Special Education

Plain Talk on Rights Under the IDEA

By Christina A. Samuels — October 24, 2006 1 min read

In Connecticut, parents of children in special education receive a document that says when disagreements arise over their children’s education, “the parent or the school may ask, in writing, for a hearing to review what was decided.”

In Maryland, the same type of document uses more bureaucratic terms: “The parent or a public agency may request a due-process hearing regarding the public agency’s proposal or refusal to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student.”

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that parents be notified of their rights under the special education law.

But too often, parents are told of their rights in language that is hard to understand, says a study published in the Summer 2006 edition of Exceptional Children, the journal of the Council for Exceptional Children in Arlington, Va.

Authors Julie L. FitzGerald and Marley W. Watkins of Pennsylvania State University examined notices throughout the country. They suggest that the states could add larger text, summaries, subheadings, and flowcharts to such documents to aid their readability.

“I hope this paper contributes by helping schools and departments of education understand what plain language means,” Ms. FitzGerald, a graduate student in school psychology, said in an interview.

“To be honest, we haven’t gotten any complaints,” said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education. However, the state will be revising its notices now that the U.S. Department of Education has issued final regulations for the 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA, and will do so with an eye toward comprehensibility, he said.

And for the first time, the federal Education Department has released a model document that states can adapt for their own use, said Alexa Posny, the director of the department’s office of special education programs. The model form focuses on making sure that all the parental-notice requirements of the law are met, Ms. Posny said, but “we did try to break it up and have it flow so that it makes sense.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 25, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

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
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Special Education Schools Struggled to Serve Students With Disabilities, English-Learners During Shutdowns
The needs of students with IEPs and English-language learners were not often met after the pandemic struck, says a federal report.
3 min read
Young boy wearing a mask shown sheltering at home looking out a window with a stuffed animal.
Getty
Special Education How Will Schools Pay for Compensatory Services for Special Ed. Students?
States’ efforts so far suggest there won’t be enough money to go around for all the learning losses of students with disabilities from COVID-19 school shutdowns.
8 min read
student struggling blue IMG
iStock/Getty
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
Special Education Whitepaper
Dyslexia: How to Identify Warning Signs at Every Grade
Read the new whitepaper by Dr. Pamela Hook to learn how to recognize the warning signs of dyslexia at different grade levels.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
Special Education Bridging Distance for Learners With Special Needs
The schooling services that English-language learners and students with disabilities receive don’t always translate well to remote learning. Here’s how schools can help.
9 min read
Special IMG
E+/Getty