How is “parent” defined in the IDEA regulations, and who can legally act as a parent?
According to the regulations that implement the IDEA, “[p]arent means — (1) A biological or adoptive parent of a child; (2) A foster parent; (3) A guardian generally authorized to act as the child’s parent or authorized to make educational decisions for the child (but not the State if the child is a ward of the State); (4) An individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent (including a grandparent, stepparent, or another relative) with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare; or (5) A surrogate parent. If more than one party meets the definition of a parent, the biological or adoptive parent must be presumed to be the parent for IDEA purposes unless the biological or adoptive parent does not have the legal authority to make educational decisions for the child. Additionally, if a judicial decree or order identifies a specific person or persons as having the authority to make educational decisions on behalf of the child, that person must be presumed to be the parent. [34 C.F.R. § 300.30]
What happens to parental rights when a child eligible for special education reaches 18 years of age?
In Arizona, when a student with a disability reaches 18 years of age, all rights previously accorded to the child’s parents under the IDEA and state law transfer to the student, unless the student has been declared legally incompetent. [A.R.S. § 15-773(A)] A student with a disability who is at least 18 years of age, but under 22 years of age and who has not been declared legally incompetent, may execute a delegation of rights for the purpose of educational decision-making. [See A.R.S. § 15-773(B) – (D)] For more information on guardianship, contact a Family Support Specialist at Raising Special Kids (RSK).
What are a parent’s options if he/she disagrees with an IEP team decision?
IEP teams are encouraged to work toward consensus, but when this is not possible the individual designated as the public education agency representative on the IEP team must make a final decision and notify the parent of the decision via prior written notice (PWN). While parents do not have veto power over IEP team decisions, they may challenge an IEP team decision that they disagree with by requesting mediation or filing a due process complaint against the school. [34 C.F.R. §§ 300.506(a) and 300.507(a) respectively] The IDEA provides these procedural safeguards as a means for resolving disputes between parents and schools concerning the identification, evaluation, placement, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Does a parent have an automatic right to observe his/her child in the classroom, and do schools have to secure written consent from the parents of other students in the classroom before the parent can observe his/her child in the classroom?
“While the IDEA expects parents of children with disabilities to have an expanded role in the evaluation and educational placement of their children and be participants, along with school personnel, in developing, reviewing, and revising the IEPs for their children, neither the statute nor the regulations implementing the IDEA provide a general entitlement for parents of children with disabilities, or their professional representatives, to observe their children in any current classroom or proposed educational placement. The determination of who has access to classrooms may be addressed by State and/or local policy. However, we encourage school district personnel and parents to work together in ways that meet the needs of both the parents and the school, including providing opportunities for parents to observe their children’s classrooms and proposed placement options.” [Letter to Mamas, 42 IDELR 10 (OSEP 2004)]
“FERPA does not specifically prohibit a parent or professional working with the parent from observing the parent’s child in the classroom. This is because FERPA would generally prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to other students in the classroom, as well as prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to the parents of another child who might be observing the classroom. Further, FERPA does not protect the confidentiality of information in general; rather, FERPA applies to the disclosure of tangible records and of information derived from tangible records.” [Letter to Mamas, 106 LRP 15971 (Family Policy Compliance Office 2003)] Accordingly, no parental consent from the parents of other students in the classroom is required before a parent can observe his/her child in the classroom.