Virginia parents of students with disabilities need to know that they have important parental consent rights as they proceed through the special education process.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law governing Individual Education Programs (IEPs) is a federal law. Its requirements apply regardless of the state in which a student lives and attends school. At the same time, the IDEA also grants states the authority to enact regulations that provide additional rights to students with disabilities and their parents above and beyond what is required. So, there are some differences in how the IDEA applies state by state.
Virginia’s special education regulations provide parental consent rights that exceed those in the federal law. In informal terms, Virginia is known as a “consent state.” Living in a consent state impacts the IEP process in important ways.
Virginia Parental Consent Rights
Under Virginia regulations, a school division is required to obtain parental consent before a school division can:
- Conduct an initial evaluation of a student to determine eligibility for special education
- Provide special education and related services to a student for the first time
- Reevaluate a student for continued special education eligibility
- Make changes to the identification of a student’s disability
- Make changes to a student’s IEP
- Make changes to a student’s eligibility for special education and related services, including terminating special education and related services (except when the student graduates).
When the parents and the school are not in agreement, parents need to understand their consent rights and how to utilize them for the benefit of their child. This can come up at various points in the special education process. For example, if a school wants to exit a child from special education but the parents disagree, the parents do not have to consent. Similarly, parents do not have to consent to the implementation of a school’s proposed IEP if they do not agree with it. In Virginia, parents can also provide partial consent to their child’s IEP.
How to Get More Information
These consent rights are often news to parents. But they are actually explained (along with many other important rights) in “Your Family’s Special Education Rights,” the Virginia Procedural Safeguards Notice from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). School divisions are required to provide this notice to families. Reading this document is a good start.
Virginia parents of students with disabilities can get more information and assistance regarding their consent rights (or other special education matters) by reaching out to VDOE’s Parent Ombudsman for Special Education, your school division’s Parent Resource Center, or the Virginia Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC). Parents can also find a wealth of useful information on the VDOE Special Education website. These resources and many more are listed in the Resources for Families section of the Pizer Law website.