The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a federal law that's designed to help make sure that children with learning disabilities get what they need to be successful in school. It does this by giving such children the right to a "free appropriate public education" or FAPE, including special education and other services. This may include any number of things, like one-to-one instruction with a special education teacher on certain subjects for part of the school day, speech therapy and transportation to and from school.
However, just because you sign up your child for special education doesn't necessarily mean that she'll always be in that program. When you think your child is ready and no longer needs it, or if you believe that her performance in the classroom isn't improving, there's a way for revoking your parental consent for special education.
The IDEA process begins when your child is evaluated or "assessed" to see if she has one of the disabilities listed in the IDEA. Typically, the evaluation is done by someone at your child's school, like a counselor or psychologist. Sometimes it's the parent who requests an evaluation. Other times, a teacher or someone else at the school notices that a child has special needs and he may request that your child be evaluated. Generally, you have to give the school permission or your consent before the evaluation can be done. Giving your consent to this evaluation isn't the same thing as giving your consent to special education services, though.
If, after the evaluation, it's determined that your child is eligible for assistance under the IDEA, you and the school officials will work together to develop an individualized education program (IEP). The IEP sets out in detail what special education and other services your child needs and how the school will deliver those services to her. However, before the school actually gives your child these services, it must get your consent.
Later, if for some reason you no longer want your child to receive the special education and other services, you may revoke or cancel your consent. Once you do this, the school is no longer allowed to give your child the special education services.
How's It Done and What It Means
The revocation must be made in writing, and so most school districts that provide special education services have a form to fill out. You can get this form from the school, or you may contact the state education agency (SEA) in your area for a copy. Although the form may vary from state to state, you can expect the form to include statements that you:
- Revoke your consent for the provision of special education and related services
- Understand that once consent is revoked, your child will be treated as a general education student, and that you understand that all of your IDEA rights with respect to special education will end
- Understand that, when it comes to disciplining your child for misconduct or misbehavior, your child won't receive the special education protections available only to students with a disability. That is, your child will be treated and disciplined in the same way as any other non-disabled student
- Understand that after consent is revoked, the school doesn't have to amend your child's records to remove any references to her receipt of special education and other services
- Understand that after revoking consent, you still have the right to ask for an evaluation to determine if your child has a disability covered by the IDEA and needs special education and related service
Other Things to Think About
The form you fill out to revoke consent may or may not explain some things that you need to know and think about, such as:
- If your child is 18 years old or older, he may revoke the consent to special education and other services, unless you have a court order declaring him to be "incompetent," that is, unable to care for and make decisions for himself. Before the school may act on your child's revocation, the school must tell you and your child in advance that the services will be discontinued and when
- You can't revoke consent for some services and not others; it's all or nothing. For example, you can't revoke your consent for your child to get one-on-one instruction from a special education teacher but not revoke consent for transportation services to and from school
- The school can't do anything to challenge your decision to revoke consent. Under the IDEA, if the school thinks the IDEA is being misused or abused, it may try to stop it through the: (1) Mediation process, which is when the school and parents meet with a neutral third party to work out the problem, and/or; (2) Due Process procedures, where a hearing officer makes a legally binding decision on the matter. When it comes to revoking consent, though, the school can't use these tools against you
Change without Revocation
Under the IDEA, your child's IEP has to be reviewed by the school, which usually is done every year. If you think your child doesn't need some services but still needs others, you can work with the school to change the IEP. Similarly, the school isn't allowed to suggest or encourage you to remove your child from special education. However, if it feels that your child is no longer disabled under the IDEA or no longer needs special education and other services, it may either re-evaluate your child (with or without your consent), or it may work with you to change the child's IEP.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I told my child's school that I was planning on removing her from the special education program, and I was told that I needed to explain to them in writing why I want to revoke my consent. Do I need to do this?
- I revoked my consent for special education services for my child, but the school continually asks for my consent to make an initial evaluation of my child. The school says that it's required to do this, but I think it harassment. Is the school acting properly?
- When I told the school that I was revoking consent, the school scheduled a meeting for me and school's IEP team. Can it do that? What if I refuse to attend?