Answer: The mother retains her rights under IDEA even while the daughter is living somewhere else and they are not in touch. Unless a court intervenes to restrict the mother’s rights (which is extremely unlikely at this point), she remains the mother legally. If the school/district were to give IDEA rights to the grandmother or surrogate parent in the situation as you have described it, the district could be at risk of an administrative complaint or even lawsuit from the mother. Once the student turns 18, the rights transfer to her. Also, if after a reasonable period of time the mother is not responsive to the school’s requests to contact her regarding the student’s IEP, it could become appropriate for the school to appoint a surrogate parent. More details about this issue are available in Surrogate Parents And Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Under The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

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