When parents hear that their child is eligible for special education services, it can feel like a huge relief. Finally, their child will receive the support they need.
This also often means that children will receive an individualized education program (IEP). The IEP is another essential element of special education. But there is one critical thing that parents must remember as they move forward: the IEP has two primary roles: as a plan and as a legal document.
The IEP is a plan
It is true that an IEP is an education plan. The U.S. Department of Education states that it is the cornerstone of special education. IEPs are tailored to each child who will receive special education, detailing:
- The child’s needs
- Education goals for the child
- Strategies for achieving those goals
- Additional or related services the child will receive
And the role of the IEP as an education plan is critical. However, the IEP is also a legal document.
What does it mean that the IEP is a legal document?
The IEP’s role as a legal document essentially establishes the school’s accountability under California and federal laws. This means that the child’s school is required by law to provide the services, support and resources included in the IEP.
And if schools disregard the IEP, then parents have the right to file legal complaints. In many cases, parents and the IEP team can work together to resolve IEP violations. Even so, it is important that parents know they do have legal recourse when it comes to protecting their child’s special education.