I have attempted to examine and analyze at least one parental right – due process – in the last post. Has this left you confused and wondering why parental rights are so complicated. And to make maters worse, I have not even mentioned several other the parental rights that are stated on parental rights forms. How can parents possibly assimilate all this information while squinting at the tiny print written in legalese. The answer is that most school systems do not really care if parents understand their parental rights. In fact, they would prefer that you do not understand your parental rights. It is a rare occasion when an IEP member from the school system actually takes the time to explain what are the parents rights under the IDEA . . . . with a school system slant of course.
Another right that is afforded parents is “prior written notice.” You may be scratching your head and ask what is “prior written notice.” The IDEA states that prior written notice is required and must be given to the parents of a child with a disability a reasonable time before a public agency proposes to initiate or change the identification, evalaution, or educational placement of the child or the provision of a FAPE to the child or refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child. 34 C.F.R. 300.503. Now, the parental rights form actually uses this language. As I said, parental rights forms are written in legalese. You do not have to be a Justice of the United States Supreme Court to understand your parental rights. But you may have to consult with an attorney or advocate specializing in the area of special education to assist you with fully understanding your rights.
An example of how prior written notice is applicable is when a school system proposes to change the educational placement of your child to a more restrictive setting. Suppose the school system proposes to move your child from a regular education setting to an Alternative School, Psychoeducational Center (GNET), or even home on-line program. The school system must give you prior written notice of its intent to propose a change in your child’s educational placement under these circumstances. Do school systems usually do this? Sometimes. What a school system will do is to schedule an IEP meeting with a parent and then annouce toward the end of the meeting the IEP members believe your child should be a more restrictive setting. This way the school system circumvents its obligation to provide “prior written notice” to the parent. Is this kosher? Not really. But school systems get away with this procedural violation most of the time unless it is challenged at a due process hearing. So if you believe the school system has not provided prior written notice, then you can file a state complaint or if there are other viable claims, then a request for a due process hearing.