Volunteer Education Advocate Program
The law requires that schools involve parents in decisions regarding their child’s need for special education services. When a parent is not available to advocate for a child’s special education needs and rights, an Education Advocate is assigned to represent the child and protect these rights. Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada provides training and support to volunteers who are willing to become Education Advocates for children with disabilities, ensuring that their schools are meeting their disability-related needs.
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada is looking for volunteers 18 years of age or older who have no personal or professional interests that conflict with the interest of the student.
To find out more about the Education Advocate Program or to sign up for our next volunteer training, contact us at 386-1070 ext. 1446 or at Edadvocate@lacsn.org. To view our brochure, please click here.
2) the child’s parents are unknown,
3) the child’s parents are unable to be located, or
4) the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth.
To become an Education Advocate, contact the Volunteer Education Advocate Program at 386-1070 ext. 1446 or at Edadvocate@lacsn.org. The process begins by attending a mandatory training where volunteers are provided information about the special education process; the local school district; and how to effectively advocate for a child with disabilities. Once a volunteer has completed the training, he/she will be contacted by Legal Aid Center staff regarding a child who needs an Education Advocate. If the volunteer is interested in becoming the Education Advocate for the child, Legal Aid Center staff will prepare a court order signed by a judge giving the volunteer the authority to be the Education Advocate for the child. Information on how to get started as an Education Advocate and how to initiate contact with the child’s school will be provided to volunteers. Legal Aid Center will then provide ongoing support and training to Education Advocates.
What are the duties of an Education Advocate?
Education Advocates represent their child in all matters related to identification, assessment, educational placement, and provision of free appropriate public education (FAPE). This advocacy includes attending Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, disciplinary meetings, and due process hearing pertaining to the child. Education Advocates must be notified of all educational decisions and all meetings that pertain to a child’s special education services. Education Advocates are required to keep in touch with the child’s Child and Family Team (support team for children in the foster care system), the child’s school, and the Legal Aid Center to ensure that the child’s disability-related needs are being met. Education Advocates have no responsibility for the care, maintenance, financial support, or physical care of the child and are not liable for actions taken in good faith on behalf of the student in protecting the educational rights of the student.
What rights to information and educational documents do Education Advocates have?
Education Advocates have all the same rights as natural parents and guardians in all aspects of the special education process and can make all of the decisions that are made by a child’s parents. They include the right to:
- Access and review educational records and progress reports regarding the child’s education.
- Request, consent to, or refuse a child’s special education evaluation(s).
- Receive written and verbal interpretations of the child’s special education evaluations and special education Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents.
- Participate in the development and amendment of the IEP document.
- Request an independent educational evaluation if a child was denied eligibility for special education services
- Challenge the recommendations of a school by requesting a due process hearing.
- Participate in parent teacher conferences and in the disciplinary process.
What is the time commitment of an Education Advocate?
The time and effort it takes to be an Education Advocate is approximately 25 hours throughout the school year. Education Advocates must be willing to put in the time necessary to adequately represent the best interests of the child in the special education process.
What are the criteria for becoming an Education Advocate?
Special education law only recognizes a parent, foster parent, relative, or Education Advocate as parties who may advocate for a child’s special education needs. A person employed by an agency who is involved in the child’s care or education (e.g. anyone working for the local school district, Department of Education, or Child Welfare Agencies) or any person who cannot represent a child’s best interests may not make special education related decisions for that child, nor become an Education Advocate.
Can the child’s caseworker, social worker, or therapist make decisions regarding the child’s special education services?
No. In accordance with the law, a person employed by an agency who is involved in the child’s care may not make special education related decisions for that child.
Henry was placed in foster care due to neglect. Subsequently, his parents’ legal rights were terminated. Henry was constantly in trouble at school and was almost expelled because he sought out negative attention so kids would like him. Bouncing from home to home, he was not anywhere long enough to learn social skills and ways to get positive attention. Henry was assigned an Education Advocate who represented him in the expulsion proceeding. Subsequently, he was not expelled. Henry is now doing well in school, participating in extra-curricular activities and making friends for the first time.
There are also additional volunteer opportunities for law students.