by Alejandro Martinez, Brighton Center Special Education Advocate and Trainer
Parents, step back, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. You did it! You managed to navigate the madness of a pandemic while making sure your kids logged in to virtual classrooms, temporarily moved back to real classrooms, back to virtual, and now back, hopefully for good, to brick and mortar classes.
Now, the worst of the pandemic may be behind us, like a tumbleweed drifting by. Yet as parents, we still find ourselves wanting more from the school. All the while, we may not know exactly how to communicate what it is we feel is lacking. This uncertainty sometimes leads us down a path of giving the school the benefit of the doubt. We can fall into doing this even if we know that something is not right.
If you find yourself in this pickle of a situation, you might be asking yourself: What can I do to have my voice heard in an effective way? How do I really know if the school is not following through with their legal responsibilities? The reality is that it is the wild west in some of our local school districts, and in this age of misinformation and lack of accountability, knowledge of special education laws and procedures is that trusty six shooter that can protect your and your child’s educational rights.
Knowing the TEA’s Procedural Safeguards
By federal and state law, your child’s school should provide you with a copy of TEA’s procedural safeguards every time you have an ARD meeting, and chances are you have a dusty, old copy somewhere in your home, office, or email. But have you read them? Often, most parents use the booklet as kindling for fire during a freak snowstorm, or the email containing the document sits in email limbo, never to be opened. My advice to you: Read every word of that document. Not only does it outline what your and your child’s rights are. It also explains the IEP process and vital special education procedures such as evaluations and re-evaluations. Finally, it explains what to do when you do not agree with a school’s decision regarding your student’s educational programming.
Familiarizing yourself with the notice of procedural safeguards can prevent many misunderstandings or standoffs between you and the school. It can also help empower you to have a more present voice in your child’s next ARD meeting. Think of the procedural safeguards as a form of special education laws and procedures Cliffsnotes. When in doubt, refer to your trusty copy, and feel confident in your ability to advocate for your child. I recommend using the safeguards as steppingstone in your pursuit of special education law knowledge. As you keep building on your knowledge of special education laws and procedures, sooner or later, you’ll be the new sheriff in town when it comes to your child’s rights!