More school divisions are moving towards requesting parents’ electronic consent to special education documents. This includes eligibility determinations and IEPs. In theory, this could be a good thing. It could be easier for parents and more efficient for schools.
But, in practice, I’m seeing a lot of issues with electronic consent. The problems include:
- The electronic system may not make it clear to parents what they are providing consent to.
- Parents may not have the opportunity to review a document prior to providing consent.
- The electronic system may present the only option as providing consent, leaving out options to not consent or to consent in part.
- The system may block parents from accessing other important information about their child until the parents provide consent.
- Staff may not be trained on how to use the electronic signature system.
- School divisions may not inform parents of the features of the system or how to navigate it.
Parents have important rights in the special education process. No school system should use an electronic consent system that deprives parents of any of their rights. This includes the right to review documents before deciding whether to provide consent. Parents in Virginia have the right to provide consent to their child’s IEP, not provide consent, or provide partial consent. (Special education parental consent rights differ by state.) And parents should never be blocked from accessing any information while they exercise these rights.
Until school divisions get this right, parents can always ask to review documents and provide their consent (or not) in the good old-fashioned way – on paper.