I know my rights

March 18, 2012

picture of a book with blank pages

image courtesy of Daniel Y. Go via flickr

Chloe’s special ed teacher understands.

“You don’t need that book, right?” she asks at every meeting, at the point where she is supposed to give me yet another copy of Your Rights Under the IDEA.

I don’t know how many copies I’ve received over the years, but I know how many I’ve read: zero. In case you didn’t click the link (I don’t blame you), here’s a sample.

“As a parent you have a right to be notified in writing a reasonable time before the public agency proposes to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of your child or the provision of a free appropriate public education to your child.”

I find it hilarious that the first thing this document says is that “in the interests of simplicity, some of the rights have been paraphrased.” So in other words, that’s their idea of putting it simply. (Though I think they meant the language, not the rights, have been paraphrased, since how do you paraphrase an intangible concept like a right?)

I can do a little better: Before the school messes around with your kid’s IEP or changes anything about the way they teach your kid, they have to send you a confusing form letter with a bunch of boxes checked.

Which pretty much illustrates the real problem–even if they are stated simply, the legal rights of a special needs parents when it comes to getting your kid educated are still dizzyingly confusing.

Booklets, form letters and legalese don’t make your kid’s education better, they just give you a basis for complaining when things aren’t working.

When it comes down to it, these are the rights that count:

  1. You have the right to find the people who will be the most capable of understanding and teaching your kid. You have the right to make sure they are the ones who are in charge of her education (as long as you remember to use the words “most appropriate placement” not “best teacher” or “that school with all the iPads”).
  2. You have the right to do the research, read the literature, attend the workshops, learn the language and employ all the psychological and Vulcan mind tricks you can to get what you think is best for your child.
  3. You have the right to throw around the terms “least restrictive environment,” “inclusion,” “research-based teaching methods,” and “my lawyer” until you have sufficiently intimidated whatever bureaucrat is causing trouble.
  4. If all else fails, you have the right to be open-minded, get a third party opinion and look at the problem from a new perspective, or
  5. You have the right to sue the heck out of your school or
  6. You have the right to move to a different, more enlightened school district, city, state or country.
  7. You have the right to throw away that stupid booklet.

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