If your request for an evaluation is denied because your child’s school says they do not “suspect” a disability or because they are using RTI, you have the right to file either a due process complaint or a state complaint, discussed later.
Informal StrategiesAn alternative to filing a formal complaint is to give RTI a chance by using the following informal strategies.
- Ask questions about how the school is implementing RTI. For example:
- What information about RTI has the school provided for parents?
- What length of time is allowed for an intervention before determining if the student is making progress?
- At what point in the RTI process are students who are suspected of having a learning disability referred for a formal evaluation?
See the complete list of questions parents should ask on page 18 of A Parent’s Guide to Response to Intervention (RTI).
- Request a written intervention plan that includes details about how the school is planning to help your child. A written plan should include:
- A description of the intervention being used
- Length of time that will be allowed for the intervention to have an effect
- Details of who and how the intervention will be delivered
- Details about how progress will be monitored and how frequently you will receive reports about your child’s progress
For more information, see A Parent’s Guide to Response to Intervention (RTI), page 10 and page 19.
- Hold your child’s school accountable for correctly implementing RTI. Sometimes schools claim to be using RTI, but they really aren’t. Be sure all of the essential components of RTI are included in the school’s RTI process. See the complete list of essential components on page 8 of A Parent’s Guide to Response to Intervention (RTI).
Of particular importance are:
- How the school selects and implements interventions
- How the school monitors a student’s progress
- How the school ensures that interventions are provided accurately and consistently (often referred to as “fidelity”)
- Keep records that show how your child is achieving in school. Maintain a communications log to document all conversations that take place regarding your child. See Types of Records a Parent Should Keep for more information.
Formal StrategiesIDEA provides various options for resolving disputes between schools and parents. Two of these options are state complaints and due process complaints. Either of these options could be used to address matters involving a school district’s delay or denial to evaluate a student because it is using an RTI process. Such complaints would be based on the district’s violation of Child Find. Recent cases are presented here to help understand important components affecting the decisions.
Filing complaints, whether state complaints or due process complaints as allowed by IDEA, is serious business. Before proceeding, you should be well informed and understand federal and state policies about such actions. Be sure to get all available information regarding all complaint options prior to filing a complaint.
A state complaint is a written complaint that can be filed by any organization, individual, or group of individuals, claiming that a school district (or districts) within the state has either violated a requirement of Part B of IDEA or the state’s special education law or regulations, including Child Find. State complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged violation.
IDEA requires every state to have a formal procedure for filing complaints. Information on how to file a state complaint should be available from your state’s Department of Education or Parent Training and Information Center.
A due process complaint is a written complaint filed by a parent or a school district involving any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a free appropriate public education to a student with a disability. Due process complaints must be filed within two years of the matter in dispute.
Each state’s Department of Education must have a model form to assist parents in filing a due process complaint that fulfills the requirements of IDEA. Contact your state’s Department of Education or Parent Training and Information Center for more information.
In a majority of the cases brought to date, school districts are unsuccessfully using RTI as a defense to Child Find due process claims. However, in nearly every case more than two years of inadequate general education interventions elapsed before the parents filed a due process complaint. Courts appear willing to forgive delays in identification if “progress” is shown using general education interventions.
Excerpted from Parent Rights in the Era of RTI
Candace Cortiella is Director of The Advocacy Institute, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities through public policy and other initiatives. The mother of a young adult with learning disabilities, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Allison Hertog, Esq., M.A., is Founder/Director of Making School Work, which helps South Florida families understand their children’s legal rights in public school. She is a former special education teacher and an attorney with a Master’s Degree in Special Education.