Legislature approves new path for parental oversight of adult children with disabilities
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/10/23-Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, a former collegiate and professional football player, speaks in favor of the Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights bill, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The bill passed the Senate and heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his review. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Bill: Parents won't have to become guardians to stay in the loop on their child's education after they turn 18.

Legislation creating a new procedure allowing parents of adult children with disabilities to stay involved in their child’s education has received the Legislature’s approval and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Republican Sen. Corey Simon’s bill (SB 636) was swapped out for Democratic Rep. Allison Tant’s identical legislation (HB 19). Like Tant’s bill in the House, Simon’s measure received the Senate’s unanimous approval.

It provides a new avenue for keeping parents of students with disabilities in the loop after the child becomes an adult, Simon explained.

“This great bill will require school districts to provide information and instruction to students with disabilities and his or her parents about self-determination and legal rights and responsibilities relating to education decisions that transfer to the student upon turning 18 years old,” Simon said.

Students with disabilities are allowed to stay in public school until their 22nd birthday. But, under current law, after these students on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) turn 18, it’s no longer assumed that parents can sit in on teacher conferences, or receive regular information about grades and options these students have as they enter the last phase of their secondary education.

To maintain some level of consultation with their child’s teachers, parents have been directed to get legal guardianship over their adult children.

But this bill, if it gets the Governor’s signature, would allow IEP students, before they turn 18, to work with educators to design an informal channel for their parents to be informed during this final phase, as they embark on adulthood.

Tant, of Tallahassee, filed the bill to address the problems she encountered after her son, who has complex disabilities, turned 18.

To stay abreast of her son’s education and whereabouts, Tant was directed to get a guardianship, which involved costly and complicated work, she said. In explaining the bill, she likened it to getting a battleship, when all that’s needed is a canoe.

“With your vote today, you will stop an expensive and stressful rush to guardianship by parents of disabled students across our state just so they can sign a permission slip or just so they can know when their loved one is off campus,” Tant said told the House at passage.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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