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The Special Education Bill of Rights

  • By:sierraedlaw

Shortly after the passage of IDEA in 1975, many special education professional began to refer to the protections guaranteed under the landmark law as the “Special Education Bill of Rights.” The historically significant special education law contains many provisions that help parents and their special needs children.

In honor of our Founding Fathers, let’s review the 10 most important special education bill of rights mandated under IDEAS statutes.

Due Process

Due process provides parents with the legal recourse to challenge school rulings that pertain to special education matters. Under IDEA, parents must file written complaints to get the legal ball rolling. Schools have up to 15 days after the filing of a written complaint to conduct a meeting referred to in IDEA as a “resolution session.” After the resolution hearing, parents have the legal right to request a due process hearing, which is modeled after civil courtroom proceedings.

Document Access

Parents have the right to access the educational records of their children. The records can be submitted electronically and/or via snail mail. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy ACT (FERPA) bolsters the document record access legal language set forth in IDEA.

Parent Involvement

IDEA clearly spells out the rights of parents to participate in every phase in the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Until the passage of IDEA, most parents were not allowed to make decisions that influenced their children’s education progress.

Independent Educational Evaluation

An Individual Educational Evaluation (IEE) presents information that discusses a child’s academic skills and the needs the child has for special education enrollment. Parents have the right to put their child through an IEE that complies with IDEA guidelines.

Privacy Protection

IDEA clearly states that school must protect the personal information generated for special education evaluations. The protected information includes student name, address, and Social Security number, as well as the outcome of tests and observations.

Civil Lawsuit

Parents displeased with the outcome of a due process hearing have the legal right under IDEA to pursue civil action in a federal court.

Written Notice

Schools that want to add, deny, or change services that comprise an IEP must inform parents in writing. Many parents have won civil judgments against schools because school administrators failed to provide written notices of IEP changes, even though the changes were legally valid under IDEA.

Parental Consent

Before a school or school district evaluates your child or creates special education services, parents have the right to be informed about what is to transpire.

Stay Put

Until the passage of IDEA, schools were allowed to place children in special education programs even during the resolution of formal complaints submitted by parents. The “Stay Put” provision within IDEA allows your child to remain in his or her current educational environment until you and the school move through the dispute resolution process.

Winning a Civil or Due Process Case

Parents that win civil lawsuits or due process cases have the right to receive compensation for attorney fees. This clause has deterred many schools from proceeding with civil and due process cases.

Differences in state laws make it imperative for parents to seek counsel for legal clarification. Some states allow for state-level appeals to contest due process hearings mandated under IDEA. Moreover, the legal stipulation for schools to use “clear language” often requires the services of an experienced special education attorney to interpret.

If you have questions about the special education bill of rights found within IDEA, schedule an initial free consultation with a licensed attorney to discuss your legal options.

Posted in: Administrative Hearings, IEP's, Mediations, Student Advocacy