If your child has a learning disability, you have many legal rights and protections. Informed consent is one of these. Informed consent gives you a voice in decisions about your child’s education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that before a school can take certain actions, schools need to inform parents and the parents need to give consent.
What happens if you deny consent? And how does the school inform you? Read on to find out.
The Legal Definition of Informed Consent
Informed consent means that you understand what a school wants to do and give permission to do it in writing. This boils down to three requirements:
- You’ve been fully informed about what the school wants to do. This is usually done by the school sending a letter or email describing the action in detail. This known as prior written notice.
- You understand and agree in writing. Even if you say that you agree in a meeting, the school can’t proceed. It needs your signature.
- You understand that consent is voluntary and that you can withdraw or deny consent at any time. The school has to send you a written notice of procedural safeguards outlining your legal rights.
When the School Must Ask for Consent
According to IDEA, the school system must ask for your consent at these times:
- Before the school conducts an initial evaluation or a reevaluation of your child
- Before the school provides special education services to your child for the first time
- Before inviting non-school agencies to participate in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings to discuss your child’s transition to adult life
States and local schools may also have other rules requiring informed consent at other times.
It’s key to know that you must give permission in each situation. If, for example, you gave informed consent for an evaluation, the school still has to get consent later for special education services.
What Happens If You Want to Refuse Consent
You can refuse to give informed consent by simply saying no. A parent can also refuse by just not answering when asked. If you don’t give consent, the school can’t act. You have the final say.
“If you don’t give consent, the school can’t act. You have the final say.”
There is an exception, though. If a school wants to evaluate or reevaluate your child and you refuse, the school can try to use mediation or due process to get an evaluation anyway. This can only happen if your child is in public school or in private school at public expense.
Other Exceptions to Informed Consent
Without your consent, the school can:
- Give your child tests that are given to all children, including standardized tests
- Review the results of previous evaluations
The law requires schools to actively involve you in decisions about your child’s special education. Informed consent is one way that parents have a powerful voice.