Parent power

Maria Fischer.

The role of parents in special education cannot be overestimated. That’s the opinion of Maria Fischer, an attorney with Hinkle Fingles & Prior, a law firm that specializes in representing people with disabilities. Speaking at a recent School Choice night at Matheny, Fischer pointed out that parents “do not care about staffing or budgeting problems. They only care about their child’s needs.”

It is mandated, she said, that parents have the right to be at every IEP (individualized education program) meeting. The IEP is a written plan that details a child’s special education program for the year. The IEP is developed at a meeting attended by members of the child study team, the child’s teacher and the parents. The purpose of that meeting is to identify a child’s educational goals as well as the program of services, supports and related service necessary to help a child achieve those goals. Appropriate placement is also determined at IEP meetings.

“Districts cannot exclude you,” Fischer stressed. She added that IEP goals should be, “measurable, objective and specific.” If a district indicates it wants to move a child back from a special placement, Fischer recommended that parents refuse to sign the IEP. “That gives you 15 days,” she added. “And if you invoke a ‘stay put,’ the old placement stays in force while you’re fighting with the district.”

“Parents should not sign the IEP until they are satisfied that it contains everything their child needs to make educational progress,” she added. “If parents don’t agree with the IEP, they should write a letter to the child study team that describes the changes that are desired.”