Does IDEA Allow Parents to Choose a Teacher?

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All parents, whether their child is in a special education or regular classroom, want their student to have the best education possible. However, this is not always an easy task for parents.

When problems arise, be it with specific teachers or class, talking to your child's principal or guidance counselor may be helpful. Teacher placement issues may be able to be resolved informally or by speaking with a board office administrator.

Sometimes, it may not be possible to resolve the matter informally. If you find that your child has a teacher who is not a good match for them, you may need to take additional steps to ensure their learning needs are met.

Situations where parents may need to advocate for change include:

What IDEA Says About Teacher Choice

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives parents of children with learning and other types of disabilities specific rights to help ensure students receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. However, parents are often surprised to learn that teacher choice is not one of these rights.

What You Can Do Under IDEA

Although IDEA does not allow parents to request a specific teacher, some aspects of the law may help. There are several steps parents can take to advocate for change that are supported by IDEA.

IEP Meetings

Request an IEP team meeting to discuss your child's placement. If the teacher's failure to accommodate your child's needs is affecting his academic progress or self-esteem, the argument could be made that his current placement is not the Least Restrictive Environment.

When there is a conflict over placement, you can use that reasoning, to request a change of placement rather than a change in teachers. You may not get the teacher you want, but you may be able to improve your child's situation by requesting a placement different from the current one.

Collaborative Classrooms

If the teacher is not implementing your child's Individual Education Program, you may want to consider requesting placement in a collaborative classroom where a special education teacher works with the regular education teacher to meet the needs of all students.

Professional Development for Teachers

If your child's teacher does not have the skills necessary to meet your child's unique learning needs, you may request that the teacher receives professional development in that area.

Professional development may be provided in formal training, by consultation with qualified professionals and learned through job-embedded methods, or by teacher self-study. Professional development may take time, but the wait can be worth it if the teacher is otherwise working well with the student.

Know Your Rights

Get to know your rights as a parent of a child with a disability. If you have tried to resolve the placement problem but the school is unresponsive to your requests, you may want to consider filing a formal complaint, requesting mediation, or requesting a due process hearing.

Ensure you have a legitimate complaint before taking any formal action against a teacher or a school district.

Special education advocates may attempt to flood a school district with frivolous complaints in an attempt to bully them into submission. However, filing a complaint without solid proof or for the purpose of harassment will hurt your credibility with the district and may make them more resistant to your requests.

IDEA specifically prohibits awarding attorney's fees to parents when hearings are requested for frivolous reasons. In other words, you could be stuck with advocate and attorney fees when you file baseless complaints, hearings, and lawsuits.

Are There Any Laws to Help Parents With a Severe Problem Teacher?

There are important things you should know before you work with an advocate or attorney. Under very specific circumstances, there may be some legal relief for children stuck with a problem teacher.

Abuse

If the teacher is verbally or physically abusive, parents may file abuse charges with the local police. Schools will typically suspend teachers accused of abuse pending the outcome of the investigation. The child will typically be placed with a different teacher.

Never file abuse charges against your child's teacher unless you can prove the allegations and you truly believe your child is in danger. In some states, filing false charges or filing charges for the sake of harassment is a crime.

Dangerously Deficient Schools

If your child attends a school has been designated as persistently dangerous or deficient because of low performance under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), your child may be eligible to request transfer to another school. Free tutoring may also be offered under NCLB.

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