Before even thinking about filing for an IEP, it is incumbent upon an individual to know that he/she has met the definition of a “parent” for the purposes of representing your child before the school district. Fortunately, the regulations have clarified this issue for us. Under 34 C.F.R. 300.20, a “parent” is defined as a natural or adoptive parent of a child, a guardian (but not the State if the child is a ward of the state), a person acting in the place of a parent (such as a grandparent or stepparent with whom the child lives, or a person who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare) or a surrogate parent who has been appointed in accordance with Section 300.515.
Moreover, depending on state law, a state may permit a foster parent to act as a parent if the natural parents’ authority to make educational decisions on the child’s behalf has been extinguished under state law, and the foster parent has an ongoing, long-term parental relationship with the child, is willing to make the educational decisions required of parents under the Act, and has no interest that would conflict with the interests of the child.
These requirements are pretty straightforward and are rarely at-issue at an IEP meeting. Nevertheless, prior to attending the IEP, it is a good idea to insure that you have satisfied the “parent” requirement to insure your full participation in the process.
Wade Chernick is a licensed California attorney who handles Special Education cases at the Due Process stage at no cost to the parents. He may be reached at (818) 907-9505 regarding any special education questions that may be of concern.