Parent’s Role and Rights Under IDEA and ADA

Copy of Copy of Compassion Experience 6
There are four sets of statutes that provide disabled children with educational rights. 

  • IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-Defines the IEP Process and includes the parent’s Procedural Safeguards.
  • ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act-Helps define access to education for students with disabilities.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act-Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
  • Your state-specific Special Education regulations 

It’s important to note that most school staff receive very little training on these statutes. Not much time is spent on this as part of college degree programs, and what they know is often from workshops, conferences and word-of-mouth information passed around schools. It’s important that you, as a parent, educate yourself on these statutes and not rely on someone else’s interpretation. 

Here are some legal rights that derive from these laws:

  • The IEP is a legal obligation, a contract.  It is not optional for teachers or therapists to comply with it.
  • The “I” in IEP is for “individual.”  Your child has a right to an educational program individualized to his or her needs.  You should never hear, ‘we don’t do that here,’ by the IEP team if it’s what your child needs.
  • You have the right to participate in IEP meetings that discuss your child’s educational needs.
  • You also have the right to ask for an IEP meeting at any time.  You must have at least one IEP meeting a year, but can have many.  
  • You can join meetings by phone if necessary. The school district must also provide all IEP information and materials to parents in the parent’s native language, if requested.
  • You have the right to bring an advocate, friend, notetaker to the meeting. The school district is required to provide a translator if you ask for one.
  • If you want to record the meeting so that you can make sure to catch everything that was discussed, you need to find out the laws of your state first. (Sometimes you need to get consent from your school district.)
  • You have the right to agree to all, some, or none of the services offered, as well as, request additional services or therapies.
  • You have the right to not sign the document before leaving the IEP meeting. You can take it home to review before making any decisions. (If you don’t sign it within a certain number of days, it may go into effect.) Know that for most states, once an initial IEP is in place, not signing doesn’t mean much. Learn and use your Procedural Safeguards.
  • Your child must have a reevaluation at least once every 3 years (a triennial evaluation) to see if the child’s needs have changed.  A parent or teacher can request a reevaluation every year if warranted.
  • You can have your child evaluated by an outside professional.  In many cases, you’ll have to pay for the private evaluation. If you meet certain requirements, you can request an independent evaluation (IEE) at public expense if you disagree with the school’s evaluation.  The school must consider any outside evaluation but doesn’t have to accept the results.
  • You have the right to have a decision maker (LEA) present at every IEP meeting.
  • IEP is a living document.  The IEP can be changed at any time.
  • Your child has a right to make educational progress.  IEPs must be reasonably calculated to enable appropriate progress in light of the child’s circumstances.
  • Your child has the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment.
  • You have the right to be notified of any changes to your child’s IEP.  This is called Prior Written Notice. You must be notified what was proposed/refused, why it was proposed/refused, and descriptions of other options considered and the reasons why they were rejected.
  • Per IDEA, your school district is required to provide you with your Procedural Safeguards at least once a year. It is essential that you find the time to read them. If you cannot locate your copy, you can do an internet search for “your state + IEP Procedural Safeguards” and you should be able to locate them.Many times, these are handed out at IEP meetings, when a parent is already overwhelmed with information. And, then they get dismissed and not read. IEP Procedural Safeguards outlines all of your rights as a parent, and your child’s rights. Reading and understanding your rights to Parent Participation is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
  • Additional resources which are overviews for some of your rights: