Can I Refuse Special Education?

by | May 18, 2021 | School

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What should a parent know?

If your child has been referred for Special Education, you may have concerns about why your child needs this, and what will these services actually provide.  It is common for parents to be hesitant about Special Education, and they often wonder if they can refuse Special Education services.  

Line of yellow pencils with red pencil.  Can I refuse Special Education

There are many steps after your child is referred for Special Education.  The first would be the actual assessment phase.  You can read more about this phase here.  After all of the assessments have been completed, the school will host another meeting with you as parents to give the results of the testing and then to determine if they qualify and if so, what services they would qualify for. 

Does my child need special education?

If the school is making a recommendation for Special Education Assessments, the first thing you want to do is get clarification as to why.  Most often, there are academic or behavioral concerns that need extra support to help your child be successful in school.  Here are a list of questions that you can ask when working with the school?

  1.  Why are you recommending Special Education?
  2. What interventions have been in place to help support my child already?  For how long have they been in place?
  3. What were the results of these interventions?
  4. If no progress or growth was made, have you considered alternative supports?
  5. If progress or growth was made, why are you still wanting to assess for Special Education?
  6. What goals do you think may be on the IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?
  7. What supports may be needed to meet these goals?  
  8. How would having an IEP look different than it currently does for my child?

Asking these questions will help you to develop an understanding of what support and services the school thinks your child may qualify for.  This also gives you time to think about what you want for your child and to partner with the school to make that happen.

“I don’t want my child in special education”

Many parents may say, “I don’t want my child in special education.”  Often times there is a negative stigma around this and they don’t want their child to not be normal.  First of all, take a step back as a parent, and really reflect on why you may feel this way.

Here are some of the most common reasons why a parent doesn’t want Special Education.

  • I don’t want my child pulled out of the regular classroom.
  • My child isn’t stupid.
  • I don’t want my child doing different work.
  • My child will feel different and this will hurt their self-esteem.
  • I don’t want my child to be labeled for life.

Special Education is meant to give the accommodations and modifications that your child needs to support a specific disability.  Talk with the school about your concerns and have an open and honest discussion with them.  They may be able to assuage your fears.

What does special education provide?

When your child qualifies for Special Education, it means that they have been identified with a disability.   The school will provide a written plan with goals, also known as an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  

This IEP is important because all teachers will follow this plan, and you will not need to communicate this at the start of every year or to every teacher your child has.  The IEP is legally binding and it must be followed by the school and all teachers.  The IEP will also include a list of accommodations and modifications to assignments or testing that your child needs to be successful.  

With Special Education, you will have trained teachers to provide instruction in the areas of need.  One teacher will be your child’s case manager and will be a point of contact for you.  They will also provide progress on the IEP goals with any other grading period at the school.  

Other Alternatives to Special Education

After working with the school, if you are still concerned about Special Education, you may be wondering what other options you have.  

You could request to keep the interventions in place with the general education teacher.  You could also ask what other interventions are available.  An example of this would be if your child struggles with reading, they could still receive some services from a special reading teacher.  

You could inquire about paraprofessional support.  Although this would provide additional adult support, they are not as highly trained as a teacher and although they can provide support, they would not be teaching your child.  

If your child has a medical diagnosis for their disability, you could ask the school for a 504 plan.  This plan provides support for students and removes barriers to education for students with disabilities.  If you want to know the difference between 504s and IEPs, read more here.

Other options include hiring a private tutor for your child.  They can help provide learning opportunities in a specific area of concern.  The downside is that you would have to pay for this and it can be costly over a long period of time.  

Child Struggling with Homework?


You have every right to refuse special education and you may have good reason to.  But before you make a decision, make sure that you have a good working partnership with your school.  Have open communication about what your hesitations are and how they might be alleviated.  If you feel at a standstill with the school, consider looking for a parent advocate or facilitator.  These services are usually free and vary by state.

by Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach

Can I refuse special Education?

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