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Parental Consent


Virginia wants to drop a state requirement that parents have to be notified before terminating a student's special education services.

Like many states, Virginia is in the process of aligning its state special education standards to the federal standards included in the 2004 Indviduals with Disabilities Education Act.The state says this type of notification isn't required in the federal standards.

The state gave an example of how this might work: If a student with a learning disability was receiving an hour of occupational therapy a day, the school would have to notify a parent if it determined the child only needed 30 minutes of daily therapy.

But, if the school decided the child didn't need any occupational therapy at all, dropping the service without prior parental consent would be fine. If the parent protested, the service would be maintained until the matter could be resolved through due process.

(More details on all the changes are available here.)

No surprise, this proposed change hasn't gone over well with parents. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, 3,000 comments have been filed with the state on this proposal, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine has said he's not in favor of that change. The state's largest district, Fairfax County, is neutral on the proposal. And least one member of the state's board of education says he was surprised by the idea.

"I've always been an advocate for parental involvement, but there must be some reason that people think this is the right time for no parent involvement," board member Gary Jones said in the Post article. "I'd be interested in knowing what the reason is."

I don't think this proposal will last very long.


Interesting. Perhaps it's proposed to keep helicopter parents at bay when the child is a straight A student and they insist he continues to need OT, PT, Speech, and Resource Services?

Logistically, it seems difficult to imagine dropping a kid from services without letting parents know unless there was some stringent criteria for when it was appropriate to do so.

I hate that term "helicopter parents."

I would be pretty cautious about removing parental consent for something as serious as cutting out services. There is little enough compliance monitoring as it is, and what there is is primarily parent-driven. Not saying that I like it that way--it gets to be very draining on parents who already have a larger burden than most. And there are SO many ways around parental agreement. In my experience, the district does what it chooses and practically dares the parent to appeal. Six months to a year later there is finally some sort of hearing, where their paid experts will swear that little Susie is doing just fine without service. Unless the parent has the foresight and the front money to hire their own expert--then you get to play duelling experts, with advantage to the school because of increased access to the child.

BTW, I believe that the courts have determined that having good grades ought not be an indicater that services are not needed.

I agree that it is hard to make sweeping policy issues about something as personal as one student's learning. There have been cases where parents have been steam-rolled by the districts I've worked in and the kid really needs service. In those cases, I advocate for the kid tooth and nail to get him/her what is needed. On the flip side, I have been involved in cases when there are outrageous demands placed on school districts when it is not appropriate or needed (e.g. one family wanted it written in the IEP that the Resource Specialist room must be kept at 68 degrees at all time, a kid who not only had straight As but was meeting all grade-level standards and achieving in the Proficient range on STAR tests needed every service under the sun).

I would like to point out the difficult position that No Child Left Behind and IDEA has put on school employees--we are charged with providing every child what they need and given inadequate resources to implement. As a result, there are transgressions against families like the one Margo referred to.

You would be hard pressed to find a malicious school district employee wants to limit what a child needs. When there are limited resources (thanks, George Bush) and high demands, there will be conflict over special education services.

I don't think that this proposed law is right; my comment was aimed at trying to fathom what the impetus behind the proposed law change was (probably saving money, right?). The problem with this is that I already see giant inequities in services between what my students in poorer schools get compared to more wealthy districts. Poor families are REALLY not able to support outside evaluations and lawyers and the due process hearings. It might further the gap between which students get services.

Whoa. That's a lot of energy for a Sunday morning. Maybe I should switch to decaf? ;)

What surprised me in all of this is that apparently, under IDEA, schools already have the power to do this -- Virginia's current notification procedures are, if I'm understanding correctly, above and beyond what the feds require. The proposed change is to bring state policy in line with federal law.

Another point of confusion for me is that the law says that the "IEP team" can make this kind of decision without parental notification. Aren't parents on the IEP team? I need to make sure I'm getting the proposed phrasing correct. But you'd think that with all the verbiage in the federal law that speaks to parents and schools working together, having one member of the "team" able to pull services without notifying another part of the "team" is a non-starter.


I am also baffled--I guess I would have to look at the legislation.

But in my experience, even though a parent has the option to refuse to sign an IEP, there is no real veto power, only the ability to work through a cumbersome appeals process.

Sorry to be so obsessed over this; I had to dig up the explanation of this particular proposal. This is right from state documents:

"To minimize state regulations that exceed the federal requirements, parental consent is not required prior to the termination of special education and related services. For clarity, a provision was added requiring the LEA to
comply with PWN requirements prior to partial or complete termination of special education and related services."

PWN = "prior written notice," I assume. Wow. That is just so weird to me. I'll definitely follow up on this.

Anyway, Rebecca, your comment about inequities in service is to-the-point.

Did you know that Virginia is one of only two States (the other is Kansas) in the United States that has this requirement? Parents remain in the process in Virginia at every stage - that is not what is being changed. The issue of contention here is "consent". Parent remain involved and valued in the special education process - they would continue to be invited, take part in the meeting, add input, have a right to an independent evaluation, have the right to agree or disagree and continue to have rights to mediation and due process. Schools aren't going to utilize this option for kids that need the services... but will use it for children with mild impairments that CAN meet the State standards withotut special services.


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