If you have a 17-year-old student attending an Individualized Education Program (IEP) case conference, did you know that Indiana law requires schools to mention “Transfer of Rights” at the conference? Transfer of Rights occurs when a student reaches 18, the age of majority. This means they have access to the rights and responsibilities of an adult. Are they ready?
When a student reaches the age of majority, they have the right to vote, marry, obtain a credit card, consent to medical treatments, make living arrangements, sign contracts, and more. Don’t let this transfer come as a surprise to the student and their parents. Decisions made at that IEP conference can affect their choices for a lifetime!
Schools must inform students that they will assume the rights formerly assigned to their parents unless a guardian or an educational representative has been appointed. The law assumes that everyone at age 18 can make their own decisions, and only a court can determine otherwise. This regulation does not apply to students who have been determined to be “incompetent” under state law.
When the Transfer of Rights occurs, parents will no longer have the right to:
receive notice of and attend IEP meetings;
- consent to reevaluation;
- consent to change of placement; or
- request for mediation/due process hearing to resolve disputes.
This doesn’t mean parents can no longer be involved—it simply means the student must invite them. Many of the decisions students make now affect their quality of life after high school, so it is important to keep parents as supporters, and doing so does not require the student to give them guardianship.
In other words, students have options! It is important that students know their options, discuss them with people they trust, and arrive at a decision before the case conference. Neither a student nor a parent should feel pressured to seek guardianship.
One Size Does NOT Fit All
Students have several available options and guardianship is only one of them. Even if the student and parents know the student requires significant support due to their disability and will need assistance making decisions, legal alternatives remain. Courts must consider the least restrictive alternative before limiting a person’s rights.
Here are a few alternatives:
- Supported Decision Making: Accommodates choice by identifying a support team that works together with the student to identify the kinds of decisions with which the student might need help and how to provide that support.
- Power of Attorney: Voluntarily assigned by the student if they want their parents to continue to make decisions and give informed consent. This can be over financial decisions, medical decisions, or both.
- Advance Medical Directives: Completed by the student and allows someone else to make medical decisions in their stead when they are not capable of making a decision.
- Guardianship: Must be obtained through the courts and gives someone the legal authority (and duty) to care for another’s personal and property interests.
- Conservatorship: Must be obtained through the courts and gives someone the legal responsibility for your financial interests.