Special Education

Know Your Rights

Right to a Free Appropriate Public Education

 A federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and New Hampshire law require school districts to provide special education and related services for children with certain types of disabilities who, due to their disability, need specialized instruction and related services to receive an appropriate education.  Under these laws, school districts must make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) available to eligible children until they are awarded a regular high school diploma or turn twenty-one, whichever comes first. Children who are eligible under IDEA receive specialized instruction and related services that are outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is developed by the student’s IEP Team.  Parents are critically important members of the IEP team, as are youth with disabilities.  It is very important to make sure children and youth with disabilities are getting the services from school districts they are legally entitled to receive.  Below are links to informational brochures and resources related to special education.


Special Education and COVID-19

Children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable students in the COVID-19 public health crisis. Students with disabilities across the state have missed significant instructional time as well as related services such as counseling, speech language, occupational, and other therapies. Many schools are closing earlier than scheduled. Access to extended school year services (ESY) remains uncertain for some students and some schools have not begun discussing compensatory educational services.

Join us for a series of conversations: Special Education in the Era of COVID-19

An opportunity for parents, school administrators and others to come together with experienced professionals from the field including special education administrators, and representatives from the Parent Information Center, and Disability Rights Center-NH, to share best practices and brainstorm unique approaches to meet the needs of children with disabilities. 

Learn more and register here

Emergency Order #48

Emergency Order #48 works to ensure this vulnerable population receives the special education services and supports they require and are entitled to under federal and state law. With the issuance of this order, the Governor recognizes that schools cannot delay efforts to meet the educational needs of children with disabilities and that they must include parents in the process of determining the instruction and special education services their children require to receive an appropriate education and make meaningful progress on their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals.

We believe that the Governor’s Executive Order provides reasonable deadlines for schools to meet with parents and determine what Extended School Year services and compensatory education services students with disabilities require to prevent regression and make up services and supports children with disabilities require to receive an appropriate education.  In addition, we are pleased that the Governor’s order makes it clear that schools must comply with evaluation timelines, but allows some flexibility for schools to obtain information needed so that students can receive the services and supports they need.

See our full statement here

Webinar: Special Education and COVID-19

What does special education look like in a world of remote instruction? How should special education and related services be delivered to children at this time? What rights do parents and children have if they disagree with their school’s proposals or if there is a significant interruption in services? Experts from Disability Rights Center-NH, ABLE NH, and the Parent Information Center discussed the current landscape and answered these and other related questions:

Pushing back against efforts to waive rights under IDEA

DRC-NH strongly opposes any effort that would undermine the educational rights of NH’s children with disabilities.


Issue Spotlight: Special Ed & Parental Consent

Throughout the special education process, there are times when the school district must ask for your consent in writing.  The school needs to give you a paper called a Written Prior Notice any time they want to make a change to your child’s IEP or placement, or if they refuse to make a change to the IEP or placement.  It is also required when determining your child’s eligibility for special education and when the school wants to evaluate your child.

A Written Prior Notice explains the decision made by the school and why they came to that decision.  There is a separate paper that gives you the chance to sign as agreeing or disagreeing with the proposal being made by the school in the Written Prior Notice. You have 14 days to make a decision on the proposal.  If you sign as agreeing, you are giving the school parental consent to move forward with what they have proposed.  If you sign as not agreeing, the school does not have parental consent to make the change and will not be able to start the proposed action.

More importantly, if you do not sign the document at all within the 14 days, the school gets to move forward with what they have proposed as if you provided consent.

In other words, not signing at all is treated as if you have agreed to the proposal.

There are a few limited exceptions to this rule.  If the proposal is for the initial IEP for your child, then the school cannot provide special education services to your child unless they have your express written consent.  Therefore, in that situation, not signing the document means that your child will not have an IEP.  Additionally, a school cannot evaluate your child without your express written consent. If you do not sign the consent forms for an evaluation, then the school cannot move forward with the evaluation.

Know Your Rights: Special Education & Parental Consent


Related Videos

Special Education and Discipline, Part III

This is the third of a six-part series exploring special education and discipline in our public schools. Our topic continues with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and our guests are Howard Muscott, Director, NH Center for Effective Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Maria Agorastou, PBIS Facilitator, NH Institute on Disability. Learn about PBIS, and […]





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