It can sometimes seem like schools are a secret club. Teachers and principals seem to run the show, with parents coming in way behind. Parents don’t even know they have these four rights in schools!
When you know your rights at school, parents can get a whole lot more for their kids in the classroom.
Parents Don’t Even Know They Have These 4 Rights at School!
Learning how, and when you can use certain laws to help your child is super important. Remember, this post is NOT legal advice. I’m not a lawyer!
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that opens up access to information. It’s possible for anyone to request information that is owned or collected by government agencies.
Great, that’s perfect if I want stats on parking tickets in Ohio, but how does it help me at school?
Well, public schools are part of local and state government agencies. Namely, the department of education. As a part of a government agency, many records are able to be accessed with an FOIA request.
Now, not all records are accessible.
Generally, public meetings, communication-related to work, and shared notes are able to be requested.
Things you won’t be able to access include: personally identifiable information (PII), legal documents, education plans, and placements. Each state and school district has slightly different rules and restrictions.
Parents might want to use FOIA requests to find out about:
- teacher/district salaries
- minutes of school/district meetings
- whether their child has been unethically discussed in electronic communications
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects student information. It also controls access to your child’s school records.
This act does not apply to private elementary and secondary schools, just public schools.
Under FERPA, parents have the right to:
- inspect and review the student’s record maintained by the school
- request that this record be amended
- consent in writing to the disclosure of PII, except in several specific circumstances
- file a complaint should FERPA be violated
It is important to note that FERPA provides “parental rights” to both natural or adoptive parents, step-parents who are present on a day-to-day basis, and grandparents or legal guardians. The right of a biological parent to view records only ends with a court order.
FOIA and FERPA apply to all students at public K-12 schools. But they do not apply at private schools since these are non-government agencies.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 governs how ALL Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in the US. IEPs are a legal document that changes how a student is taught. Parents are heavily involved at every level and stage.
Parents have a ton of IDEA rights and protections:
- right to request an education evaluation for special education
- right to consent, or decline, suggested testing by the school
- review all testing results prior to your next meeting
When it comes to the actual IEP process you have the following rights:
- a full, understandable explanation of all/any portion of the proceedings and results
- a review of your child’s record
- participate in any/all meetings involving the identification, evaluation, and placement of your child
- receive prior written notice of all meetings, deadlines, and potential changes to your child’s IEP
- obtain an independent education evaluation (IEE) or second opinion regarding their child’s diagnosis or assessments
- give or deny their consent to any changes made to their child IEP
- to disagree with a decision made by the school which impacts their child’s IEP
- to use the IDEA processes to resolve disputes
You also have the right to retain an advocate or legal counsel. Working with an advocate or lawyer can help you find solutions to conflicts with the school.
Learn more about the special education process here.
504 Plans are educational plans help identified students without changing the basics of the curriculum. Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This also makes it part of the big umbrella law: the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To qualify, a child must have a documented medical condition or disability. And it has to impact a major life function.
Essentially, this law provides changes (accommodations) to the educational environment. No changes are made to the curriculum. It makes it so that all children can access the core teaching and content.
Often, students who fail to qualify for an IEP do qualify for a 504 Plan.
Parents have protections under FERPA and FOIA, plus Section 504. However, IDEA will not apply. It’s important to read the documentation that the school should provide you to fully understand how your district implements 504 Plans.
So, you as parents have a TON of legal rights when it comes to your child’s education! So use them! Be the best advocate for your child, or hire someone with knowledge and experience to help you. Need help? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org