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SPLC Guide Helps Parents of Students with Disabilities Navigate Complex Education System

JACKSON, Miss. – Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today released, “Helping Your Child with A Disability Get A Good Education: A Guide for Parents,” a new handbook that helps parents of students with disabilities in Mississippi navigate the complex system that governs the educational services their children receive.  

The handbook provides parents with a step-by-step process to ensure their children receive the appropriate educational services they are entitled to under the law. While the guide is applicable anywhere in the U.S., it is based primarily on policies and procedures that govern the process in Mississippi, from referral and diagnosis to the creation of an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  

“The process to identify, diagnose and design an appropriate educational program for a child with a disability can be particularly stressful for parents given the complexity of the system and laws that oversee the process,” said Treshika Melvin, senior community advocate for the SPLC’s Children’s Rights practice group. “This guide breaks down the steps and considerations they should take at every stage of the process and provides a basic understanding of their rights under the law to empower them and inform their decision-making on behalf of their child.”  

Federal law provides students with disabilities with the supports they need to receive the same quality education that every other student receives. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with disabilities are guaranteed access to a “free, appropriate public education.” Schools receiving federal funds must also adhere to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in any school program or activity.  

The guide explains that parents play a vital role in their child’s educational success. Underscoring their right to participate in IEP team meetings, the guide encourages parents to communicate frequently with teachers and school staff and review and keep track of all relevant documents pertaining to their child’s education.  

Mississippi parents and guardians can access the guide at: https://www.splcenter.org/IDEA.