Definition of a Parent
The term parent means:
- A biological or adoptive parent of a child,
- A foster parent,
- A guardian*,
- An individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child's welfare, or
- An individual assigned to be a surrogate parent.
*A guardian of a student who is a ward of the state and also representing the state may not serve as the student's parent for the purpose of special education decision-making.
Determining Need for a Surrogate Parent
If the AISD can locate a person who meets the above definition of "parent" then the district will rely on that person and there is no need to appoint a surrogate. Unless a surrogate parent is appointed by the judge overseeing the child's care, then AISD must appoint a surrogate parent when:
- The parent(s) of the child are not known,
- The district cannot (after reasonable efforts) locate the parent(s),
- The child is a ward of the state*, or
- The child is an unaccompanied homeless youth.
A surrogate parent shall not be appointed for a student in a residential facility who is an adult student who has retained rights to represent him/herself or who has parents who retain parental rights to represent him/her.
*If the child is a ward of the state and the district locates a person who meets the definition of "parent" stated above and is willing to assume the responsibilities of the parent, a surrogate parent is not necessary.
Qualifications for a Surrogate Parent
When a surrogate parent is necessary, the district conducts an analysis and must appoint a person who is not:
- An employee of the Texas Education Agency or the Amarillo Independent School District,
- An employee of any agency that is involved in the education or care of the child (e.g., caseworkers, house parents or residential facility employees), or
- Any other person with a personal or professional interest that conflicts with the interest of the child represented by the surrogate parent*.
The person appointed to serve as a surrogate parent must:
- Have knowledge and skills that ensure adequate representation of the child,
- Be assigned within 30 days after the determination that the student needs a surrogate parent,
- Be willing to assume and have implemented the required responsibilities listed below, and
- Have completed a training program as described elsewhere in these guidelines within 90 days of being assigned to represent a child.
*Conflict of interest - A conflict of interest will be deemed to exist and will disqualify a person from being appointed to act as a surrogate parent if participating in the decisions of an ARD committee concerning the child represented would:
- Result in monetary gain for the individual acting as a surrogate parent or for the agency/facility employing that individual or
- Impact staffing decisions and/or costs incurred by the individual or the agency/facility.
For Students Residing with Foster Parents
The AISD may assign the foster parent as the student's parent for the purposes of special education decision-making if:
- The Department of Protective and Regulatory Services is the managing conservator of the student,
- The child has been placed with the foster parent for at least 60 days,
- The foster parent agrees to participate in making educational decisions on the student's behalf,
- The foster parent completes a training program for surrogate parents as described elsewhere in these guidelines, and
- The foster parent has no interest that conflicts with the student's interests (e.g., would result in monetary gain, impact staffing, or incur additional costs for the foster parent, DPRS or any other agency placing the student in the care of the foster parent).
If the foster parent cannot be assigned as a parent but has completed the training program described elsewhere in this guideline and meets all other applicable requirements for serving as a surrogate parent, then AISD may assign the foster parent as the student's surrogate parent.
If the district denies the foster parent the right to serve as the parent or surrogate parent, then AISD will provide written notice to the foster parent within seven calendar days after the date the decision was made. The notice will include:
- The reason the foster parent is being denied the right to serve as surrogate parent,
- The interests of the foster parent that conflict with the interests of the child, and
- Information informing the parent of his/her right to file a complaint with TEA.
An individual selected to serve as surrogate parent must complete (within 90 days of assignment) a training program which includes an explanation of the provisions of federal and state laws, rules, and regulations relating to:
- The identification of a student with a disability;
- The collection of evaluation and reevaluation data relating to a student with a disability;
- The ARD committee process;
- The development of an IEP and, for a student who is at least 16 years of age, the inclusion of transition planning activities in the IEP;
- The determination of least restrictive environment;
- The Procedural Safeguards;
- The sources the surrogate parent may contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions of federal and state laws, rules, and regulations relating to students with disabilities;
- Implementation of the IEP; and
- Must be provided in the native language or other mode of communication.
Once an individual has completed the training program, the individual must not be required by the AISD to complete additional training to continue serving as the child's surrogate parent or to serve as the surrogate parent for other children with disabilities. The LEA may provide ongoing or additional training to surrogate parents and/or parents but cannot deny an individual who has received the required training described from serving as a surrogate parent on the grounds that the individual has not been trained.
Required Responsibilities of a Surrogate Parent
The individual assigned as a surrogate should satisfy the following responsibilities:
- Complete surrogate parent application;
- Visit the student and the student's school;
- Consult with persons involved in the student's education, including teachers, caseworkers, court-appointed volunteers, guardians ad litem, attorneys ad litem, foster parents, and caretakers;
- Review the child's educational records;
- Attend meetings of the child's ARD committee;
- Exercise independent judgment in pursuing the child's interests;
- Exercise the child's due process rights under applicable state and federal law (when appropriate);
- Attend a surrogate parent training within 90 days of being appointed;
- Complete a surrogate parent activity log and invoice of services performed.
Amarillo ISD will provide compensation to individuals appointed as a surrogate parent through a contract for services which includes an AISD background check.