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Procedural safeguards are built into the legislation known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and are designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents.1 These procedural safeguards provide the necessary steps for parents and public agencies to take when they come to a disagreement regarding a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). For example, it is procedure for a public agency to inform parents with prior written notice whenever it decides to make a change or refuses to change an aspect of the child’s IEP.2 IDEA is federal legislation and only provides the minimal procedural safeguards that each state must follow, but each state can increase their regulations for procedural safeguards. This means that the regulations for procedural safeguards for Alabama’s Special Education Services may differ from Florida’s Special Education Statutes. The National Autism Network provides a STATE RESOURCE GUIDE for parents that have inquiries into the specific regulations for their respective state.
The Procedural safeguards of IDEA provide parents and schools with different options to resolve disputes including mediation, a “Resolution Session”, and due process hearings.1 An example of procedural safeguards may be better explained by detailing the specifics of the resolution session. A resolution session or meeting is necessary only after a parent requests a due process and is assembled by the local educational agency (LEA) with parents and other members of the child’s IEP team who have specific knowledge of the facts in the parent’s due process complaint.3 A resolution meeting must take place within 15 days of the parent’s complaint and if the LEA is unable to resolve the dispute to the parent’s satisfaction within 30 days of the public agency’s receipt of the due process complaint the due process hearing timeline begins. The resolution meeting may not occur if both the parents and public agency agree in writing to waive the resolution proves or if the parents and public agency agree to mediation as an alternative to the resolution process.3 The procedural safeguards relating to the resolution process allows each party a new opportunity to reach a solution to their dispute and a timeline for doing so, instead of simply resorting to a due process hearing.4 The U.S Department of Education’s site dedicated to IDEA has a great in-depth summary of procedural safeguards as they relate to resolution meetings and due process hearings.
Parents are to receive a notice of procedural safeguards at least once a year and also upon initial referral or parental request for evaluation, the first occurrence of filing a complaint, or simply upon the parent’s request.2 The newly adopted procedural safeguards implemented under IDEA were added to the existing procedural safeguards to guarantee that the parents’ and child’s rights do not get infringed upon when either party disagrees with an aspect of a child’s IEP. Procedural safeguards under IDEA help to ensure that problems that arise from disputes over a child’s IEP are handled in a similar manner across the nation’s public education system. Idea.ed.gov, the U.S. department of Education’s site dedicated to the IDEA legislation, has helpful summaries on procedural safeguards as they relate to due process, surrogate parents, notice of procedural safeguards, and parental consent, mediation, and state complaint procedures. Other resources include this report of the exact written law and additional comments for procedural safeguards in the reauthorization of IDEA and this Q&A document that contains over two dozen questions and answers concerning procedural safeguards and IDEA.