Rights of Parents

Federal and state law gives children and their parents rights with respect to the provision of a free and appropriate public education:

  • The right to examine all records relating to their child;
  • The right to participate in all meetings related to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement and program of their child;
  • Procedures to protect a child’s rights when the parents are not known or cannot be located pending the appointment of a surrogate parent; or other educational rights holder;
  • The right to written notice in the parents’ native language before a school proposes or refuses to initiate change in the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their child;
  • The right to mediation; and
  • The right to present complaints and request a hearing about the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their child.

The right to present complaints and request a hearing

You have the right to request a hearing if you disagree with the school district about the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of your child or the provision of a free and appropriate public education. The hearing (often referred to as a “fair hearing” or an “administrative hearing”) is conducted by the state; your child may attend the hearing with you.

If your case goes to a hearing in front of a judge, you have the right to:

  • be accompanied by an attorney or other expert;
  • present, confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses;
  • receive a written or electronic record of the hearing;
  • prohibit the introduction of evidence that has not been disclosed at least5 days before the hearing;
  • receive written or electronic findings of fact and a decision no more than 45 days after the school has received the hearing request; and
  • receive reasonable attorney fees if you are the prevailing party.

Mediation is available in special education cases. You may request mediation instead of a hearing and you may make your request to mediate at any point in the hearing process. If you decide to participate in mediation, you will have the opportunity to meet with school district representatives in the presence of a trained mediator. The mediator can help you resolve the disagreement instead of going in front of a judge for a hearing, which can take longer and cost more money.

To learn more about your hearing rights and the hearing process, including the option for mediation, visit the website of the Special Education Division of the Office of Administrative Hearings.  A list of frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs) is available in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

© 2017 Judicial Council of California