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Are you trying to get your child help in school? It’s important to know that you and your child have legal rights and protections. The federal special education law, IDEA, offers these protections. These protections are called procedural safeguards.

Procedural safeguards spell out what the school can—and can’t—do when evaluating and providing special education and related services to your child. Here’s a list of 15 important procedural safeguards and what they mean for you and your child.

Safeguard #1: Access to Educational Records

You have the right to see, make copies of and get an explanation of your child’s educational records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is one law that protects these rights.

Safeguard #2: Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

You have the right to get an IEE—an evaluation of your child’s skills and needs by someone who’s not a school employee. The school must consider the results of the IEE. However the school isn’t required to accept the findings.

Safeguard #3: Parent Participation

You have a legal right to participate in meetings about your child’s education—including IEP meetings. 

Safeguard #4: Prior Written Notice

The school must give you written notice whenever it wants to add, change or deny services to your child. 

Safeguard #5: Procedural Safeguards Notice

The school must provide you with a written explanation of all the procedural safeguards you have under federal and state law.

Safeguard #6: Understandable Language

Language for notice and consent must be understandable to the general public and in your native language (this includes Braille).

Safeguard #7: Confidentiality of Information

The school must protect your child’s confidentiality. This includes personal information, such as your child’s name, address, social security number and other personal details. There are some exceptions, though. FERPA outlines these.

Safeguard #8: Informed Consent (or Parental Consent)

Before conducting an evaluation or providing special education services, the school must inform you of what’s involved. You have to give your permission in writing before the school can move forward.

Safeguard #9: “Stay Put” Rights

Do you disagree with a proposed change to your child’s placement? (This can refer to a location or to services outlined in his IEP.) The “stay put” provision allows your child to stay where he is while you and the school go through the dispute resolution process. 

Safeguard #10: Due Process

If you have a dispute with the school about your child’s special education, you can use what’s called due process. This is a formal way of resolving disagreements between parents and schools.

You have to file a written complaint to begin this process. The complaint can involve any aspect of how the school is handling your child’s education, if you believe the school’s action violates IDEA.

Within 15 days of a parent filing a due process complaint, the school must hold a meeting, called a resolution session, to work on resolving the disagreement.

After the resolution session, you attend a due process hearing. The hearing is like a courtroom trial. You and the school will present arguments and evidence to an administrative law judge or (impartial) hearing officer.

Safeguard #11: Civil Action

If you’re unhappy with the results of the due process hearing, you can file a civil lawsuit.

Safeguard #12: Mediation

Mediation is an alternative to a due process hearing. A mediator (neutral third party) helps you and the school try to resolve a dispute.

Safeguard #13: Reimbursement of Attorneys Fees

A judge or hearing officer can order a school to pay for attorney fees if you win a due process hearing or civil action.

Safeguard #14: State-Level Appeal

In some states, parents have the right to appeal the result of a due process hearing to the state department of education.

Safeguard #15: State Complaint

You can make a written complaint to an official state agency if a school violates federal or state education law. Sometimes advocates can write these complaints for you. 

If you have a dispute about your child’s IEP, it’s important to understand all of your options for resolving the dispute. Understanding your rights can make it easier for you to advocate for your child.

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TITLE IX NON-DISCRIMINATION INFORMATION:

Revised April 2015

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Scope of Title IX

Title IX applies to institutions that receive federal financial assistance from ED, including state and local educational agencies. These agencies include approximately 16,500 local school districts, 7,000 postsecondary institutions, as well as charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums. Also included are vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and territories and possessions of the United States.

Educational programs and activities that receive ED funds must operate in a nondiscriminatory manner. Some key issue areas in which recipients have Title IX obligations are: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment. Also, a recipient may not retaliate against any person for opposing an unlawful educational practice or policy, or made charges, testified or participated in any complaint action under Title IX. For a recipient to retaliate in any way is considered a violation of Title IX. The ED Title IX regulations (Volume 34, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 106) provide additional information about the forms of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.

OCR’s Enforcement of Title IX

OCR vigorously enforces Title IX to ensure that institutions that receive federal financial assistance from ED comply with the law. OCR evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination. OCR also conducts proactive investigations, called compliance reviews, to examine potential systemic violations based on sources of information other than complaints.

In addition to its enforcement activities, OCR provides technical assistance and information and guidance to schools, universities and other agencies to assist them in voluntarily complying with the law. OCR’s Title IX Resource Guide PDF (501K) is a useful tool for schools and their Title IX coordinators to understand schools’ obligations under Title IX.

For assistance related to Title IX or other civil rights laws, please contact OCR at OCR@ed.gov or 800-421-3481, TDD 800-877-8339.

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