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Rep. Molinaro Continues to Build On Think DIFFERENTLY Initiative, Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Students With Disabilities Access Resources to Succeed in School

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) today introduced the Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act. This bipartisan bill helps parents of children with disabilities advocate for the resources their child needs to succeed in school. It builds on Rep. Molinaro’s successful ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ initiative. Rep. Molinaro introduced this bipartisan bill alongside U.S. Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-04), and Mike Lawler (R-NY-17).

In an annual IEP meeting, school staff and parents of a child with a disability meet to develop an educational plan for the student. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, parents have the right to bring a third-party advocate, such as a therapist, lawyer, or knowledgeable family member, to these meetings. However, most parents are not aware of this right.

The Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act requires K-12 schools to inform parents of their right to bring an advocate to individualized education program (IEP) meetings.

Rep. Molinaro said, “As the father of four children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, I understand what families go through. Working with school administrators to get your child the resources they need can be a daunting and confusing experience. My bipartisan bill, the Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act, is going to change that. By having an advocate that supports parents and their child, families will be able to better access resources to help their child succeed in school.”

Robyn Linscott, Director of Education and Family Policy for The Arc said, “The special education system is complex and the majority of parents and families navigating it don't fully know their rights. One of those often undisclosed and obstructed rights is the ability to have a third party present for IEP meetings. We are pleased that the 'Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Bill' would ensure parents and families are notified of this right at the start of every school year.”

Cyrus Huncharek, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the National Down Syndrome Congress said, "Despite the fact that IDEA clearly allows parents to invite other individuals to special education meetings who have knowledge or special expertise regarding their child, we know of parents who have been told they cannot bring a third party to these meetings. Parents and students with Down syndrome are entitled to bring additional individuals who have knowledge of the student and the 'Think DIFFERENTLY About Education Act' will ensure that parents are aware of this by requiring schools to notify parents of this right on an annual basis"