The role of the Special Education Ombudsman is to serve as a resource to provide information and support to parents, students and educators regarding special education rights and services. Appointed by the Commissioner of Education, the ombudsman performs duties that include serving as a source of information for parents, students, educators and interested members of the public that helps them better understand state and federal laws and regulations governing special education. The ombudsman also provides information and support to parents of students with disabilities to help them understand and navigate the process for obtaining special education evaluations and services.
The duties of the Special Education Ombudsman will include, at a minimum, the following:
(1) Serve as a source of information regarding state and federal laws and regulations governing special education;
(2) Provide information and support to parents of students with disabilities to help them understand and navigate the process for obtaining special-education evaluations and services;
(3) Provide information and communication strategies to parents and school districts for resolving disagreements concerning special-education issues, and to educate parents on the available options for resolving such disputes;
(4) Work neutrally and objectively with all parties to help ensure that a fair process is followed and that the special-education system functions equitably and as intended;
(5) Identify any patterns of complaints that emerge regarding special-education rights and services and recommend strategies for improvement to the Department of Education;
(6) Assist the Department in creating public information programs that educate parents and the public about the ombudsman's duties; and
(7) Serve as a resource for disability-related information and referrals to other available programs and services for individuals with disabilities, including early intervention and transition to adult life.
The Special Education Ombudsman will treat communication received in the course of his or her duties as confidential. The ombudsman will make an annual report to the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education that includes a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year, along with recommendations concerning the state's implementation of special-education procedures and services.