Throughout your child's school years, there will be a need to communicate with school: teachers, administrators, and others concerned with your child's education. There are also times when the school needs to communicate with you. Some of this communication is informal, such as phone calls, comments in your child's notebook, a discussion when picking your child up from school, or at a school function. Other forms of communication are more formal and need to be written down.
Letters provide both you and the school with a record of ideas, concerns, and suggestions. Putting your thoughts on paper gives you the opportunity to take as long as you need to:
- state your concerns,
- think over what you've written,
- make changes, and
- have someone else read the letter and make suggestions.
Letters also give people the opportunity to review what has been suggested or discussed. Confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided by writing down thoughts and ideas.
However, writing letters is a skill. Each letter you write will differ according to the situation, the person to whom you are writing, and the issues you are discussing. The letters contained in this section will help you in writing to the professionals involved in your child's special education.
The term "parent" is used throughout and includes natural or adoptive parents, surrogate parents, legal guardians, or any primary caregiver who is acting in the role of a parent.
Letter Writing in General
- Put important requests in writing, even if it is not required by your school district. A letter avoids confusion and provides everyone with a record of your request.
- Always keep a copy of each letter you send. It is useful to have a folder to store copies of the letters you have written.
What do I say in my letter?
When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and include the answers in your letter:
- Why am I writing?
- What are my specific concerns?
- What are my questions?
- What would I like the person to do about this situation?
- What sort of response do I want: a letter, a meeting, a phone call, or something else?
Each letter you write should include the following basic information:
- The date on your letter.
- Your child's full name and the name of your child's main teacher or current class placement.
- What you want (rather than including only what you do not want). Keep it simple.
- Your address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.
- A date for a response from and/or action by the school.
What are some other tips to keep in mind?
You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and agree with your concerns. Remember that this person may not know you, your child, or your child's situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without expressing anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions. Some letter-writing tips include:
- Read your letter as though you are the person receiving it. Is your request clear? Have you included the important facts? Does your letter ramble? Is it likely to offend, or is the tone businesslike?
- Have someone else read your letter for you. Is your reason for writing clear? Can the reader tell what you are asking for? Would the reader say "yes" if he or she received this letter? Can your letter be improved?
- Use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Or, if you don't have one, ask someone reliable to edit your letter before you send it.
- Always end your letter with a "thank you."
- Keep a copy for your records.
- Writing to discuss a problem
- Requesting an initial evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for special education services
- Requesting additional testing of your child
- Requesting an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense
- Requesting an opportunity to view your child's records
- Requesting a meeting to review the Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Requesting a change of placement
- Requesting prior written notice
- Requesting mediation
- Requesting a due process hearing
- Filing a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education
See also the Mediation, Complaints and Due Process section of the Ohio Department of Education website. There you will find information and forms used for these processes.