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Special Education Laws: Understanding Parental Rights

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In the past decade, there have been exciting and significant changes take place in the world of public education. Changes such as No Child Left Behind, new standardized tests, and the introduction of Common Core have created some confusion and challenges for parents regarding their children’s education.

For parents of children in the public school who are served under the umbrella of special education, challenges and confusion have always been present. Students in special education have the right an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to ensure that they receive the educational assistance necessary to help them achieve to their fullest potential. However, understanding all of the moving pieces within an IEP, and how the school implements it can present difficulty for parents. Additionally, although schools should have knowledge of all of the laws associated with an IEP and be able to guarantee that students are receiving everything they need to succeed, that is not always the case. For these reasons and many more, parents of children in special education should be aware of their additional rights about special education for their child.


To determine what services will be provided to a student receiving special education, teachers and professionals within the school district need to perform evaluations. These evaluations are typically completed by observing an outlined assessment of particular skills.

Prior to any evaluations are performed, it is the right of parents to be informed of the evaluation and give consent for them to take place. In addition to giving consent before an assessment is performed, it is also a parent’s right to give consent prior to services being delivered and any re-evaluations taking place.

Independent Educational Evaluations

Once a parent gives consent for an educational evaluation, and it takes place, the results should be presented to the parents for review. If it should happen that a parent does not feel an evaluation was performed correctly or does not agree with the results, they have the right to seek an evaluation outside of the school district.

If a parent requests an independent evaluation of their child, they may do so at the expense of the public. However, there is a process that must be followed in order to exercise this right. The

school also has a right to a hearing regarding the results of their evaluations, to legally determine whether or not they were accurate. If the school district wins that hearing, parents may still seek an independent evaluation, but at their own expense.

Native Language

Across the United States, there are a countless number of languages that are spoken in public schools and students' homes. When a student is receiving special education services, they have a right to receive those services in their native language. Parents of students receiving special education also have the right to receive meetings, paperwork and additional communications in their native language. If a school district does not have teachers or professionals to serve the student and parents in their native language, they must provide the service at public expense. This right is especially important because it can help a parent to understand their child's education at a deeper level, and therefore impact the way they advocate for their child.

Additional Rights

The rights outlined above are not the only rights that parents have regarding their child’s

education. The Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA 2004) describes in detail all parental rights pertaining to special education, and it is the responsibility of parents to read and understand these rights.

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