Every child receiving special education services are covered under the Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This federal law names the ways in which children who receive public education are protected and what they are entitled to for special education. It is important to know that every state has to abide by what IDEA lays out. However, every State is different. The only variation allowed is if the State chooses to make principles of IDEA more stringent (ex: timelines shorter) for their individual state.
What you need to know if your child has an IEP:
If your family moves to a new state, IDEA is clear that the services your child received in the State where they originally received Special Education services transfer across State lines. So for example, if your family lives in Minnesota and your child receives 5 hours of resource support and 1 hour of speech therapy, when you pick up and move to New York, IDEA protects your child’s educational rights to continue to receive 5 hours of resource and 1 hour of speech therapy in their new school. This goes the same if you move within the same state too! IDEA maps out what EVERY IEP MUST HAVE ACROSS THE NATION, however, each states IEP may physically look different.
Q: Can the receiving school change Your child’s IEP because they don’t have the same exact programs as your previous school?
A: Yes and No. The school can absolutely NEVER make changes to your child’s IEP without a Planning and Placement team meeting (IEP meeting…every state uses different terminology too!) or without your consent. As the Parent, you are the foremost member of a team. If the receiving school does not offer specific programs or certain support services that existed in your former state, it becomes the responsibility of the new team (yes including you the parent) to determine what services can be provided that resemble the child’s previous IEP or if there is a different placement available within the new school district to give the child what he/she needs. If your child had something specific like a 1:1 aide or behavioral therapist, it is absolutely imperative that the new school complies with similar recommendations. They are legally bound under the IEP, which is a legal document, to honor the services that have already been determined are necessary for that child’s educational success. If the school system states that they “don’t do that” or “don’t have that resource” they are out of compliance and you need to contact the school systems Director of Special Education or even the State immediately. Always put your concerns in writing to make a paper trail documenting your concern (this includes email).
If it is a question of hours or service delivery, use your judgement. Go with your gut. If you feel the school is proposing something completely irrational (i.e. cutting 5 hours down to 1) disagree with the proposed change. Legally if there is a disagreement, the old IEP must remain until a new one is agreed upon.
If you feel the school is proposing something appropriate, again go with your gut. For example, if the school wants to change 5 hours of pull out resource support to 2 hours pull out and 3 hours in the classroom because the resource teacher co-teaches reading this may be an acceptable service delivery alteration. It’s not changing the service being delivered just the setting. Just always remember: YOU CAN CALL A PPT WHENEVER YOU WANT!
Again, your parental right under IDEA is to hold a meeting whenever you want to discuss or make changes to your child’s IEP. Team meetings may suffice too, but if it ever comes down to changes in IEP services, hours, etc. hold a PPT/IEP meeting.
If you are ever in the situation where a new school system does not honor an IEP or attempts to remove services, you should immediately hold a PPT meeting and document your concerns or disagreement. You always have the right to contact your State department of special education and file a formal complaint against the school district. Should it become a legal issue, you may want to exercise your right to due process and search for educational advocates or attorneys that specialize in educational law.
Jodi L. Everone, M.S., CCC-SLP
You know that pamphlet of really tiny writing that you always get at a meeting or sent to you in the mail…..those are your Parental Rights, you need to read them! Every state has them posted on their Department of Special Education website, download them if you threw them out or ask for another copy. This gives you the answers to many of your questions. This tells you what you are afforded under Federal & State educational law. Reading this information will make you a better advocate for your child.
Every time I attend a PPT for a family member or a client, I read these Procedural Safeguards because I want to make sure I know exactly what my loved one or student has the right to receive and what the parent is entitled to ask for.
Outlined in these packets include:
-Explanation of IEP
-Explanation of Testing procedures (timelines, consent, initial evaluation vs. re-eval, etc.)
-Explanation of Special Education services
-Explanation of Due Process (legal process or action you can take if you disagree with the school)
-Explanation if you disagree with school testing and your right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
-Explanation of suspension/expulsion for students with IEPs.
-Explanation of Seclusion/Restraint policy
Again, it is your responsibility to be informed of what your rights are as a parent of a child who receives Special Education services. Be responsible. Read your Parental Rights and always keeps copies of your child’s educational records (IEPs, progress reports, report cards or evaluations). I highly recommend every parent keep a file and organize it by year so that if you ever need to refer to it or if you ever find yourself in a legal battle with your school system, you want to make sure you have all the necessary documents. If you are missing something, ask you school. It is your right to make a formal request of educational records from the school district at any time.
Here is an interesting article I recently found written by an educational attorney regarding when parents question the services their child is receiving in schools. Hope you find it helpful.
Jodi L. Everone, M.S., CCC-SLP