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An important part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the protection of the rights of parents and students while providing a free appropriate public education. These protections are called procedural safeguards and they include specific guidelines for the special education process. They guarantee parent involvement in their child's education and provide a procedure to follow, called due process, when there are conflicts over the recommendations of the school district.
The Center for Infants and Children with Special Needs at Cincinnati Children's provides resources to help families find the special education supports they need.
A procedural safeguards publication that explains your rights in the special education process must be developed by every state and distributed to parents of children with disabilities at least once each year. Some of your rights include:
Each state will usually have a copy of their procedural safeguards on their Department of Education web site:
Parents and the school district sometimes conflict over the evaluation results that identify a child for special education, the types of services and supports offered by the school to ensure a free appropriate public education, information on the IEP, discipline or other issues. Parents can take several steps to begin an appeals process:
When disagreements cannot be resolved at your local school district level, you or your attorney have the right to file a due process complaint notice with your state's department of education. A written request must be submitted detailing the nature of the problem and proposing a solution. An impartial due process hearing officer will be selected by you and your school district. You have the right to be accompanied and advised by legal counsel or by an individual with special knowledge or training on children with disabilities, such as an advocate. After the hearing is held, a decision will be sent to you and the school district.
If you or the school district disagree with the decision, it can be appealed to a state level review officer whose decision is final. If you are still not satisfied with the decision, you have the right to bring a civil action in state or federal court.
Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati provides advocacy services and supports.
Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) is the regional parent center dedicated to advancing the educational interests of children with disabilities. They provide advocacy services, workshops, information and referral.
Ohio Legal Rights Service is an independent state agency that provides protection, advocacy and assistance for children and adults with disabilities in Ohio.
Organizations and individuals can help you advocate for your child with special needs in the schools. Be sure to ask questions about their experience and outcomes before deciding who would best represent your child's needs. Several organizations also offer workshops and training.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) provides information on due process appeals.
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