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Procedural Safeguards: Surrogate Parents

File: IGB-R: Special Education, Cont.

A surrogate parent is a person appointed by the school district to act on behalf of a student to help ensure the rights of the student to FAPE when a parent cannot be identified, the whereabouts of the parent are unknown, the student is a ward of the state and does not have a foster parents, or the student is an unaccompanied homeless youth.

The special education office is responsible for determining the need for appointment of a surrogate parent.

Natural or adoptive parents, foster parents, persons acting in the place of a parent such as stepparents or relatives and persons with legal custody or guardianship are considered parents.

The district will utilize the following criteria to assist in determining the status of the parent’s rights to make educational decisions:

  • In cases where the student is in out of home care the district must determine the legal custodial status of the child;
  • Parents who have voluntarily placed their child in state placement still retain legal custody of the child and retain the right to make educational decisions. In this situation, the student is not a ward of the state;
  • Parents whose children are placed in group care, pending a determination of “dependency” may still retain rights to make educational decisions unless otherwise ordered by the court;
  • When a disposition order and order of dependency is issued, the state becomes the legal as well as physical custodian of the child. Parents may no longer have the right to make educational decisions during this stage of dependency;
  • Parents whose parental rights are terminated no longer have the right to make educational decisions on behalf their child; and
  • When a student is placed in foster care the foster parent may act as the parent. When a student is placed in group care, the district will work with the parents, case-worker(s), foster parents and others who have knowledge of the student’s legal status in order to determine the need for appointment of a surrogate.

When selecting a surrogate parent the district will select a person willing to participate in making decisions regarding the student’s educational program, including the identification, evaluation, placement of and provisions of FAPE to the student.

If a student is referred for special education or if special education student transfers into the district who may require a surrogate parent, the district special education office will be notified of the potential need. The special education office will then select a trained individual who can adequately represent the student to ensure that all student rights are protected.

The person selected as a surrogate:

    1. Must have no interest that conflicts with the interests of the student he or she represents;
    2. Must have knowledge and skills that assure adequate representation of the student; and
    3. May not be an employee of a school district and/or other agency which is involved in the education or care of the student. This includes OSPI, DSHS, district employees and group care providers.

The district will assign a surrogate within 30 days of the determination that a surrogate parent is required. The district will, at a minimum, review with the surrogate parent procedural safeguards, parents' involvement in the special education process, parent education publications and special education regulations. The district will also cooperate, as needed, with other districts, the ESD or OSPI, and the district parent group in training surrogate parents and in establishing a list of persons willing and able to serve as surrogate parents or when requested by school personnel.

*See the Special Education Terms & Definitions page for more information.

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