This overview will answer the following questions:
- When should I contact my school if I don’t think my own or my child’s needs are being met?
- What government offices can I contact if plans aren’t being followed?
- What are outside advocacy groups that I could reach out to?
If you or your child is on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504, it would be nice to think plans will be followed and all needs will be met. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. You may think your plan is being neglected — for example, if extended time is not allotted even when it’s been mandated. Or, your plan may be being followed but you still think it could be improved. In both instances, there are places you can contact and resources you can consider using.
Your first step could be contacting your school and its district to ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss your concerns. If your school and district remain evasive, you can consider other strategies. This includes filing a legal complaint relating to a law which covers special education. Instead of filing a legal complaint by yourself, you could also contact an outside advocacy group, like your local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter.
Officials at your school and district
If you’re a parent and you’re concerned about whether your child is receiving adequate special education or disability services, you should contact your school and ask for a meeting. This would hopefully result in your school providing better accommodations and clarifying what accommodations they can offer.
Calleen Patterson, a Mighty contributor, came up with a list for recommendations, advice, and things parents should ask themselves before an IEP meeting. While this list was made in mind for parents of students on IEPs, all of these points below also are relevant to parents who have students on 504s:
- What do you want the end result of this meeting to be?
- Are they addressing all the concerns you have for your child within the “school” realm?
- Did you know you are a key member of the IEP team and are supposed to be a contributing member? This is your right. They cannot hold the meeting without you.
- Did you know your child also is a member of the IEP meeting and they have a right to be there and speak up for themselves? (Age and maturity are a factor and the parent should decide when it is appropriate.)
- Did you know you have a right (and should exercise that right) to review the tests, IEP draft, and other related documents before the meeting?
- You have a right to bring anyone you want to the meeting with you.
If you are a student who feels like your accommodations are not being followed or that they could be better, you could approach your parents or a neutral figure at your school who is supposed to help you, like a guidance counselor. Both your parents and a guidance counselor can help you brainstorm options for how you should approach special education.
Even after meetings where you have advocated for your child or yourself, your school may still not be doing what they should be doing. At this point, you may consider taking legal action.
Depending on whether your child is on an IEP or 504, the routes for getting the government involved is different.
If you want to report a violation of an IEP, which is protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), you would need to file a complaint to an individual state’s education agency. A listing of the agency or agencies per state can be found on Advocacy Institute’s website. While exact procedures vary per state, there are minimum requirements in every state. A complaint must be filed within a year of an alleged violation, including a statement saying the school violated IDEA, facts supporting this statement, your signature and contact information.
If you want to report a violation of a 504, which is protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, you can file a complaint via a form through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. You can fill this form out electronically or by hand. If you have any questions about this process, you can contact the Office of Civil Rights.
If you are looking for assistance for any of these routes, contacting disability rights and support groups may be a good step. While there are many groups that advocate improving education for students with disabilities, one that stands out is the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). DREDF protects the civil rights of people with disabilities through legislation, litigation, advocacy, technical assistance, and education and training of attorneys, advocates, persons with disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities.
If you have more questions about special education in schools, you can check out the first and second education resource guides. You could also post a question on The Mighty to ask fellow community members for their advice.
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