When a student turns 18, parents and other IEP team members should keep in mind that the ability to make sound, reasoned decisions is a skill acquired over time, and that students with disabilities would benefit from the opportunity to practice making decisions in a supported environment. Even though educational rights are essentially automatically transferred to a student with a disability at age 18, there are still ways to grant parents some ability to assist and be considered in the educational decision-making process, without completely taking away an individual’s rights through a guardianship hearing. Supported decision-making is a method by which either parents or other adults the student chooses can remain involved in the educational decision-making process and form the student’s network:
Supported decision-making is when a student over the age of 18 years retains their rights as the ultimate decision-maker but consents to let parents continue to be involved. It is essentially an option in which families or other adults the adult student chooses for their educational decision-making network remain engaged while children keep formal rights.
Steps to creating a supported decision-making network:
- Students must select members for the SDM Network and ask them to sign the “Supported Decision-Making Request Form” allowing the parent, former guardian, or some other adult of the student’s choosing have access to educational records and information, including all educational notices sent to the student.
- School staff, the parent, or other adult of the adult student’s choosing should assist the student in completing the “Supported Decision-Making Request Form”.
Note: Although educational rights under IDEA Part B transfer to the student, parents continue to be allowed access to their child’s education records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC § 1232 g) if the student is the parent’s dependent, as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code. When the student is a dependent of the parents, the parents will also continue to receive meeting notices, but may only participate in these meetings if allowed by the student.
Both the student letter and the “Supported Decision-Making Request Form” release should be uploaded in SEDS using a miscellaneous cover sheet titled “Supported Decision-Making Documents”.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document that allows the adult student to appoint a person or organization to handle his/her affairs if he/she believes he/she is unavailable or unable to do so. The person or organization appointed is referred to as an “Attorney-in-fact” or “Agent.” It is the responsibility of the adult student to inform the school if a Power of Attorney has been secured. Once the school receives the document, it must be forwarded to the Office of General Counsel for interpretation.