Anne I. Treimanis, Esq.
Anne Treimanis is an author and lawyer who specializes in Special Education Law
Students who receive special education services and have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) are protected by a federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004). I encourage you to read the law and learn as much as you can about your rights.
Under IDEA 2004, students receiving special education services are entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Since each student is unique, and each plan should be individualized, it is impossible for the law to require paraprofessionals. However, each student is entitled to “appropriate” services – the “A” in FAPE. Thus, if and only if it is appropriate for your child to have a paraprofessional, then he is legally entitled to one.
How does one know what is appropriate for a student? You can look at a student’s current level of performance, evaluations, observations, reports, progress monitoring, etc.
When you attend the IEP meeting, the IEP team, which includes the parent, will decide what is appropriate. Unfortunately, this is where you may see conflict. You may consider something as appropriate, but the school members of the team may not agree. If the team does not reach a consensus, then the school makes the decision. Then the parent is left with some remedies, outlined in the Procedural Safeguards, which you are entitled to receive a copy of.
Know your rights so you can effectively advocate for your child.