45 Years of Impact Spotlight
Fighting For Enforceable Rights of Parents of Special Education Students
The IDEA gives parents of students with disabilities substantial rights. Among other rights, parents have the right to participate in the process of developing their child’s IEP, to receive notice of changes to the IEP, to dispute the IEP through mediation or an administrative hearing and to challenge the school’s lack of compliance with the IEP. DRP has brought several cases focused specifically on the rights of parents to have a meaningful role in the special education process.
In 2011, DRP filed a special education due process complaint on behalf of six students against a School District when the district decided to consolidate all elementary-aged students who needed any amount oflearning support services in one of its elementary school buildings without giving their parents the opportunity to object. For many students receiving learning support, the district’s plan involved a move from their “feeder pattern” elementary school — the elementary school that many of them had been attending for years with their peers. The district announced itsdecision to all parents without issuing the “prior written notice” required by the IDEA or otherwise notifying parents that they had a right to dispute thechange in placement. The Hearing Officer found that the district had violated parents’ procedural rights under the IDEA and prohibited the District from changing the placement of these students.
In 2011, DRP filed S.M. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education on behalf of a teenager whose IEP had not been fully implemented by the her School District. Her mother filed several complaints with the Division of Compliance (DOC) of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to challenge the school district’s non-compliance. PDE’s Division of Compliance investigated and agreed that the district was in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and issued an order that required the district to, among other things, provide the student with hundreds of hours of compensatory education. The district refused to provide the compensatory education PDE had ordered and an official in PDE’s Bureau of Special Education unilaterally, without authority, and without notice to the parent reduced the compensatory education award by 90 percent. DRP’s lawsuit alleged violations of the IDEA and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Thecase was successfully resolved when PDE agreed it would enforce its original award of compensatory education to S.M. and to issue a Basic Education Circular (BEC) assuring more substantial parental involvement in the enforcement of DOC complaints.