PARENT & STUDENT PARTICIPATION
The law provides for many opportunities for parents to be involved in the planning and discussions concerning their child's special education needs, including as a integral member of the Team that discusses eligibility, services and placement of the student. You are entitled to have Team meetings held at a time and place mutually convenient to you and to other members of the Team. If your child is 14 years of age or older, the district must invite your child to attend Team meetings; if your child is younger than age 14, you may invite your child to Team meetings if you decide it is in his or her best interests. If you are unable to participate in a Team meeting, the district is required to use other methods (such as phone conferencing or other meeting opportunities) to ensure that you have the opportunity to participate in the discussion even if you cannot be present. Parents have rights to consent to or reject proposals for their child's education and to receive information in understandable written form. As the student grows older, he or she begins to have rights to participate in the Team process and in planning for transition to adult life. Additionally, the law entitles students of any age who are receiving special education to participate in the general education program of the school, including participation in school-wide or state-wide assessment programs.
The law does not speak directly to your responsibilities as a parent, but the opportunities that the law provides for your participation are intended to promote a dialogue between you and the school district on behalf of the child. You are expected to share information about your child and the school district is expected to attend to the information you provide and the concerns you present. It is important to emphasize that special education is most successful when it is viewed as an ongoing partnership with all parties having a strong interest in providing the best possible education for the student. Although as a parent, you have many rights, it is important to remember that the relationship you build with the school district may endure for many years and a positive, cooperative relationship on the part of both parents and school district personnel is most likely to result in maximum benefit to the student.
Under federal law, students who are eligible for special education are entitled to a FREE, APPROPRIATE, PUBLIC EDUCATION - This concept is known as "FAPE". Massachusetts interprets FAPE to mean that students eligible for special education are entitled to a free, public education in the least restrictive environment.
A student must receive a complete and comprehensive evaluation to determine if the student has a disability and is eligible for special education and, if eligible, to assist in determining appropriate special education and related services that may be necessary. Additionally, the law provides for periodic reevaluations to ensure that the student is benefiting from and continues to require special education. Your consent will always be required prior to these reevaluations.
In Massachusetts, in order to be found eligible for special education, a student must demonstrate the presence of a disability (autism, developmental delay, intellectual, sensory, neurological, emotional, communication, physical or health impairment or specific learning disability) that prevents the student from making effective progress in education and requires specially designed instruction or related services in order to access the general curriculum. An initial evaluation to determine eligibility will seek sufficient evaluative information to make a fair determination that considers all of these factors.
Although the state testing program, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is an evaluation, it is not a part of the evaluation conducted to determine if the student requires special education. The special education law provides protections to ensure that every student with disabilities is included in state or district-wide testing to ensure that the educational needs of students with disabilities are considered in a systemic way. Therefore, your permission is not required for your son/daughter to participate in MCAS or any other state or district-wide tests. However, during the Team meeting held to develop your child's Individualized Education program, you and the other Team members will discuss the best way for your child to participate in the MCAS and note this on your child's IEP.
The law provides that the Team develops anIndividualized EducationProgram (IEP) in written form to describe the programs and services that are needed and that will be provided when a student has been determined to be eligible for special education. Your permission will always be requested before any IEP services are provided.
Least Restrictive Environment
This principle, kmown as "LRE", means that, if possible, a student who needs special eduaction services should receive those service in the general education environment, with students who do not have special education needs. Further, LRE means that removal from the general education environment should only occur if the nature or sevrity of the student's special education needs are such that education in general eduaction classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. IDEA -97 strengthened this principle even more by saying that no child should be removed from the general education classroom just because of needed modifications in the curriculum. This means that the Team is stronly obligated to consider how your child can be supported in the general education classroom before even considering serving your child in any other setting.Procedural Safeguards
Finally, the law provides a number of procedural safeguards to ensure that parent's and student's rights are preserved, that information is provided on a timely basis, and that services are delivered appropriately. Parents have considerable rights to agree or disagree with proposals of the school district and also have the right to make proposals themselves.For more information regarding parents' rights, and to view the most current Notice of Procedural Safeguards (translated versions as well),
please visit: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/parents.html