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Frequently Asked Questions: Educational Surrogate

What is an educational surrogate?

An educational surrogate fills the role of a parent for the student with a disability whenever decisions are being made about the student’s educational placement and program.

Why do we need educational surrogates?

Parents of children with disabilities are important members of a decision making team, which decides the appropriate educational program for their child. Sometimes for various reasons there is no one to fill this important role. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that States train and provide educational surrogates, impartial individuals, to fill the role of a parent. 

Who can be an educational surrogate?

Anyone who is 18 years old or older and has no conflict of interest concerning the child’s education may serve as an educational surrogate. A criminal record check and child abuse or neglect check are required. Also, an educational surrogate may not be an employee of a public agency providing care, custody or educational services to the specific child in need of educational surrogate representation.

How much time and money will this commitment take?

Educational surrogates devote approximately one day to the training provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education. After a student with disabilities is assigned, the educational surrogate reviews the student’s school record well enough to understand the student’s needs, strengths, and interests as well as their school history. A meeting between the student and surrogate is arranged. After that, surrogates attend IEP meetings and parent-teacher conferences.

This costs the surrogate nothing. Training is provided free of charge. All reasonable expenses are reimbursed. 

What do educational surrogates do on behalf of the student?

Educational surrogates are expected to attend conferences and meetings concerning the educational program and placement of the student. Educational surrogates advocate for the student’s educational rights. 

How often should educational surrogates visit the student's classroom?

Surrogates may need to visit the student's classroom a couple of times in order to get to know him/her and start to develop a record of his/her needs and abilities. The surrogate may also need to visit during the year in order to monitor how the program is working. Surrogates must go through the necessary steps to set up each visit by contacting the teacher or principal ahead of the visit.

Can a surrogate be held liable if he/she makes a wrong decision about the student?

Missouri provides that a person appointed to act as an educational surrogate shall be immune from any liability for any civil damage arising from any act or omission in representing the student in any decision related to the student's education. This immunity shall not apply to intentional conduct, wanton and willful conduct or gross negligence. Section 162.999 (7) RSMo. 

How can educational surrogates learn more about a student's particular disability?

Surrogates should ask the student's teacher about the characteristics of a particular disability. Many resources may be found on the Department’s website concerning special education and eligibility criteria for the disability categories in Missouri. http://dese.mo.gov/special-education/compliance/standards-indicators

Surrogates may also contact a Compliance supervisor for information on this subject.

Who will evaluate the activities of an educational surrogate?

The Office of Special Education is responsible for monitoring the activities of each educational surrogate to make sure he/she is doing his/her job. This will be through an evaluation form sent to each school district using the surrogate process, and it is required yearly or more often if warranted. The Department will use this information to help decide whether or not to continue a surrogate’s assignment. 

What if the school terminates an educational surrogate’s assignment?

A school district is not allowed to terminate an educational surrogate’s assignment. If a student’s status changes or a school district has concerns, the district must contact the Department for a decision regarding the educational surrogate. There are several reasons that the Department may terminate/dismiss your assignment: 1) the student changes schools; 2) the student's status changes and he/she is no longer eligible for an educational surrogate; or 3) the Department feels that you have not done an adequate job as an educational surrogate. If a surrogate believes his/her assignment was unfairly discontinued, he/she may contact the Office of Special Education, Compliance at 573-751-0699 to discuss. 

If a student no longer needs an educational surrogate, how do educational surrogates get assigned to another student?

The Office of Special Education will automatically reassign a surrogate unless a request is received not to be reassigned or the educational surrogate resigns from the program.

Can educational surrogates be required to share the costs of the student's education?

No. All special education and related services must be provided at no cost to the educational surrogate of the student. The intent is that extra costs of providing an education for students with disabilities should not be borne by the student, parent, or guardian.

What kinds of records are parents and educational surrogates allowed to see?

All records, files, documents and other material which contain information directly relating to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency, such as an elementary school, an office of a school district, or university may be viewed by parents and educational surrogates. The type or location of the records does not matter--discipline folders, psychological reports, health files, and grade reports or other records found in a cumulative folder are all included.

Are there any records that a school can refuse to show parents or an educational surrogate?

Yes. A school can refuse to show parents and educational surrogates the following records:

A teacher's or counselor's "personal notes"--these are notes that a school official makes for his or her own use and are not to be shown to anyone else, except a substitute teacher.

Personnel records of school employees.

School officials cannot refuse to show you a record simply because it was sent to them by someone outside the school system. 

May educational surrogates read the student's record themselves? What if a surrogate doesn’t understand something in the records?

Yes. Surrogates have the right to examine the records themselves. If a school official only agrees to read to a surrogate from the records, he or she is violating the law. Educational surrogates also have a right to receive an explanation of any item they do not understand. There may be a counselor, teacher, or other school staff person in the room with the surrogate while he/she reviews the records. If this person cannot answer the surrogate’s questions, he/she should ask the principal to find someone who can. 

Does a student residing with foster parents also need a surrogate?

No, a foster parent is considered a parent, therefore, no surrogate assignment is necessary. A foster parent is selected as the custodian for a student by a state or local agency and reimbursed for expenses. 

Can a foster parent serve as an educational surrogate for other students?

Foster parents are not prohibited from also serving as educational surrogates. Foster parents may volunteer to be trained and serve as educational surrogates provided they have no conflict of interest.