Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Apr 12
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by Jess

At least one time a year, the parents of a child with a disability must receive from the school system a complete explanation of all the procedural safeguards available to them, as parents, under IDEA. This explanation is called the “Procedural Safeguards Notice.”

In this page, we’ll examine the purpose and contents of this notice, the times that parents will receive it, and other aspects of this important safeguard.

What is the purpose of the procedural safeguards notice?

The purpose of the procedural safeguards notice is simple: to inform parents completely about the procedural safeguards available under IDEA. These represent their rights as parents and the protections they have—and their child as well—under the law and its implementing regulations.

When can you expect to receive the procedural safeguards notice?

IDEA states that schools must send the procedural safeguards notice to the parents only one time a school year, except that schools must also give a copy to parents:

  • in their child’s initial referral for evaluation under IDEA, or when the parents ask for such an evaluation of their child;
  • the first time in the school year that a State complaint is filed and when the first due process complaint is received in a school year;
  • in accordance with the discipline procedures en §300.530(h); and
  • when a parent requests a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.

Your local school district may also post a current copy of the procedural safeguards notice on its website, if it has a website.

What does the procedural safeguards notice contain?

The procedural safeguards notice must include a complete explanation of all the safeguards available under IDEA related to:

Independent educational evaluations

Prior written notice

Parental consent

Access to student education records

The opportunity to present and resolve complaints through procedures for due process complaint and for State complaints,  including–

–the timeline for filing a complaint;

–the opportunity for the school system to resolve the complaint; and

–the differences between the scope of the two procedures such as their jurisdiction or authority, issues covered, filing and decisional timelines, and relevant procedures;

The availability of mediation;

The child’s placement during the pendency of any due process complaint;

Procedures for students who are subject to placement in an interim alternative educational setting;

Requirements for unilateral placement by parents of children in private schools at public expense;

Due process hearings, including requirements for disclosure of evaluation results and recommendations;

Appeals at the State level (if applicable in the State);

Civil actions, including the period of time in which to file such actions; and

Attorneys’ feeds. [§300.504]

In addition to providing this explicit information, the procedural safeguards notice must be written in understandable language.

What qualifies as “understandable language”?

Under IDEA, the procedural safeguards notice (and, for that matter, the prior written notice) must be:

  • written in a language understandable to the general public; and
  • provided in the native language of the parent or in another mode of communication that’s used by the parent, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. [§300.503(c)]

If the native language or other mode of communication used by the parent is not a written language, then the school must take steps to ensure:

  • that the notice is translated orally or by other means to the parent in his or her native language or other mode of communication;
  • that the parent understands the content of the notice; and
  • that there is written evidence that these requirements have been met. [§300.503(c)]

May the school send the procedural safeguards notice via email?

Yes, at the discretion of the parents. IDEA says that the parent of a child with a disability may elect to receive the notice by email, if the school makes that option available.

Is there an example of one of these procedural safeguards notices?

Yes. The U.S. Department of Education makes a Model Form available online, at:  http://idea.ed.gov/static/modelForms

What should a parent do, if he or she doesn’t understand the notice provided by the school?

Parents can get in touch with the Parent Training and Information Center (the PTI) for their state. PTIs typically can provide parents with explanations of key IDEA-related rights and responsibilities, as well as informative materials and training. Each state has at least one PTI.

Rights of parents:

  • to receive a complete explanation of all the procedural safeguards available under IDEA and the procedures in the state for presenting complaints;
  • to inspect and review the educational records of their child;
  • to participate in meetings related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of their child, and the provision of FAPE (a free appropriate public education) to their child;
  • to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of their child;
  • to receive “prior written notice” on matters relating to the identification, evaluation, or placement of their child, and the provision of FAPE to their child;
  • to give or deny their consent before the school may take certain action with respect to their child;
  • to disagree with decisions made by the school system on those issues;
  • to use IDEA’s mechanisms for resolving disputes, including the right to appeal determinations.
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