Parental rights in special education in the United States are called procedural safeguards. The federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lays the foundation for parental rights. Each state adopts their own procedural safeguards based on the guidelines laid out in IDEA. I am asked quite often about three parental rights. One of your parental rights is the right to ask for an independent educational evaluation if you disagree with an evaluation that the school district conducts. Another parental right afforded to you is your right to review your child's educational records. Another parental right is the right to file a due process claim and have an independent hearing if you disagree with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or the IEP process.
When your child is initially referred to special education and you give permission to the school district to evaluate your child, several formal and informal assessments are conducted to determine if your child meets the criteria for receiving special education services. Re-evaluations to determine if your child remains eligible for special education services are also conducted every three years or more often if the parent requests it or the school district feels it is necessary. If you disagree with an assessment completed by the school district, you have the right to request that an independent evaluation be completed at no expense to you. You must have a valid reason for your disagreement with the evaluation and you need to follow the district's process spelled out in your procedural safeguards handout to receive the independent evaluation.
You also have the right to inspect and review your child's educational records. There are often many records kept on your child other than the formal reports you receive such as the IEP progress reports and the report card. You may put in a formal request to view all of your child records. This could include observations of your child, classroom data regarding behavior and academic progress, informal assessments, discipline records, parent contact records and staff records. If you wish to review your child's records, you usually need to submit your request in writing per the procedural safeguards protocol.
Another procedural safeguard is that you (or the school district) have the right to file a due process claim and receive a hearing by an unbiased hearing officer if you disagree with something in the IEP or during the IEP process. If you have a disagreement with the school district about the IEP or the IEP process, it is best to attempt to work it out with the district. If you do not believe that your disagreement was adequately addressed and you still believe that part of the IEP is inappropriate or inadequate, that the IEP is not being followed, that the IEP process was not conducted according to the law and/or that you or your child were denied something that is your right follow the district's procedure for filing a due process claim.
An IEP is a legal agreement between you and the school district for the provision of special education services to your child. The intent of the procedural safeguards is to protect all parties involved in the IEP process-your child, you as guardians and the school district. You should receive a copy of the school district procedural safeguards based on your state's laws at least once a year. You may also request a copy from your child's case manager or the district's special education department at any time.