Parents’ Night Out: Making Special Education Work for You

As part of our Parents' Night Out series, we're proud to present this guide to making special education work for parents, educators and advocates.

This is just the beginning of a conversation around access and equity. As with any brief, there are issues that we haven't touched on here that we will in the future, including parent perspectives and policy supports to ensure equitable education experiences for every child.

Psst — have you RSVP'd to tonight's Special Education Happy Hour at TREO?

Video: OPEN Conversations on Special Education Advocacy with Brittney Robins, Brandy Williams, and Victor Jones, Esq.

Check out our full series of special education conversations here!

Equity Facts

Access, equity and quality for students with exceptionalities

One-third of New Orleans public school buildings are non-accessible to students and family members with certain disabilities.

An estimated one in five public school students struggle with attention and learning, but only one in 16 have special education plans for these issues.

Roughly 40% of first-year TFA teachers in NOLA handle students with special needs, regardless of whether they have any special education training.

In 2015, only half of Louisiana special education students graduated with a high school diploma. A few more attained a "certificate of completion," and 30% dropped out.


Recovery School District Early Resolution Process

All local education agencies, including charter schools, are required to:

1. Designate a special education coordinator to address disputes, and make their contact information public;
2. Address parent complaints within 15 days of receiving the complaint;
3. Advise parents on how to take their dispute through the Louisiana Department of Education if a resolution can't be agreed upon.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal law guarantees the civil rights of all children and youth with disabilities and their families. By law, all public schools must identify and evaluate children suspected of having a disability at no cost to their parents, and provide individualized services (often in the form of an Individual Education Plan, or IEP) to support these children in achieving positive educational outcomes.

IDEA Regulations on Discipline

Behavioral issues for children with special needs are often unfairly penalized. This link explains what discipline looks like for students who have been formally assessed, and those who have a suspected exceptionality.

Louisiana Act 303

Allows a person who was previously identified as a student with a disability and failed to receive a high school diploma, or was denied graduation solely for failing to meet graduation examination requirements, to petition their local school board to determine if s/he is eligible to receive a high school diploma.

Local Resources

Counseling, Advocacy and Supports for Autistic Students
(504) 464-5733 |

Peer-to-Peer Support, Referrals & Trainings
(504) 943-0343 |

Multilingual Advocacy and Resources
(504) 218-8922 |

What You Can Do

Be proactive

If you suspect your child has an exceptionality, get them evaluated early. Knowledge is power and allows you to advocate effectively. Click here to download a sample evaluation request letter.

Personalize the plan

Stay active in the IEP/IAP process. You have a right to be there, and since you know your child better than anyone, your input is critical to the process..

Teach Self-Advocacy

Encourage your kid to self-advocate through roleplay and phrases like "This is part of my learning plan," or "Is there another way to show my work?" You can even request specific self-advocacy goals in your child’s IEP.

Ask for details

If your child is referred for evaluation by the school, make sure to understand the behaviors witnessed that are being used to justify the referral. If you disagree with their take, get a second opinion. It’s important to be receptive to the school staff’s thoughts, but you don’t have to agree to something you think goes against what’s best for your child.

Know your rights

Understand your child's civil rights and make sure he or she knows them too. Click here for a great Louisiana-specific guide to special education rights from The Advocacy Center.