Parental Rights In Special Education
As a parent of a child who may receive special education, you have rights which are guaranteed by state and federal law.
We want you to be involved in decisions about your child's education. You will be invited and encouraged to attend meetings that identify, that evaluate or that place your child in special education.
Once your child qualifies for special education, the school will provide a free and appropriate public education, which we refer to as FAPE.
Prior Written Notice
Prior written notice means the school will notify you before testing your child and before making any major program changes. If we have a disagreement with you about a major issue, we will write to you explaining why and how we made that decision.
We are interested in what you have to say, including personal observations you have made of your child. Your input is invaluable when testing your child and when making decisions. You will be informed before your child is tested or receives Special Education. If your language is other than English, we will arrange to have an interpreter for you, if you need one.
Prior written notice also explains why your child needs testing and the process involved. If you do not understand any part of this notice, please ask for someone to explain it. Different professions use terms that are familiar to them but may be confusing to others. Please feel free to let us know if you need further explanation at any time. We want you to ask questions. We want you to be involved in the decisions concerning your child.
Informed consent means that you have been fully informed of the reasons for the testing of your child. The reasons must be explained to you, in your native language, and your written permission is required to allow the testing of your child. Consent is voluntary and you may take back this permission at any time.
Before testing is requested by the school building intervention (BIT) team, your child's teacher will try different methods of classroom instruction. If your child continues to struggle in the classroom, the teacher will look for assistance from the BIT to try more ways to help your child learn. The testing process is the next step in helping your child, if he/she is still not doing well in school.
If the testing results show your child has a disability and needs Special Education, your written consent will be requested the first time your child starts receiving Special Education. Every three years, students are retested to see if they still qualify, and then the IEP (Individual Education Program) will be written to address your child's current needs.
Access to Records
You may look at your child's records without unnecessary delay. If you want to have someone else review the records, you must give your written consent. To guarantee your child's privacy, the school will keep track of anyone who looks at the records.
The school will answer any questions you may have about your child's records, a copy of records will be made available upon request. If you transfer your student to another school, records will be sent to the new school. If the information in the records is incorrect, then you may ask that it be removed.
If your child is having educational problems in school, we will look at every possible way to help. Testing will be done before your child is placed in a special education program. The tests will show your child's learning ability and level of classroom performance. The school will be looking at the whole picture (all tests, observations, your input, etc).
The school wants your child to be as comfortable as possible during the testing process. Tests will be given in your child's native language and will not discriminate culturally or racially.
Your child may be tested by several staff members. Each person doing the testing is a trained specialist in the test given. When the testing is completed, you will be invited to an IEP meeting, and a team member will explain the test results and recommendations. Decisions will not be based on one single procedure. Once again, please feel free to ask for an explanation at any time.
There are times when you may disagree with the school's testing results. You may ask to have more tests given by an agency other than the school. You must explain why you disagree. Before paying for this evaluation, the school may request a due process hearing to confirm that its evaluation is appropriate. If a hearing officer agrees the evaluation is appropriate, you would have to pay for the other evaluation, if you still want one.
The school district will provide you with the information needed to proceed with your own independent evaluation.
Least Restrictive Environment
The least restrictive environment means your child will be educated in the classes and school with children who do not have disabilities, as long as it's appropriate for your child. The child will be removed from the regular education classroom, only if extra help or assistance is needed. Your child's IEP (Individual Education Program) team will determine the best placement for his/her educational needs.
Voluntary Private School Placement By Parents
When the school is providing a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), the school is not required to pay expenses if you choose to place your child in a private school.
If you place your child in a private school and you believe FAPE was not offered, or not being provided for your child, you may ask to be paid back for the cost of that enrollment through a due process hearing. Then, a hearing officer will determine whether or not you are entitled to a refund. If the school or if you disagree with a hearing officer decision, it can be appealed to district court.
A surrogate (substitute) parent is not the legal parent. A surrogate makes decisions that will allow the child to receive an appropriate education.
A surrogate parent must be assigned when the parents of a child are unknown or if the child is a ward of the state. The surrogate parent protects the educational rights of the child and represents the child in all matters relating to FAPE.
A surrogate parent must not have any involvements that conflict with the interests of the child. The surrogate must have knowledge and skills that allow representation. The surrogate may not be an employee of the local school district or any other agency involved in the care or education of the child.
Talk to the teacher first. Both you and the school share in the education of your child. If you have concerns about your child's education, you should contact your child's teacher and openly discuss your issues. As stated earlier, teachers value your personal observations and suggestions. We encourage you to become actively involved in your child's Individual Education Program (IEP).
At times, you may disagree with the school district's educational decisions. Every attempt should be made to talk this out as soon as differences come up. Talk to the teacher, to the principal, and to the Special Education Director. If your disagreements still are not resolved, you may ask for mediation or a due process hearing.
Before the due process hearing, the resolution session involves a meeting with the parent and the school to try to get to the bottom of your concerns. The school will get in touch with you within 15 days of receiving your request. If you want, you may bring your attorney with you; if you do, the school will have its attorney attend. You and the school can waive this meeting and may agree to the mediation process instead.
If we get everything worked out during the resolution meeting, both parties will sign a legally binding agreement that is enforceable in court.
If your issues are not resolved within 30 days of receiving your request, the due process hearing may occur.
Mediation occurs when an agreement can not be reached.
The difference between mediation and the resolution session is the mediator. The mediator is trained to see both sides of the disagreement but is not personally involved. A trained mediator works with both parties to guide everyone toward a solution that is in the best interest of the student's education. Mediation is voluntary, and you or the school may wish to have a due process hearing.
Due Process Hearing
If you've tried everything else and you feel your child is still not receiving FAPE, or you disagree with the identification, or the evaluation, or the educational placement, then the hearing would be the next step.
You may choose to say "no" to mediation or resolution and go right to hearing. An impartial hearing officer will be appointed by the state. This is a very formal, legal process. You're encouraged to bring your attorney, as you will present evidence and cross examine witnesses. You will be informed of any free or low-cost legal services.
To request a due process hearing, submit a written request to:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Wyoming Department of Education, Hathaway Building
2300 Capitol Avenue, Second Floor
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002-0050
The letter must include a clear description of the disagreement and a proposed solution to the problem. The letter must be signed and dated. Please call Mike Kouris, our Director of Special Education. He will give you a Due Process Request Form and help you with details if you wish.
Child Placement During Pendency of Due Process
Basically, this is a "stay put" situation. During the entire due process procedures, your child will remain where he/ she is unless you and the school agree otherwise.
If your child is not enrolled in school at the time of the hearing request, you have the right to have him/ her attend public school until a decision has been reached.
In the case of a dangerous behavior, your child will be put in a safe environment and a hearing will be conducted as quickly as possible.
What Does Civil Action Mean?
If you do not agree with the final decision in a due process hearing, you have the right to appeal. This means you want a court to reconsider your request. Your appeal must be filed within 60 calendar days after receiving written, certified notice of the hearing officer's decision.
You may be reimbursed for your attorney costs if the hearing officer rules on your side. Attorney fees may only be awarded by the court, so you would need to ask a court to award them.
Attorney fees may not be awarded after a written offer of settlement is given to you if the offer was more than ten days before the hearing begins or if the offer is not accepted within ten days.
You may receive attorney fees if you were justified in rejecting the settlement offer.
Filing A Formal Complaint
If you feel strongly that the school failed to follow the law in providing FAPE to students, you may file a formal complaint about the school. You must follow the procedure by sending a written and signed letter, explaining the violation of law and the facts of the bases of the violation, to the Wyoming Department of Education (same address listed under the Due Process Hearing).
Discipline: Interim Alternative Educational Setting
An interim setting means a temporary placement away from the school the child attends. If your child commits a serious offense where weapons, drugs, or bodily injury is involved, the school may want to change where your child is educated.
This may apply to disciplinary action that suspends your child out of school for 10 days or more. You will receive written notification, will be invited to an IEP meeting to discuss the suspension, and will decide whether or not the student's disability caused the behavior. You are a very important member of the IEP team.
If the school district did not conduct a behavior assessment and come up with a behavior plan prior to the discipline problem, the school will conduct an IEP meeting and decide on a plan. An appropriate behavior plan will be designed to help prevent the behavior from happening again. The IEP team determines the interim alternative educational placement for a child who has been expelled or suspended for more that ten school days in a school year, if appropriate.
The school will consider all circumstances, case-by-case, when determining whether to change the placement for a child with a disability who violates a code of student conduct.
Transfer Of Parental Rights At Age 18
When your child reaches age 18, the school district will provide any required notices to both you and your child. All other rights transfer to your child.
The school district will inform you and your child of the transfer at least one year before your child reaches age 18. If your child wants you to continue making decisions for his/ her for educational purposes, the child may grant that in writing. If you have guardianship of your adult child, you will continue making decisions without written permission.