Making sure schools are following the law is a big responsibility. Some of that responsibility lies with federal and state agencies. But most of it rests with local school districts.
The main law that covers special education is the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA). It includes requirements that are meant to hold schools accountable. IDEA also provides parents with
steps they can take
if they believe the law isn’t being followed for their child.
State departments of education oversee local school districts. Their job is to make sure school districts are following the laws. They’re also expected to correct any instances when they find districts are not following them.
States use a variety of strategies to monitor school districts. These may include reviewing data on how well students with disabilities are faring compared to other students. States may also examine parent complaints and
due process hearings
. And they may conduct in-person visits to local schools.
School districts should supervise the staff in their schools. It’s the district’s job to see that those who are responsible follow through with requirements of the law.
must state the
services and supports
she needs in order to participate and reach her annual goals. The school district is responsible for making sure her IEP is being followed and services are being given as planned. But it isn’t responsible for providing supports beyond those listed in her IEP.
IDEA requires schools to have what’s called an “agency representative” on the IEP team. This person is responsible for seeing that your child gets the supports and services as written in her IEP.
If you believe the
school isn’t following through on your child’s IEP
, contact the agency representative. (His name may be listed on the IEP. But if not, ask the principal who to talk to.) Identify the specific services your child isn’t getting, ideally in writing. And ask for a time to meet to discuss it.
If you don’t feel the representative resolves your concern, there are steps you can take. Start by contacting your district’s special education coordinator to make a complaint. Again, it’s best if you do this in writing. You should also review the district’s due process procedures in the
IDEA gives parents the option to
with their state department of education. Parents can also request a due process hearing.
States have flexibility with some of the legal requirements, so you should become familiar with your state’s regulations. Plus, every state has a federally funded
parent training center to provide families with information on your rights under IDEA. Find
your parent training center here.
Are you interested in learning more about the laws that protect your child? Read about the
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the main education law for public schools