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Procedural Safeguards for Families of Preschool and School-Age Students


Participating in evaluations of your child and developing an intervention plan are intimidating tasks for most parents. Many parents feel overwhelmed by the process and may feel that they do not have the knowledge and skills necessary to be a contributing member of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. Parents are experts on their children, however, and have much to contribute to the process, even if it seems foreign to them.

Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), establishes guidelines that must be followed to ensure that parents are active participants in their child's evaluations and intervention plans. These guidelines are called "Procedural Safeguards" and exist in every state. The Procedural Safeguards ensure that parents (or the student, if the student has reached the age of majority within the state – usually age 18) are notified of their rights within the special education system.

Procedural Safeguards for families of preschool and school-age students include the following:

  • The right to take part in decisions about the student's education;
  • The right to consent (or refuse consent) for any evaluation or provision of services to the student;
  • The right to notice before any evaluation of the student or before services are provided;
  • The right to obtain an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) when needed;
  • The right to be fully informed about the special education process;
  • The right to examine student records;
  • The right to keep information about the student and family confidential;
  • The right to request an IEP meeting at any time;
  • The right to dispute resolution procedures, including mediation; and
  • The student's right to continue to receive services while IEP disputes are being resolved through mediation or a Due Process hearing.

To help educate parents and students about their rights, schools must provide parents with a Procedural Safeguards Notice at least once a year. Additional notices must be provided whenever a student is referred for an initial evaluation, when a parent requests a new evaluation, at the time a Due Process complaint is filed, or whenever a parent or student requests a copy. The notice must explain how a parent can present and resolve complaints related to the special education process, including the option of voluntary mediation. The Procedural Safeguard Notice varies from state to state. The actual protections contained within the notice, however, may not confer fewer rights to parents and students than what is provided for by IDEA.

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