Gathering Parental Input

If a good structure can be viewed as the engine of a SEPAC, input can be viewed as the ‘fuel’ for change. A SEPAC’s work comes from input collected from parents, educators, and other sources. A SEPAC can use this input to identify systemic issues and solutions.

What is parental input?

Input is simply information, and it comes from many sources and in many forms: letters, proposals, comments, concerns, and even complaints. Other forms of input might include data about the school district. An effective SEPAC will invite input of as many forms as possible. Listen to parents and use input to advise the district on positive change.

What are some strategies a SEPAC can use to reach parents, engage them, and invite input?

SEPACs can tap into diverse sources and channels to gather information about issues affecting students with disabilities. Input can be obtained from a wide range of sources. It is vital that parents are aware of the SEPAC and its function, and are invited to provide input. SEPACs do this through the development of effective, varied outreach and communication strategies.


  • The meaning and importance of parental input.
  • Outreach and communication strategies to invite and maximize parental input.
  • How to determine priorities.
  • Ways to solicit diverse input.

Part I: A Guide for Local Action | Chapter 5: Gathering Parental Input


  1. District leadership can distribute information through various means of communication (e.g., email, flyers/brochures, text messages, social media, phone calls), through multiple venues and platforms (e.g., Back-to-School Night, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and other events that draw parents).
  2. Districts can establish a mobile friendly web presence and provide clear ways for parents to contact SEPAC members and provide input. This might be a page on the district’s website, or a stand-alone website linked from the district’s website. Some SEPACs post information on PTO/PTA websites, and on community pages operated by the YMCA or other community groups. The website can also be a repository for information on basic rights, podcasts on special topics, archived webinars, taped teleconferences, and links to advocacy resources.
  3. Take advantage of social networking to reach parents. Post minutes, information about meetings, links to the SEPAC website, and other resources.
  4. Start a blog or forum on the SEPAC website to share ideas, articles, and best practices.
  1. Ask SEPAC members to attend school and community events to increase parental awareness of the SEPAC and the opportunity to provide input.
  2. Host a ‘Listening Night’ for parents to talk to SEPAC members about their concerns, experiences, and ideas.
  3. Establish a dedicated SEPAC email account that parents can use to send input.
  4. Use surveys that can be posted to sites, shared through social media, emailed, or printed for distribution.
  5. Jot down ideas and input from parents during chance encounters (e.g., at the soccer game, in the parking lot, or at a school event.) Keep a notebook handy or send yourself a text message.
  6. Invite experts to present workshops and lectures on topics of interest to parents in the district.
    Make sure that all information and outreach is provided in a family-friendly manner and, if possible, translated to reach as many as possible.

Part I: A Guide for Local Action | Chapter 5: Gathering Parental Input

What can the SEPAC do to support diverse parent participation?

  • A SEPAC can work to ensure that parents are able to fully participate in meetings and provide input effectively, simply by asking parents: “What supports do you need in order to participate and attend meetings?”
  • Some SEPAC groups have found that parents can better participate when districts offer childcare, translation services (including foreign languages, sign language, braille, etc.), transportation assistance, and other supports at meetings.
  • Offer meetings at various times, and consider ways to invite input, such as hosting an online meeting or conference call.
  • Printed materials (agendas, flyers, brochures), a SEPAC website, and social media can be translated into other languages used in the community.

TOOLS FOR CHANGE: Sample agenda, flyers, and brochures can be found in the Resource Section of this guide.



  • Input is simply information about programs, policies, and systemic issues.
  • Parents might need childcare, translation services (including foreign languages, sign language, braille, etc.), transportation assistance, and other supports in order to participate.
  • Most SEPACs hold several types of meetings at different times and locations.
  • SEPACs need to use a variety of communication and outreach strategies to reach and engage parents, and to solicit input.