 days in advance is recommended). Reviewing this information before the conference will help it go faster. It also gives you the opportunity to get your questions / comments ready.
  • Ask for all test results to be shared and explained in advance (at least 3 days before the conference). This will help the conference go faster. You don’t want surprises in the conference. This will give you the opportunity to gather facts and be better prepared for decision making in the conference.
  • Prepare a Parent Report about your child to present at the conference. My next blog entry will be devoted to preparing the Parent Report. Give a copy to the conference coordinator for distribution to conference participants in advance of the conference. Since you’re asking for all school personnel’s reports in advance, give them the same courtesy.
  • Go into the conference knowing that you are an equal partner with school personnel. Share in decision-making. Remember that everyone in the conference is supposed to be on the same side—that of the child!
  • Before the conference, give school personnel a written list of topics you want to discuss so they can be put on the agenda.
  • If you have obtained an independent educational evaluation on your child, share the results with school personnel in advance.
  • Invite a friend, family member or advocate who is knowledgeable about your child to attend the conference with you.
  • At the beginning of the conference, ask how much time has been set aside for it.
  • If you have concerns during the conference, state them. Expect school personnel to take them seriously.
  • Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. You will be respected for speaking up.
  • Take notes. This will help you stay focused on what’s being said. They will come in handy when the written IEP is received.
  • If you like something, express your appreciation.
  • Do not sign the written IEP until it is completed and you’ve had the opportunity to read through it, compare it to your notes, and ensure that it accurately contains all information that you expected it to contain based on decisions made at the conference.

Resources: For training opportunities, contact the Parent Training and Information Center in your state.  This link to the Wrightslaw Directory of Parent Training and Information Centers (PTI) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC) has a listing by state. http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com/help/ptis.htm
Stay tuned for Paula's next post!

Wrightslaw (www.wrightslaw.com) provides accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.


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