Let’s say your child with ADHD is suspended from school for provoking another student. You’ve heard sketchy facts; you’ve spoken with your child, and the school administration has made their decision. You’re unhappy with the way they’ve handled the situation. What can you do about it?
Or maybe you’ve been continually dissatisfied with your child’s educational placement. He is in a class with children of a much younger developmental age, and he seems bored and restless. What are your options?
According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, there are five ways, depending on the circumstances, for you to seek a resolution:
1. Start directly with your child’s teacher and school administrators. Call and ask to set up an informal meeting with the principal, Student Services Coordinator, Student Counselor (if one exists), and your child’s teacher. Bring a notepad and paper to the meeting. Be direct with your concerns. State the facts as you know them, and ask for explanations. If the issue is serious enough, you may wish to involve the School Superintendent or the Director of Special Education in your school district. Don’t be unreasonable; be open to compromises while standing up for your child.
2. Schedule an IEP Review. You should, at any time, be able to request that your child’s teacher (assuming your child receives special education services) schedule an IEP (Individualized Education Program) review. Your child’s teacher, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist, principal, and others involved in your child’s education should attend. In this meeting, your child’s specific educational goals and progress should be reassessed. Be sure to explain what specific issues are troubling you. Ask for advice and be firm in your resolve to have appropriate changes made.
3. Mediation. IDEA 2004 (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) says that states should establish specific procedures for mediation processes. The state must pay for the mediator who is usually randomly selected from a list of qualified professionals. An opportunity for you to meet with the necessary administrators at your child’s school is provided in neutral territory. The unbiased mediator should give you an opportunity to express your opinions regarding the situation. Be ready to state what you would like to happen to resolve the issue. The school staff will then have a chance to address the mediator. The mediator then involves both parties in a discussion, attempting to bring both to a fair resolution. If an agreement is reached, it is put in writing.
4. Due Process Hearing. If you do not agree with your child’s educational placement, or educational decisions made regarding your child, you may request a due process hearing. A hearing officer, who is also an impartial third party, listens to evidence from the school district and evidence presented by you (so be prepared). The officer will render an impartial decision based on the requirements of IDEA 2004.
You must make a formal request for a due process hearing. You may wish to employ an attorney, but if not, you must write a request which contains your child’s information, the school name and address, the nature of the problem, and what you would like to happen to resolve the problem. This written request should be sent to the school district. They will likely respond by recommending mediation prior to a due process hearing.
5. Complaint Resolution Procedures. If you would like to file a complaint against the state or school district for violating IDEA 2004 (you should know IDEA first) you will likely need legal advice from an attorney. The complaint should be filed in a written signed document outlining exactly how IDEA has been violated. File the complaint with the school superintendent or the state department of education.
As the parent of a child in special education, you should be given a copy of the “procedural safeguards” in place to protect you as a parent. It should explain many of these options above. It outlines your legal rights and confidentiality issues. You should receive a copy of these safeguards once a year, but if you haven’t received one, request it from your child’s teacher.
I received a great deal of my information in this blog entry from the fabulous book, “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education,” by Linda Wilmshurst Ph.D., and Alan W. Brue, Ph.D., NCSP.