At a glance
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), you and your child have legal protections during the evaluation and IEP process.
These protections are called procedural safeguards.
The school must provide you with a written explanation of your rights under IDEA.
Does your child have an IEP? Or is your child being evaluated for special education services? If so, it’s important to know that you and your child have legal rights and protections during this process. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offers these protections. They’re called procedural safeguards.
Procedural safeguards don’t spell out what services or should be in an IEP. Instead, they describe the ground rules for how you’ll work with the school.
Here are 10 important procedural safeguards and what they mean for you and your child.
1. Procedural safeguards notice
The school must provide you with a written explanation of your rights under both IDEA and your state’s laws. You’ll get this as a printed procedural safeguards notice. You can also ask for a verbal explanation.
2. Parent participation
You have a legal right to participate in meetings about your child’s education, including IEP meetings. You can even call an IEP team meeting at any time. Learn more about your role on the IEP team.
3. Access to educational records
You have the right to see and get an explanation of your child’s school records. You can also ask for corrections. These rights are protected by IDEA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
4. Confidentiality of information
The school must protect your child’s confidentiality. This includes personal information, such as your child’s name, address, social security number and other personal details. There are some exceptions, though. FERPA outlines these.
5. Informed consent (or parental consent)
Before evaluating your child or providing special education services for the first time, the school must inform you of what’s involved. You have to give your permission in writing before the school can move forward. Learn more about informed consent.
6. Prior written notice
The school must give you written notice before it changes your child’s special education experience. This includes when the school wants to add or deny services. It must tell you what it proposes to do and why. Get more details on how prior written notice works.
7. Understandable language
When the school provides written notice, it must use language that’s understandable to the general public. The notice must also be in your native language (this includes Braille).
8. Independent educational evaluation (IEE)
If you disagree with the school’s evaluation results, you have the right to get an IEE. An IEE is an evaluation of your child’s skills and needs by someone who’s not a school employee. The school must consider the results of the IEE. However, the school isn’t required to accept the findings. Learn more about IEEs.
9. “Stay put” rights
Do you disagree with a proposed change to your child’s IEP services or placement? The “stay put” protection keeps your child’s current IEP in place while you and the school work things out. But you have to act quickly. Read more about “stay put” rights.
10. Dispute resolution options
You have the right to disagree with the school about what’s best for your child. If you have a disagreement, IDEA provides you several dispute resolution options.
You can negotiate and talk things out with the school. Or you can use mediation, where a neutral third party helps you and the school try to resolve a dispute. You also have the right to due process, which starts with a written complaint and ends with a decision after a hearing.
Finally, you can file a complaint with your state if the school is violating IDEA. And you can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education if you believe there’s discrimination against your child.
Keep in mind that the rights listed above aren’t the only procedural safeguards in IDEA. You also may have more protections depending on your state’s law. Be sure to look closely at the school’s procedural safeguards notice for more information. You can also reach out to your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for more information.
Procedural safeguards don’t spell out what should be in an IEP, but rather the ground rules of how you interact with the school.
One of the most important procedural safeguards is the right to participate in your child’s education.
If you disagree with a school’s decision, you have several dispute resolution options, including due process.
About the author
About the author
Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.
Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.