Rights and Responsibilities
Special Education Surrogate Parent
The Special Education Surrogate Parent (SESP) Program is a statewide organization that appoints volunteers who accept the responsibility to be special education decision-makers for students who are in state custody and are receiving special education services. Our volunteers have been serving students across Massachusetts for over 35 years, and are actively appointed to over 700 eligible students. The students we represent reside in a variety of living situations including residential schools, group homes, hospitals or pediatric nursing homes, state institutions, diagnostic placements, shelters, and foster homes. They may be in a full inclusion setting at a local public school, or attending a highly structured day school program. In short, our students can land at multiple points along many different continuums.
Children and adolescents in the custody of the state have often experienced numerous traumatic losses and stressful upheavals, and typically have very few family supports available to help them. They wage an uphill battle for success every day of their lives. Appropriate academic services equal a better chance of success in school, and subsequently a better chance of a positive future.
Rights of an SESP
As a Special Education Surrogate Parent (SESP) you have the same rights and authority of a “parent” in special education matters, as outlined in Massachusetts regulations (603 CMR § 28.00 et seq.) and the Federal regulations (34 C.F.R. Part 300). These include, but are not limited to, the right to:
- Access all regular and special education records of the student, including all progress reports and report cards.
- Provide written permission for special education evaluations.
- Review all education evaluations.
- Attend all special education Team meetings.
- Request a Team meeting when there are concerns or changes regarding your student’s academic, social or emotional status.
- Observe your student in his or her school setting to assist in determining the appropriate educational supports and placement(s).
- View special educational placements that are being considered.
- Review and accept or reject the proposed Individualized Education Program (IEP), in whole or in part, within the 30-day time frame.
- File a complaint if you feel that the education laws or regulations, or a student’s rights are violated.
- Pursue the appeals process, if necessary.
As an SESP, you are NOT responsible for medical, clinical, residential, or financial decisions.
Responsibilities of an SESP
- Fulfill all rights associated with the role of the SESP.
- Advocate in the best interests of the student in relation to special education.
- Attend other educational related meetings when invited if you feel it is necessary.
- Maintain regular communication with the student’s special education providers, as well as with the student’s social worker.
- Monitor the student’s progress and special educational services provided.
- Act in a collaborative and professional manner.
- Maintain student records in your possession in an organized fashion.
- Respect the confidentiality of all records and information related to the student.
Please click here to download a copy of our handbook.
If you have any questions about what the role of SESP entails, please contact the SESP Program at 508.792.7679 for assistance.
Time Commitment and Duration
Stability and continuity are critical for the students we serve. Volunteers are asked to commit to representing their assigned student for as long as the student is eligible for an SESP if at all possible.
The time commitment can vary greatly depending upon the needs and circumstances of the student, but our volunteers report that they spend an average of 45 hours a year fulfilling the role. We make every effort to match SESPs with students according to their availability, experience level, and interests. If we contact you with a potential student match and you feel like it may require more time than you can comfortably commit, you can always decline that particular match.
Many of our SESPs represent one student at a time, while others are willing and able to represent numerous students.