Special Education

Ed. Dept. Releases Rules for Parents Under IDEA

By Christina A. Samuels — December 05, 2008 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Department of Education has released changes to regulations governing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that affect rules regarding parental consent, non-attorney representation, and compliance requirements.

The rules, published in the Federal Register on Dec. 1, state that parents have the right to revoke their consent for their children to receive special education services, after making a request in writing.

Before the change, the regulations were unclear about how parents could stop their child from receiving special education services if they chose to do so, the Education Department said.

In an explanation that accompanied the rules when they were released for public comment earlier this year, the department said its “long-standing interpretation” was that parents could not unilaterally decide to have special education services stopped if the school district believed the child still needed such services to receive a free, appropriate public education.

The change allowing parents’ revocation of consent is “consistent with the IDEA’s emphasis on the role of parents in protecting their child’s rights,” the department said. A district may ask why a parent is choosing to revoke consent, but an explanation is not necessary.

Changing Minds

The change means that students who are removed from special education services are to be treated like general education students in all ways, the department said, including losing some of the protections given to students in special education who have discipline problems related to their disabilities.

Parents are also allowed to change their minds and have their children re-evaluated for special education services, even if earlier they had revoked consent, the department said.

Another change in the regulations will allow state law to determine whether non-lawyers can represent parents in due-process hearings.

The IDEA says that either side in a due-process hearing may be accompanied by counsel, or by people with expertise in special education. The law does not say, however, whether those experts can actually represent parents if the experts are not lawyers.

The Education Department referred to a 2000 case in Delaware, where authorities initiated proceedings against Marilyn Arons, a lay special education advocate, for unauthorized practice of law.(“Court to Weigh Expert Fees in IDEA Cases,” Jan. 18, 2006.) The Delaware Supreme Court ultimately decided that the IDEA did not require the state to permit non-lawyers to represent parents.

The federal special education law should respect the interest that states have in regulating legal practice, the Education Department said. The new rule would also apply to districts, which could also not be represented by lay advocates, such as special education administrators, if state law forbade it.

The rule would not prevent parents from representing themselves in due-process hearings. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in a 2007 case that such representation was permissible. (“High Court Backs Parents’ Rights to Argue Cases Under IDEA,” May 25, 2007.)

A third change states that if a school district determines it is out of compliance with any of the provisions of the IDEA, the district has one year from the time the problem is noted to correct it.

The timeline is needed because problems weren’t being fixed quickly enough, the department said. Before the adoption of the rule, there was no timeline for correction in the IDEA.

Some commenters on the rules noted that some areas of noncompliance can be fixed quickly, such as those that may relate to a specific child. But larger, systemic problems might take a longer time to rectify.

However, a state or district can implement short-term correction plans while developing broader strategies, the department said.

A version of this article appeared in the December 10, 2008 edition of Education Week as Ed. Dept. Releases Rules for Parents Under IDEA

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leading Systemic Redesign: Strategies from the Field
Learn how your school community can work together to redesign the school system, reengineer instruction, & co-author personalized learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Letter to the Editor We Must Recognize the Significance of Occupational Therapy in Schools
An occupational therapist urges states to make transition services a priority when addressing the crisis faced by students impacted by COVID.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Special Education Unified Sports Level the Playing Field for Students With Disabilities
Interest is growing in unified sports, where students with and without intellectual disabilities can play and compete together.
7 min read
Saratoga Springs High School Physical Education teacher, Colleen Belanger, left, instructs Hunter Fiorillo, during a Unified Physical Education class at Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. "I've been teaching for a long time and this is one of the best things I've ever done," said Belanger of teaching Unified P.E.
Saratoga Springs High School physical education teacher Colleen Belanger, left, instructs Hunter Fiorillo, during a unified physical education class at Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. "I've been teaching for a long time and this is one of the best things I've ever done," said Belanger of the unified class.
Heather Ainsworth for Education Week
Special Education Students With Disabilities Urge Smoother Transition to College
Legislation would simplify the process for students with disabilities to continue getting accommodations when they head to college.
4 min read
College students blurred and moving around a white male sitting at desk in a college classroom
Chris Ryan/Getty
Special Education States Are Desperate for Special Ed. Teachers. But They Can't Cut Corners to Get Them
The Education Department warns states not to lower standards, even as districts frantically search for skilled special educators.
8 min read
Special education teacher assisting a diverse group of elementary students in art class.
E+/Getty