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Understanding Parent Consent
One of a parent's most important rights is the right to give or to not give their consent for certain actions of the school and/or AEA with respect to their child with a disability. Districts and AEAs have a duty to ensure parents and age of majority students are informed of what they are consenting to, including arranging for an interpreter for parents and age of majority students with deafness or whose native language is not English.
What is Consent?
IEP teams must ensure parents and age of majority learners are appropriately informed of what they are consenting to. AEA and LEA staff must make “reasonable efforts” to ensure informed consent and to obtain written consent.
"Informed Consent" means:
- The parent(s) has been fully informed of all information relevant to the activity for which consent is sought, in their native language, or through another mode of communication.
- The parent(s) understands and agrees in writing to the carrying out of the activity for which parental consent is sought, and the consent document describes that activity and lists the records (if any) that will be released and to whom.
- The parent(s) understands that the granting of consent is voluntary on the part of the parent(s) and it may be revoked at any time.
When is Written Parental Consent Required?
Written Parent consent must be obtained before:
- Any evaluations of a learner are conducted for the purpose of determining whether a learner is eligible for special education services;
- Special education services are provided to a learner, following eligibility determination;
- A public agency seeks reimbursement from the learner’s public benefits or insurance (e.g., Medicaid), or private insurance; and
- Disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) unless otherwise permitted.
Written consent may be obtained on a paper copy of the form or via electronic signature. As long as a parent has the legal authority to make educational decisions for the child (married parents, divorced parents when each retains decision-making authority, etc.), the school or AEA must accept either parent's consent or revocation of consent.
What are Reasonable Efforts to Obtain Consent?
"Reasonable efforts" requires that a record of attempts to obtain consent are kept including:
- Detailed records of telephone calls made or attempted and the results of those calls.
- Copies of correspondence sent to the parents and any responses received.
- Detailed records of visits made to the parent’s home or place of employment and the results of those visits.
An IEP team should consider the use of varied methods (e.g., phone, letter, face-to-face) to contact the parent/family or the age of majority learner.
Types of Consent
Consent for Full and Individual Initial Evaluation
When a public agency (the AEA or the AEA in conjunction with the LEA) suspects that the child may have a disability and needs special education and related services, the AEA will notify and seek consent to complete a full and individual initial evaluation.
The initial evaluation will include the review of existing evaluation data and the gathering of additional information to determine:
- Whether the child has a disability, and the educational needs of the child;
- The present levels of academic achievement and related to the development needs of the child; and
- Whether the child needs special education and related services.
Parent notice and consent are documented with a signature on the Consent for Full and Individual Initial Evaluation Form. Upon receipt of consent, the initial evaluation begins and must be completed within 60 days.
A copy of the Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents must be made available and reviewed with the parents either in person or via phone.
Consent to Receive Electronic Communication
Prior to sharing IDEA related information electronically with parents, the AEA/LEA must obtain written informed parental consent. Each parent can make their own request for an option independent of the other parent.
"Electronic communication" may include, but is not limited to, email, online applications, and other web services or websites utilized by a school district and/or an AEA to share information about a student.
IDEA related information includes all electronic communication that concerns a child’s eligibility for and/or receipt of special education services, including, but not limited to, evaluations and reevaluations, Individualized Education Program (IEP) services and accommodations, prior written notices (PWN), meeting notices, procedural safeguards, and due process notifications.
Consent does not pertain to other electronic communications that are unrelated to a child’s special education services. The school district and/or AEA may send other electronic communications at any time without consent, consistent with their respective technology policies.
The Consent to Receive Electronic Communication is a one time consent and applies to any district and/or AEA in the state.
When a disability is suspected and consent for evaluation is received, consent to receive electronic communication should be obtained.
If, after multiple attempts to obtain written parent consent, an IEP team is unable to obtain a signature, the team should document such on the consent form. A lack of a signature is treated in the same manner as non-consent or revocation. Thus, LEA and AEA staff may not share special education matters electronically, rather they should communicate by alternative means such as U.S. mail.
An age of majority student may give consent to receive electronic communication. IEP teams should continue to provide information to parents as they would for any age of majority student, including sending emails.
Additional information on the Consent to Receive Electronic Communications is available in the Questions and Answers Regarding Consent and IDEA Administrative Matters.
Consent for Initial Services
Prior to the initial provision of special education services, the AEA or LEA must obtain informed written consent from the parent(s).
If the parent(s) fails to respond to a request for or refuses to consent to the initial provision of special education and related services, the AEA or LEA:
- May not use procedural safeguards in order to obtain consent or use a ruling from a hearing, mediation, or state complaint to provide services to the child.
- Will not be considered in violation of the FAPE requirement because of the failure to provide special education services.
- Is not required to convene an IEP team meeting or develop an IEP.
Consent for/Notice of Reevaluation
Prior to completing a reevaluation, an IEP team reviews the existing information and identifies what additional data, if any, are needed to determine:
- Whether the child continues to have a disability, and the educational needs of the child;
- The present levels of academic achievement and related developmental needs of the child;
- Whether the child continues to need special education and related services; and
- Whether any additions or modifications to the special education and related services are needed to enable the child to meet the measurable annual goals set out in the IEP of the child and to participate, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum.
If the IEP team determines that no additional data is needed, the Consent for/Notice of Reevaluation form must be completed in order to inform parents of:
- The determination that no additional data is needed and the reasons for the determination.
- The LEA and AEA are not required to conduct additional assessments unless requested to do so by the parents.
- Parents do not need to sign the form when no additional assessment procedures are being requested.
- Parents must be notified of their rights as parents to request additional assessments to determine whether the child continues to be a child with a disability and has a need for special education and related services.
If the IEP team determines that additional information is necessary, then the following must be done:
- The Consent for/Notice of Reevaluation form must be completed and parental consent to evaluate must be obtained and documented by the signature on this form.
- A copy of the Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents should be made available and reviewed with the parents either in person or via phone.
- Parents must be notified of their right to request assessments in addition to those proposed if they so desire.
If the IEP team determines that additional assessment is necessary and the parent refuses to provide the signed consent, the following steps should be followed:
- The LEA/AEA staff will contact the parent(s) to discuss their concerns with the reevaluation process. This contact may be made by any appropriate IEP team member.
- If the parent(s) refuses to consent to the reevaluation and the IEP team has decided that additional assessment information is essential, the following options are available but should only be pursued with the knowledge and support of the AEA Director of Special Education or designee:
- Pursue the reevaluation by utilizing the procedural safeguards including mediation (this is not an option for children who are homeschooled or placed in private schools by their parents at their own expense)
- Decline to pursue the reevaluation with the belief that it does not violate its obligations
If reasonable efforts have been made and documented to obtain parental consent and the parent(s) has failed to respond, a reevaluation may be conducted without parental consent.
Collecting Additional Information for Instructional Decision Making (Written Consent Not Needed)
When data collection is needed outside of the initial evaluation or reevaluation processes, parent consent is not needed.
If teams need to collect information to inform program planning (Example: A team may wish to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment to inform an effective Behavior Intervention Plan) consent is not needed, but teams should notify parents of these efforts. This communication could be via phone, email or other written notification (e.g., the Collection of Additional Information by Area Education Agency Staff communication tool).
Collection of additional information would become a reevaluation (and require consent or reevaluation notification to parents) if the question of learner eligibility for special education comes into question.
Consent for the Exchange/Release of Information
An agency may seek written parental consent to release and/or exchange information with outside agencies to gather additional information as part of the evaluation and to foster collaboration with outside providers with knowledge of the student.
Parent consent is documented with a signature on the Authorization for Exchange of Information form or Authorization for the Release of Health and/or Educational Information form.
NOTE: Health providers must follow the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and may require the use of their own consent process and documentation. The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics require their release from to be used to release/exchange information. To access a copy of the University of Iowa Consent to Release form, click here.
Consent/Refusal for Medicaid and/or Private Insurance
A public agency may seek written parental consent to claim reimbursement from a public or private insurance source for services delivered to meet the needs of an eligible individual.
Parents must be notified as part of the consent request that their refusal to allow access to their public benefits or other insurance does not relieve an AEA or LEA of responsibility to ensure that all required services are provided at no cost to the parents.
Public Benefits/Insurance (Medicaid)
Federal regulations require a one-time written consent from the parent(s) in order for an AEA and LEAs to claim Medicaid reimbursement.
The consent requirement has two parts:
- Disclosure of the child’s personally identifiable information to the state agency responsible for administering your state’s Public Benefits or Insurance program
- Statement to Access Public Benefits or Insurance
Parental consent is documented on the Parent Consent To Share Data and Seek Payment for Individualized Education Program (IEP) Health-Related Services form.
As of July 2021, if a learner is Medicaid eligible and is receiving Medicaid billable services via telehealth, the IEP team should seek parent consent on the updated consent form. However, an IEP team may choose to obtain consent on the updated consent form at the next naturally occurring IEP meeting.
There are separate forms for each public agency, the LEAs and AEAs., entity. A copy of the signed form should be kept on file by the public agency seeking reimbursement.
Annual, written notification explaining the protections available to parents related to public agency access to their or their child’s public benefits or insurance to pay for services under the IDEA is required and is incorporated into the Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents.
Additional information and resources on Medicaid are available in Resources.
An AEA or LEA may ask parents of children with disabilities to use private insurance proceeds to pay for services, as long as the parents will not incur a financial cost. Each time the public agency proposes to access the parents’ private insurance proceeds, the agency must obtain parental consent.
NOTE: A public agency must document parent consent and reimburse parents for out-of-pocket expenses even if the parents offer to use their private insurance without being asked. Teams may use the Model Letter for Accessing Private Insurance.
Parent's Right to Revoke Consent for Special Education
A parent(s), or an age of majority student, may revoke their consent for special education services at any time, for any reason. While the district may ask the reasons why the parent wishes to discontinue, a parent is not obligated to provide a reason. A parent, or age of majority student, must submit the revocation of consent for the continued provision of special education and related services in writing.
It is also considered a revocation of consent for special education when a parent makes the decision to either enroll their student in Competent Private Instruction (homeschooling) without dual enrollment for special education or in Independent Private Instruction.
For additional information on Competent Private Instruction, click here.
Upon revocation of consent, the public agency should inform the student/parents:
- The student will no longer have IDEA discipline protections.
- The student will no longer be considered an eligible individual and the district is not deemed to have knowledge the student is a student with a disability.
- The student will no longer be provided with the general education accommodations specified in the IEP.
- The student/parent may not demand a Section 504 Plan, but the student/parents could work with the district to request one.
- The student’s participation in nonschool programs(e.g. SSI, ACT/SAT testing accommodations, etc.) may be impacted.
Upon the revocation of consent, after the initial provision of special education services, the LEA or AEA:
- May not continue to provide special education services, but must provide prior written notice ceasing the provision of special education services.
- May not use procedural safeguards in order to obtain agreement or use a ruling from a hearing, mediation, or state complaint to provide services to the child.
- Will not be considered in violation of the FAPE requirement because of the failure to provide special education services.
- Is not required to convene an IEP team meeting or develop an IEP.
- Shall inform the parents that revocation is not retroactive, therefore it does not apply to any actions which occurred before consent was revoked
If, after the revocation of consent, parents or an age-of-majority student want to resume special education services an initial evaluation is conducted. Under this circumstance, existing information may provide much of the necessary data, but the evaluation team will need to determine if that information is sufficient and current enough for sound planning and decision-making.
As long as a parent, or age of majority student, has the legal authority to make educational decisions, the public agency must accept either parent’s, or the age of majority student’s, revocation of consent.
The public agency may not use mediation or due process to challenge the parent’s decision or to seek a ruling that special education and related services must be continued to be provided to the student.
Special Circumstances Regarding Consent for Evaluation
Parent Refuses Consent for Initial Evaluation
If the parent of a child does not provide consent for an initial evaluation or if the parent fails to respond to a request to provide consent, the public agency may, but is not required to, pursue the initial evaluation of the child by utilizing procedural safeguards and shall provide parents with prior written notice indicating the decision to pursue the evaluation.
However, the public agency does not violate its obligations to find and evaluate children suspected of having disabilities if it declines to pursue the evaluation. The evaluation team must provide parents with prior written notice indicating the decision to NOT pursue the evaluation.
Private Instruction & Parent Refuses Consent for Initial Evaluation
If a parent of a child who is receiving competent private instruction or placed in a private school by the parents at their own expense does not provide consent for the initial evaluation or the parent fails to respond to a request to provide consent: the public agency may not use the consent override provisions of the due process procedures and is not required to consider the child as eligible for services.
Parent Revokes Consent for Initial Evaluation
If the parent consents and then revokes consent once the initial evaluation has begun:
- The revocation is not retroactive.
- The parent shall be provided prior written notice documenting the team’s decision to honor the parent request to end the evaluation.
- The evaluation team shall complete and submit the eligibility determination worksheet.
- Any data gathered prior to the point of consent revocation may be summarized and placed in the child’s educational record.
Consent for Initial Evaluation for a Ward of the State
For initial evaluations only, if the child is a ward of the State and is not residing with his/her parent, the public agency is not required to obtain informed consent from the biological parent if:
- Despite reasonable efforts to do so, the public agency cannot discover the whereabouts of the parent of the child,
- The rights of the parents have been terminated in accordance with State law, or
- The rights of the parent to make educational decisions have been limited or eliminated by a court and the individual appointed by the court to represent the child has given consent for the initial evaluation.
In situations described in the first or second bullets, the AEA must appoint a surrogate parent, who will decide whether or not to give consent for the evaluation. Once an evaluation is completed and eligibility is determined, only a person meeting the definition of a parent may consent to begin special education and related services.
Request for Evaluation from an Age of Majority Student
If a child who has reached the age of majority requests an evaluation (initial or reevaluation), the public agency must consider this request the same as a parent request.
Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education
- 281—41.9 (256B,34CFR300) Consent
- 281—41.30 (256B,34CFR300) Parent
- 281—41.39 (256B,34CFR300) Special education
- 281—41.154 (256B,34CFR300) Methods of ensuring services
- 281—41.300 (256B,34CFR300) Parental consent and participation
- 281—41.301 (256B,34CFR300) Full and individual initial evaluations
- 281—41.303 (256B,34CFR300) Reevaluations
- 281—41.305 (256B,34CFR300) Additional requirements for evaluations and reevaluations
- 281—41.321 (256B,34CFR300) IEP team
- 281—41.322 (256B,34CFR300) Parent participation
- 281—41.324 (256B,34CFR300) Development, review, and revision of IEP
- 281—41.325 (256B,34CFR300) Private school placements by public agencies
- 281—41.328 (256B,34CFR300) Alternative means of meeting participation
- 281—41.505 (256B,34CFR300) Electronic mail
- 281—41.622 (256B,34CFR300) Consent