A- A A+

Chapter 4: Procedural Safeguards — Understanding and Exercising Your Legal Rights

Right Of Education - Special Education Law

Who is this for?

This chapter is for parents who have officially requested that the school district evaluate their child for the presence of a disability and for parents who have already given the district permission to do so.

Why is this important?

Once it has been established that a child will be evaluated, the school is required by law to give parents a copy of the "Procedural Safeguards Notice." This written document tells parents what legal rights they have in order to make sure that their child receives the services that he or she needs.

What can parents do?

Parents can contact the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) in their state for a more detailed explanation of the Procedural Safeguards Notice.

IDEA Words and Terms to Know


A natural, adoptive or foster parent; an individual acting in the place of a natural or adoptive parent; an individual who is legally responsible for the child; a guardian; or a surrogate parent.

Prior Written Notice:

A written notice that the school must provide to the parents of a student with a disability within a reasonable time if they wish to:

  • Evaluate the student
  • Determine whether the student is eligible for special education services
  • Change the student's evaluation or educational placement or educational plan (IEP)
  • Refuse the parents' request to evaluate their child or change their child's educational plan (IEP) or placement.

In the last chapter on Referral/Request for Evaluation, you learned about the process involved in making a formal request for an evaluation of your child. That request, once made, triggers a requirement for your school district to provide you with a copy of a notice known as the Procedural Safeguards Notice — a formal document that describes the rights and protections of both you and your child.

The federal IDEA law promotes parents' involvement in the education of their child, and it incorporates parents' and children's rights as well as certain protections for these rights. These protections are embedded in the procedures that states are required to follow as they evaluate students and provide special education services. Collectively, these protections are called procedural safeguards.

Since state laws also govern special education services, procedural safeguards notices may be different across states and school districts. However, all procedural safeguards notices must include the safeguards of parents' and students' rights that are required by IDEA (see table below).

The Procedural Safeguards Notice, containing all of the information required by IDEA, must be provided to parents at very specific points along the way. IDEA 2004 changed the points at which the school must provide parents with the Procedural Safeguards Notice and reduced the number of times a parent must get the notice. However, parents may request a copy of the Procedural Safeguards Notice at any time. (Many states place a copy of the procedural safeguards notice on their website.)

Schools must provide a copy of the Procedural Safeguards Notice:

  • Upon initial referral or parental request for evaluation
  • Once each school year (for students eligible for IDEA services)
  • When parents first file a complaint (either a state complaint or due process complaint)
  • When the student is removed from his or her current educational placement because of a violation of a code of conduct
  • Upon request by the parent.

The Procedural Safeguards Notice must be written in the native language of the parents (unless it is clearly not feasible to do so) and it must be written in a way that is easy to understand.