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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Advocate for Your Student on School Issues

How to be your child’s advocate at school

Talk with the school and your child’s teachers

  • Keep lines of communication open.
  • Treat the school staff the way you want to be treated:Ask questions if the school wants to make changes.
  • Be polite and never raise your voice
    Be positive and thankful when talking to the staff
    Make sure the IEP is being followed by asking school staff and your child
    Ask questions when you don’t understand something.
  • Check in on how your child is doing.
  • Get to know the school staff and keep in contact regularly.
  • Volunteer in the classroom or at the school – the more you know about the school and the staff, the better you can help your child.
  • Make sure the school has your current and important information:

– Telephone numbers
– Address
– Medical changes
– Other important news

Go to all meetings

  • Read all mail from the school for meeting dates and other information.
  • If you cannot make the meeting date, have the school change it.
  • Go to parent-teacher conferences, open houses, IEP meetings, or any other meetings the school or teachers have about your child.
  • Ask for your own meeting if you have questions about anything.

Keep written records

  • A log or notepad of all phone calls and conversations
  • The date and time of each call or conversation
  • Who was on the call or in the conversation
  • What was said

Send a follow-up email or letter after any important calls or conversations and keep a copy

  • Send the letter certified mail
  • Bring a copy of the letter to school and have someone sign that they received it
  • Send a fax and keep the confirmation that it was sent
  • Keep a copy of your email and the school’s answer

Put all important requests to the school in writing

  • So that you have a record of it
  • Because the law requires the school to do some things within a certain number of days from the day of your request
  • Examples of requests to put in writing:

– Evaluations
– IEP meeting
– Records
– Mediation
– Complaint
– Due process hearing

  • For letters:

– Send the letter certified mail
– Bring a copy of the letter to school and have someone sign that they received it
– Send a fax and keep the confirmation that it was sent
– Keep a copy of your email and the school’s answer


 Keep all important records in one place

  • Keep records in a 3-ring binder or folder
  • Keep the following types of records:
    – All mailed, faxed, or emailed documents you send to or receive from the school
    – All evaluations or assessments
    – All Individual Educational Programs (IEPs)
    – All medical reports given to the school
    – All of the student’s records and progress reports
    – The student’s developmental history
    – All IEP and other meeting notes
    – Notes from conversations
    – A diary of all school conversations or meetings, meeting content,  names and titles of individuals spoken to, and the dates/times of the conversations 

What to do when the school asks for medical and mental health records

  • It is your decision to give the school your child’s records.
  • There may be a good reason for the school to have medical and mental health records, but only those that are educationally relevant.
  • Do not sign a consent form (release) from the school unless you are sure that you want the school to have all the records the school is requesting.
  • Make sure the release is specific and only for the information the school really needs from the doctor, hospital or medical provider, and that it is not your child’s entire file.
  • Call the medical provider’s office before you sign the release to find out which records are in your child’s file.
  • You can always give the school copies of specific records they request instead of signing a release. One way to do this is to:
  • – Ask the school for a list of written questions or information they need from the medical provider in order to educate your child.
    – Then ask the medical provider to give you a written response to the school’s questions, which you can then provide the school.
    – This allows you to remain in control of your child’s care and still provide the school any necessary information.
    – It can also prevent misunderstandings or the release of records the school doesn’t need to see.

Stay informed

  • Be aware of the law and know your rights
  • Look on websites for helpful information
  • Ask to see your child’s school records – you have a right to request them

Last updated: December 12, 2014

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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