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Kristen:  I work with special need preschools. There are often no substitute assistants available when we have teachers out. The classrooms are left understaffed in classrooms with students with serve disabilities and needs. It’s been a huge safety concern since we have many students that have a history of running/escape. What rights do there students have regarding ratios and what can we as teachers do?

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As a teacher, if you have exhausted your internal and union channels, you may file a state special education complaint on behalf of the affected students. I would talk to your state’s parent center and state special ed oversight office first, though.

Jill G

Are these ratios set by your state Dept of Education? If so, I suggest that you contact them and see where they stand on this. Where I am, the state sets student/adult ratios for separate classrooms and resource rooms based on students’ level of need. The state does allow schools some flexibility. But repeated under-staffing is a violation of state law and anyone (including staff and parents) can file a state complaint if this happens. Your state may treat this differently – states have different rules about what can be reviewed through the state complaint process – so it’s best to check with them.
Are the ratios determined by one or more student’s IEPs? Then this is a violation of federal (and likely state) special education law.

Jill G

If this happens, any individual can file a state complaint about this and the individual student’s parents could request a dues process hearing.
Are these ratios set by your local school district or school board/committee? Then the ratio is likely considered a “best practice” and student’s will have no right to it. Your best bet may be to discuss this with administration, as Chuck suggested. Start with your school based staff (department head, principal), move on to district staff (directors, superintendent), and on to the school board/committee if need be. Your union may be an ally to you in this, so you may want to contact them as well.


If district procedures & policies do not address these issues, then a discussion with appropriate district administrators should be started.


Hi Chuck, It is not addressed in any district policies or procedures. I have been having discussions about it with both building and district administrators for over a year now.


Sounds like you guys are spinning your wheels. Try calling State Ed. You can at least ask some questions. They might notice a red flag and call your district to clarify what’s required by law and by state regulation.