California students who have certain learning needs have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This means that schools and school districts have the obligation to provide specific types of learning support and interventions to help a student succeed to the fullest extent of his or her capabilities. However, it is often complex and difficult to obtain the specific supports and services they need, and parents may have to advocate for the interests of their kids.
Parents will find it beneficial to understand as much as possible about their student’s educational rights and what they can expect from their child’s school. One critical aspect of any education plan is an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP outlines the types of supports, services and accommodations a child should be receiving at school. It also specifies goals and expectations for the student.
Preparing to advocate for a student
A parent should know what is in their child’s IEP. During the school year, parents will meet with the teachers and others involved with the student’s education to discuss the details of the IEP at least annually. The school district is also required to re-evaluate a student’s need for an IEP every three years. A parent has the right to know what the IEP includes, as well as to ask for specific accommodations, services and support that the child needs. As a parent, you may benefit from understanding the following before the IEP meeting:
- The IEP team does not know your child like you do, and you can speak up for the needs of your child and express all of your concerns.
- You have the right to ask questions and request additional information about certain strategies implemented by your student’s education team.
- You can audio record the IEP meeting (after providing the school 24-hours written notice of your intent to record the meeting), and you also have the right to a translator if you need assistance.
- You have the right to ask the school to provide you assessments prior to the IEP meeting for your review.
It is helpful to remember that you are the best and most important advocate your child has. It may be beneficial to secure experienced guidance as you prepare for IEP meetings, seek the full amount of support your student needs and advocate for an appropriate IEP. Special education students in California have rights, and you may benefit from having assistance as you fight for those rights.