What Rights Do I Have Concerning My Child’s IEP?

What Rights Do I Have Concerning My Childs IEP?

Entering the world of special needs and individualized education programs (IEPs) can be overwhelming at first, not least because it’s an area with a specialized vocabulary and numerous acronyms that can be hard to sort out. Bottom line: You have many rights under Texas law. Some of those rights include:

  • If your child has or may have a disability and could need services, you have the right to have your child evaluated at no cost or commitment from you.
  • The school must have your written permission before performing an evaluation. Agreeing to the evaluation does not mean you’ve also agreed to special education services.
  • You must be allowed to be part of the group that reviews the evaluation and its recommendations. If your child is eligible, you can choose whether or not to accept any services, including an IEP. If your child is deemed ineligible, you have the right to request an independent education evaluation (IEE) at the school’s expense.
  • If you agree to use the school’s special services, you have the right to be part of the admission review and dismissal (ARD) committee. You’re also required to participate in creating the IEP.
  • A child with a disability has special rules regarding disciplinary actions taken against them. Some situations require the ARD committee to meet and discuss what’s happening and how it could be handled.

What is an IEP?

IEPs were put into place with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which requires an IEP for any student that has been diagnosed with a disability and would benefit from special education services. Each IEP is developed by the parents and other members of the IEP (or ARD) Committee.

What is an IEP?

Because each child’s needs are evaluated individually, the IEP will vary from student to student. The plan is re-evaluated at least annually to ensure it’s still beneficial; if not, it’s modified to work with the current situation.

What is Included in an IEP?

In Texas, IEPs must include several things:

  • A statement of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP). This starts with the special needs evaluation that’s conducted and considers academic skills, daily living skills (eating, using the bathroom, etc.), social skills, overall behavior, sensory skills (hearing and seeing), communication skills, and physical mobility. There will also be a statement of how the student will participate in state and district assessments.
  • A statement naming the goals that are set for the coming year and how progress toward those goals will be measured. 
  • A listing of the accommodations that will be made for the student. That can include adaptations to the way the curriculum is taught to work with the child’s disabilities. It can also include help with eating or bathroom visits, providing quiet space, an educational aide, or other resources and services.
  • Descriptions of the instructional setting and length of the student’s school day, opportunities for extracurricular and nonacademic activities (or justification for not participating), and how often parents will be updated regarding the progress of their child. 
  • The written IEP will document the decisions of the admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee and include information on discussions held on IEP topics at each meeting.
  • Supplements that detail additional accommodations for children with certain disabilities or needs, including students who are blind or visually impaired, autistic, placed in a residential educational facility or at the Texas schools for the blind or deaf, or a behavior intervention plan.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Setting up an IEP for My Child?

There are several: 

  • An IEP requires the school to provide the necessary services, support, and instruction using methods and, where applicable, technology that best suits their needs, along with the most suitable learning environment. The key acronyms of this provision are FAPE (free appropriate public education) and LRE (least restrictive environment), the latter of which refers to the rights of the child to be in a classroom with nondisabled children as much of the time as possible.
  • SDI (specially designed instruction). This is the part that tailors the education your child receives to their needs and abilities.
  • Annual goals, accommodations, and modifications. Every year the ARD committee, of which the parent is required to be a member, will develop goals with specific steps, and then review them at the end of each grading period to see if they’re working and if not, why not, and what can be changed. Accommodations refer to the changes made in how your child learns or demonstrates learning, and modifications change what your child is expected to learn. 

What if I Have Problems with My Child’s School and the IEP?

Call us as soon as possible to start the conversation. Special needs law is the only type of law we practice. Before we became attorneys, we were teachers, so we understand both the educational side and the legal side. We’re here to help you through what can be confusing, daunting, and frustrating.

What if I Have Problems with My Child’s School and the IEP?<

While there are legal protections and rights in all of this, there are times when things slip through the cracks, and that’s a good time to bring in special needs attorneys. If you’re concerned in any way regarding how your child’s IEP is being implemented and how your child is (or isn’t) making progress, having a legal team that’s experienced both with education and with the law can help you. If you don’t think your child’s IEP is appropriate; is not being followed properly; or you disagree with the IEP team at the school on what progress your child is or isn’t making, give us a call.

Author Bio

Kevin Piwowarski Shields

Kevin Shields

Kevin Shields is a Founding Member and Special Education Lawyer at Shields Law Firm, representing children and families in special needs matters throughout Texas. Before becoming a lawyer, Kevin worked as a general education teacher and fought for increased inclusion time for his students receiving services. He advocated for his students by calling out providers who missed sessions and was often the dissenting voice at the IEP table.

Kevin obtained his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law School and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. He is admitted to practice law in Texas, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and holds memberships in the State Bar of Texas, focusing on School Law, Juvenile Law, and Child Protection Law. He is also a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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