Throughout your child’s school years, there is always a need to communicate with school: teachers, administrators, and others concerned with your child’s education. There are also times when the school needs to communicate with you. This is particularly true when your child has a disability and is receiving special education services. Some of this communication is informal, such as phone calls, comments in your child’s notebook, a chat when picking up your child from school, or at a school function. Other forms of communication are more formal and need to be written down.
Letters and emails provide both you and the school with a record of ideas, concerns, and suggestions. Putting your thoughts on paper gives you the opportunity to take as long as you need to:
- state your concerns;
- think over what you have written;
- make changes; and
- have someone else read over the letter and make suggestions before you send it.
Letters and emails also give people the opportunity to go over what has been suggested or discussed.
A lot of confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided
by writing down your thoughts and ideas!
However, writing a letter or a formal email is a skill. Each one you write will differ according to the situation, the person to whom you are writing, and the issues that you are discussing. In order to better assist parents in writing to a school, the Oklahoma Parents Center (OPC) has adapted “Communicating with your child’s school through letter writing” by National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).
In advocating for your child’s needs, it is important to be able to write in a way that is effective and to the point. The Sample Letters below are provided as a guide to help you! If you have any questions or need some help, please give us a call, toll-free at 877-553-4332.
We are here to assist you in your child’s journey through school.
Each sample is provided in Adobe Acrobat as well as Microsoft Word. Once opened in Word, click on enable editing to begin to write your letter. Remove the title at the top of the page and the information about carbon copying from the page before composing a letter to the school district.
This website offers many PDF documents available for download which require Adobe Reader to view. The Reader is free and can be downloaded by visiting: www.adobe.com.
(Adobe PDF Document of all the following documents)
The following documents are available in Microsoft Word and in PDF.
When you communicate your thoughts, ideas, and concerns, you define your child’s needs. When you emphasize the positive aspects of your child’s education, you develop a good working relationship with the professionals in your child’s life. When you convey “what works” rather than spending time and energy on what doesn’t work, you become a stronger advocate for your child. When you need to state concerns or problems in writing, do so in a factual, non-emotional, and businesslike way; this will ultimately help you get the results you want for your child.
Writing to Discuss a Problem
Sometimes your child may have a specific problem at school. You may have talked to your child’s teacher about this concern or even sent notes back and forth. If it seems like nothing is happening to resolve your concern, then you might want to write a formal letter. Perhaps the informal communication hasn’t been as clear as you think. By writing a letter or email, the school will learn that you consider the matter to be an important one that needs to be addressed.
You can write about any concern! There are no rules about what type of problem you can write about. Any school problem is worth writing about if it is having a negative impact on your child.
Requesting Your Child’s Records
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or better known as IDEA gives you the right to look at all of your child’s records. This includes records about his or her identification, evaluation, educational placement, and special education program.
You also have the right to ask the school to explain and interpret the records for you. You may ask the school to give you a copy of your child’s records; they may charge you a reasonable fee for making any copies, but cannot charge you for retrieving the records or you looking at them.
School records contain valuable information about your child’s strengths and areas of need. Here are some reasons you might have for requesting a copy of your child’s records:
- Reviewing records to ensure they are correct and contain all necessary information.
- When your family is moving to a new district, records may need to be sent.
- When you’re taking your child for an independent evaluation, copies of past records may be useful.
- The records may help the staff at other programs your child attends (like camp, tutors, or in-hospital schools) design their activities.
- Postsecondary education programs may need to see copies of your child’s records.
- It’s a good idea to have a copy for your home files, especially if your child is finishing school.
Writing a Positive Feedback Letter
Once you have begun to write letters, be sure to write when things are going well, too!
If a teacher, therapist, or other staff member has made good things happen for your child, let them and their supervisors know. Everyone likes and needs compliments and encouragement from time to time.
Positive feedback is what keeps good schools running well. Just as you want to know “how it’s going,” so does the school staff. Always take time to let someone know that they have made an impact.
Good communication, team work, and effective schools take a lot of work. There is an old saying that goes, “Things can go wrong all by themselves, but you have to work hard to make things go right.” This statement applies doubly to maintaining a successful parent-school relationship. Be sure your child’s teacher(s), principal, and superintendent also hear from you when things are going right.
Writing a Follow-up Letter
When you have written a letter or sent an email making a request, you should get a response from the school, either by telephone or in writing, within a reasonable amount of time. In some cases, “reasonable” is defined…in other cases, the timelines are not exact. So, be reasonable in your expectations.
But if you feel too much time has passed (10 school days or so) without receiving a response to your letter, then call and ask if your letter (or email) has been received.
If you are sure the school has received your letter (for instance, if you sent it certified mail), then ask when you can expect an answer.
More than likely, when you call you will talk to a secretary or administrative assistant. Leave a message for the person you wrote to; ask that person to call you back.
If your request still goes unanswered, they you may want to write again. It’s useful to enclose a copy of your original letter (or email) with this letter. Be sure NOT to send your only copy. Remember, you always need to have a copy for your records.
Requesting an Initial Evaluation for Special Education Services
If your child has been consistently struggling in school, his or her problems may be due to a disability. Anyone can refer the student for an educational evaluation, including you. The purpose of the initial evaluation is to see if the child has a disability and needs special education services.
This evaluation is free of charge!
To request an initial evaluation, first, you must submit a written request to your child’s school, much like the sample letter below.
After receiving an evaluation request letter and supporting documents, the district must respond formally through Written Notice that describes any evaluation procedures they plan to use.
Before your child’s evaluation takes place, you must first provide written permission or parental consent.
Once the parent consent form is signed, the initial evaluation must be completed within 45 school days.
Requesting an Independent Educational Evaluation at Public Expense
The IDEA gives parents the right to have their child evaluated independently. This means you have the right to have your child evaluated by someone other than the staff who work for the school system.
Remember, the purpose of an evaluation is to see if your child has a disability and, if so, what their special educational needs are.
In some cases, you may pay for the Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). In other cases, the school system may pay for it, which is called an IEE at public expense.
If you want the school to pay for the IEE, you will need to make your request BEFORE any independent testing is done.
A few reasons why parents may request an IEE at the Public Expense would be:
- You believe the original evaluation was incorrect or incomplete and additional tests are needed.
- The evaluation was not done in the child’s native language.
- The evaluation was not completed with needed accommodations (for example, in braille or sign language).
Once a parent requests an IEE at public expense, the school must do one of the following without unnecessary delay:
- Provide the LEA’s IEE criteria and information about where an IEE may be obtained; or
- Request a due process hearing without undue delay to show that the school’s evaluation is appropriate.
Results from an IEE must be considered by your child’s IEP team when decision’s are made regarding your child’s free appropriate public education (FAPE), identification, eligibility, or placement.
Requesting a Re-evaluation for Your Child
In order to ensure students continue to be eligible for special education services and that they continue to receive the services need, IDEA requires that re-evaluations occur at least every three (3) years.
IDEA does not define a timeline for re-evaluations, but implies it will be done prior to a renewed IEP. If your child is nearing that 3-year mark or if you have concerns, now is the time to request new evaluations.
Before the re-evaluation process begins, the IEP team, including the parent, reviews the existing information and identifies what additional information, if any, is needed.
A re-evaluation may be needed sooner than three (3) years if one of the following is present:
- A parent or teacher requests it.
- The IEP team needs more information to address concerns or make decisions about your child’s education program.
- The IEP team is considering removing your child from special education services.
Requesting a Meeting to Review the Individualized Education Program (IEP)
If your child is receiving special education services, he or she must have a written plan known as an Individualized Education Program or IEP.
When a child has an IEP, the IDEA requires the child’s IEP team to review the document at least once a year.
Within the IEP, you will find your child’s annual goals along with the special education services they will receive. You are a member of the team that writes your child’s IEP. As a member of the IEP team, can ask that your child’s IEP be reviewed and revised at any time.
Some of the reasons why a parent might request an IEP review meeting would be:
- Your child may have met their yearly goal.
- Your child is not making progress in one or more annual goals.
- You feel that your child requires more services or different services to make progress.
- You feel that your child no longer requires special education services.
- Finally, your child has experienced a significant life change such as illness, injury, or trauma.
Requesting a Change of Placement
Placement means where your child’s IEP is carried out. Depending on your child’s needs, his or her placement may be in general education, in a special education classroom, your home, in a hospital or institution, or in another setting. IDEA strongly prefers placement in the general education classroom but does not mandate it.
Placement is an IEP team decision. Therefore, when you request a change in placement, you are actually requesting an IEP review meeting to discuss your child’s needs and where your child’s needs will be best serviced.
You may want to request a change in your child’s placement if their needs are not being met, such as:
- changes in your child’s needs;
- current class size is too large or too small;
- current class is too academically challenging or not academic demanding;
- the placement does not meet your child’s social or emotional needs;
- the building is too difficult for your child to get around; or
- Any other reason that this class placement is not working our successfully.
Requesting Prior Written Notice
There are certain times when the school must put in writing its decisions about your child’s education and the reasons for those decisions. This communication is called Prior Written Notice (PWN).
The district is required to send you a prior written notice after a decision has been made, but before implementing the decision.
The school system is supposed to automatically provide you with prior written notice whenever they want to (or refuse to):
- Evaluate your child,
- Change of your child’s disability identification,
- Change your child’s placement, or
- Change the way in which your child is provided with a free appropriate public education.
However, sometimes the school may tell you its decision over the phone, in a meeting, or in a conversation. It is best that you always ask for the decision to be given in writing using Prior Written Notice.
Anytime you have a serious disagreement with the school and you feel it isn’t getting resolved, you may request mediation. In mediation, you and school personnel sit down with an impartial third person (called a mediator), talk openly about the areas where you disagree, and try to reach an agreement. Mediation is voluntary, so both parties must agree to meet with a mediator.
One of the chief benefits is that mediation allows you and the school to state your concerns and work together to reach a solution that focuses on the needs of the student and is acceptable to both of you.
To request a copy of the form or more information, visit the Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) at www.okserc.org/mediation.
Filing a Formal State Complaint (Request for Complaint Investigation)
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), you have the right to file a complaint when you believe that the state or school district has violated a requirement of the IDEA.
The State Education Agency (SEA) or the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Office of Special Education Services (OSDE-SES) must resolve your complaint within 60 calendar days (not business days) from the day they receive it, unless there are exceptional circumstances with respect to the complaint.
The IDEA regulations for State Complaint Procedures may be found at 34 CFR § 300.151-153. Parents and schools are encouraged to utilize mediation to resolve special education disputes. Such participation is voluntary.
A complaint must include the following information:
- Current date.
- Name, address, and telephone number of the person making the complaint (or available contact information).
- The signature of the person making the complaint.
- If alleging violations regarding a specific student, the name and address of the student involved (or available contact information in the case of a homeless student or family).
- The school and local educational agency (LEA) or other education agency that is the subject of the complaint.
- One or more statements (allegations) that the LEA has violated one or more requirements of IDEA Part B.
- The facts and/or a description of the events that support each allegation.
- Proposed resolution of the problem or the relief sought to the extent known and available to the party at the time.
- The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received.
The OSDE-SES has created a form to assist individuals in filing a complete complaint. It is located at:
The use of this form is optional, however, all Complaint Investigation Requests must include all required elements. The OSDE-SES will notify you if your submission is not sufficient and/or if additional information is required.
The OSDE-SES will accept a complaint received by mail, fax, or hand delivery. You may submit your concerns that meet all of the above requirements to the OSDE-SES address listed on the complaint form or the Sample Letter provided on the next page by the Oklahoma Parents Center.
You must forward a copy of the complaint to the school district (LEA) or public agency serving the child at the same time the complaint is filed with the OSDE-SES.
It is important to note, if you write a complaint on an issue that is also part of a current due process hearing, the OSDE-SES will not investigate the issue. The due process hearing takes precedence over the State complaint process.
To get more information, you can contact the Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Special Education Services’ (OSDE-SES) by:
- calling 405-521-3351,
- visiting the OSDE’s website at https://sde.ok.gov/special-education-dispute-resolution, or
- found in the Oklahoma Special Education Handbook Chapter 13, Section 4.
Filing a Due Process Complaint
Due Process is one approach that parents and schools can use to resolve disagreements. Basically, in a due process hearing, you and the school present evidence before an impartial third person called a hearing officer. The hearing officer then decides how to resolve the problem.
Generally speaking, when the family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to first discuss their concerns and try to reach a compromise. Remember, the goal is to provide an appropriate education for your child. There are many options when deciding what an appropriate education is, and some trial and error may be necessary to develop a successful program for your child.
However, if you and the school have fully communicated, understand each other’s positions, tried such strategies as IEP meetings and/or mediation, and you still disagree, you may want to request a due process hearing.
Some reasons why a parent might file for due process include:
- The school refuses to evaluate your child.
- You disagree with the eligibility decision.
- You disagree with the services or goals in the IEP.
- The school refuses to provide a related service, modification, or supplementary aid you think your child needs.
- You disagree with the placement decision.
In Oklahoma, the Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) will provide a highly-trained hearing officer who will preside over the hearing and whose decisions have the effect of law and are binding upon the parties participating in the hearing.
Oklahoma’s due process system has 2 types of hearings, a regular due process hearing and an expedited due process hearing:
- A regular due process hearing is an administrative hearing to resolve disputes on any matter related to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, and the provision of a FAPE.
- An expedited due process hearing is an administrative hearing to resolve disputes concerning discipline. The expedited hearing will occur within 20 school days of the request, with a decision rendered within 10 school days of the hearing.
Regular Due Process Complaint Form
Expedited Due Process Complaint Form
*Information in the complaint must be kept confidential. Each state is required to have a model form to help parents write a due process complaint. You are not required to use the model form.
There’s a lot to know about due process complaints, resolution meetings, and due process hearings, far too much to explain it all here. You can find more information at:
- Due Process in Special Education: Guidelines for Parents and School Administrators
- Oklahoma Special Education Handbook
For more information, visit the Special Education Resolution Center at: