Are you trying to get your child help in school? It’s important to know that you and your child have legal rights and protections. The federal special education law, IDEA, offers these protections. These protections are called procedural safeguards.
Procedural safeguards spell out what the school can—and can’t—do when evaluating and providing special education and related services to your child. Here’s a list of 15 important procedural safeguards and what they mean for you and your child.
Safeguard #1: Access to Educational Records
You have the right to see, make copies of and get an explanation of your child’s educational records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is one law that protects these rights.
Safeguard #2: Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
You have the right to get an IEE—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 about IEEs.
Safeguard #3: Parent Participation
You have a legal right to participate in meetings about your child’s education—including IEP meetings. Find out more about your role on the IEP team.
Safeguard #4: Prior Written Notice
The school must give you written notice whenever it wants to add, change or deny services to your child. Get more details on how prior written notice works.
Safeguard #5: Procedural Safeguards Notice
The school must provide you with a written explanation of all the procedural safeguards you have under federal and state law.
Safeguard #6: Understandable Language
Language for notice and consent must be understandable to the general public and in your native language (this includes Braille).
Safeguard #7: 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.
Safeguard #8: Informed Consent (or Parental Consent)
Before conducting an evaluation or providing special education services, the school must inform you of what’s involved. You have to give your permission in writing before the school can move forward. Learn the details of informed consent.
Safeguard #9: “Stay Put” Rights
Do you disagree with a proposed change to your child’s placement? (This can refer to a location or to services outlined in his IEP.) The “stay put” provision allows your child to stay where he is while you and the school go through the dispute resolution process. Find out more about the “stay put” rights.
Safeguard #10: Due Process
If you have a dispute with the school about your child’s special education, you can use what’s called due process. This is a formal way of resolving disagreements between parents and schools.
You have to file a written complaint to begin this process. The complaint can involve any aspect of how the school is handling your child’s education, if you believe the school’s action violates IDEA.
Within 15 days of a parent filing a due process complaint, the school must hold a meeting, called a resolution session, to work on resolving the disagreement.
After the resolution session, you attend a due process hearing. The hearing is like a courtroom trial. You and the school will present arguments and evidence to an administrative law judge or (impartial) hearing officer.
Learn more about your rights under due process.
Safeguard #11: Civil Action
If you’re unhappy with the results of the due process hearing, you can file a civil lawsuit.
Safeguard #12: Mediation
Mediation is an alternative to a due process hearing. A mediator (neutral third party) helps you and the school try to resolve a dispute.
Safeguard #13: Reimbursement of Attorneys Fees
A judge or hearing officer can order a school to pay for attorney fees if you win a due process hearing or civil action.
Safeguard #14: State-Level Appeal
In some states, parents have the right to appeal the result of a due process hearing to the state department of education.
Safeguard #15: State Complaint
You can make a written complaint to an official state agency if a school violates federal or state education law. Sometimes advocates can write these complaints for you. Learn about the difference between an advocate and an attorney and what to include in a state complaint.
If you have a dispute about your child’s IEP, it’s important to understand all of your options for resolving the dispute. Understanding your rights can make it easier for you to advocate for your child.