Parents hope that their child will have a positive experience in the public-school system. Children with and without disabilities are guaranteed a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). But what happens if your child does not receive an appropriate education?
Parents have rights and steps to take when they feel that their child is not receiving the education or services that they need. Parents can file a complaint within the district. They can request an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD)/Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, a Facilitated ARD/IEP meeting, or request mediation.
Another option is for parents to request a Due Process Hearing.
I watched my daughter have several terrible years of school. We had many ARD meetings that ended in disagreement. The school district continued to recommend a segregated classroom for my child. The classroom the school wanted my daughter in would rob her of the fullness of the curriculum other students were hearing.
She wouldn’t learn alongside her neighbors and friends. She wouldn’t have the privilege of spending her days with students who had strong verbal language and social skills. And I disagreed with that recommendation.
After months of disagreements, arguments, and working hard to get my daughter the inclusion that I felt she deserved, I had gotten nowhere with the school district. They were moving forward with their plan to send her to a different school that had a special program for kids like her. I had had enough.
I finally made the decision to file due process. It involved hiring an attorney and retelling my daughter’s story and the struggles we had experienced with the school. But it was a right I had as a parent, and it was a necessary step to get what my daughter needed.
While it was an emotional and difficult decision to make, it was one I made with confidence. It was time. It was necessary, and without it, my daughter would suffer.
In the end, it was my taking advantage of the rights I have as a parent that eventually got my daughter the appropriate education that is guaranteed her by law. The law provides these rights for parents, but we, as parents, must choose to use them when needed.
Due process is not a scary thing, but it is a legal process. It’s something that sometimes needs to be done to ensure a quality education. It’s a process that is written into the law to ensure an appropriate education for all.
Today, I spread the word to parents that these options are available to us. I encourage parents to take advantage of their rights when needed for their children.
For questions about due process and other parent rights, see the Notice of Procedural Safeguards or this website for information when you’re having trouble getting the right services for your child's needs in school.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.