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A. Your child may need to be evaluated for eligibility for special education – and provided with an IEP – if he/she is struggling with learning academics, developing peer relationships, following school rules and behavior expectations, etc, and you believe this may be related to a possible disability.  There are many different types of disabilities that may qualify your child, and while a school district cannot “diagnose” your child, it does have the obligation to evaluate in all areas of suspected disability and to determine if your child requires special education and related services.  Eligibility for special education is based on two factors: First, the child must be a student with a disability; Second, because of that disability, the child must require special education and related services.

Parents may suspect that their child requires an IEP based on many different factors. You should follow up on these suspicions and request an evaluation and IEP (see below) if your child is struggling in school (academically, behaviorally, socially, etc) because of difficulties that you believe may be related to a disability. Maybe your child already has a diagnosed disability from his pediatrician, a specialist, or a psychologist; if you believe that diagnosed disability is impacting him/her educationally, you need to obtain an evaluation and IEP from your school district. Many parents start this process not knowing what disability their child has, but knowing that their child is experiencing difficulties and “failures” in the school setting that don’t make sense, or aren’t explained by other factors. Ultimately, you as a parent need to follow your instincts, and request the evaluation if you think that a special education program may be required.

The bottom line is: if your child has a disability, or you suspect that he or she may have a disability, he/she may require an individualized education plan (IEP) and may be entitled to a free appropriate public education from your school district, and you can request an evaluation in writing to start the process.

A. If you suspect that your child may have a disability and may require special education, the first step is to request that your local school district conduct an evaluation. You should make this request in writing. Although it is certainly appropriate for you to verbally discuss your concerns with your child’s teachers or other staff, you should not trust that doing so will mean that your child will be referred for an evaluation. Make a very specific request in writing and make sure it gets to the appropriate person at your child’s school, and at the school district if necessary. The school staff should be able to tell you exactly who handles these requests so that you can address your letter to the appropriate person.  Your letter should state clearly that you are requesting a comprehensive evaluation in order to determine eligibility for special education and related services. If your child has a diagnosed disability already, it would be a good idea to state this in the letter. Otherwise, you can state what your concerns are that cause you to believe an IEP is required.

A. An SST meeting is an intervention available within general education, without providing a child with special education and related services or making that child eligible for an IEP.  A school district’s use of an SST meeting in lieu of starting the assessment process would extend the time within which the District is required to assess your child.  A better approach would be to cooperate by attending the SST meetings but still submit your written request for assessments.  Then the District will be bound by the legal timelines set by the IDEA based on your written assessment request.

Whenever the school district intends to assess a child with a disability, it must provide written notice to the parents.  When parents make a written request for the district to evaluate / assess their child, the district must respond within 15 days with a proposed assessment plan (note: this is based on California requirements).  A “special education assessment plan” should provide information to parents so that they understand what assessments are proposed, and parents must consent to this plan before the assessments are conducted.  It should explain the purpose of the assessments, the areas to be assessed, the types of assessment tools to be used, and the personnel who will conduct the assessments.

Extended School Year (“ESY”) is the provision of services beyond the regular school year’s calendar (usually during the summer months) to a child who is eligible for special education and related services and who requires services during breaks from the school year in order to prevent regression.  If your child’s IEP team determines that ESY services are necessary to prevent regression, then these services must be provided. The school district cannot get out of this responsibility by claiming that no such services are available; by claiming that only certain categories of disability are provided with services; or, by unilaterally limiting the type, amount or duration of those services.  Different school districts may have different methods of determining whether regression is likely to occur, but at the very least, the appropriateness of ESY services should be discussed by the IEP team.

The terms “neighborhood school,” “school of residence,” or “home school” are often used interchangeably by school districts, parents and others. A child’s “school of residence” is the specific school site that he or she would attend if not disabled. “School of residence” is determined by a district procedure that is used to determine what school each child in the district is assigned to, usually it is determined geographically according to the address of the parents. This is the school you would enroll your child in if there wasn’t an IEP in the mix.

No, but placement in the neighborhood school should be an option that is discussed.  Although the starting place for a discussion of what placement would be the “least restrictive environment” should be the school which the child would attend if he/she was not eligible for special education, there is no absolute requirement that children attend their school of residence, even if they are fully included in a general education setting. The choice of appropriate placement depends on the child’s unique needs as determined by the IEP team.  There are many possible benefits to placement in the neighborhood school or school of residence, including the ability to build peer friendships with kids that live in the same neighborhood.

Some school districts have policies that require all kids with IEPs who are placed in general education to be placed in their home school. Although this may be beneficial to some kids, there are parents who have concerns about the lack of an individualized decision in these situations. On the other hand, many parents may be in a school district that does not have such a policy, but instead may have a practice of grouping kids with IEPs at particular school sites that have inclusion support and other services. Parents in those districts may be concerned about the fact that their child then cannot be included in their “neighborhood school” with kids from their community.

Ultimately, parents have to be included in any team that is making placement decisions about their child. A child’s school of residence is one placement consideration on the continuum of available options, and parents should think about the positive benefits of placement in the neighborhood school and discuss these benefits with the team.

NO! District policies are subject to both state and federal law.  There can be policies that explain how they are following the law but they can’t reduce the protections provided under the IDEA.  If a District ever states they have a policy ask for a copy of it in writing.  Usually it doesn’t exist and this can stop them from referring to a policy that limits their legal obligations and negatively impacts children’s rights.

Yes. In California there is a law called the Lanterman Act.  This law establishes “regional center” throughout the state.  Your residence will establish which regional center services your area.  Regional centers offer information, support and services for a lifetime once your child has been found eligible.

 Yes. In California there is a law called the Lanterman Act.  This law establishes “regional center” throughout the state.  Your residence will establish which regional center services your area.  Regional centers offer information, support and services for a lifetime once your child has been found eligible.

Yes. In California there is a law called the Lanterman Act.  This law establishes “regional center” throughout the state.  Your residence will establish which regional center services your area.  Regional centers offer information, support and services for a lifetime once your child has been found eligible.

Prior to placing your child into a private placement if you are planning to seek reimbursement from the district you need to give a written 10 day-notice.  This letter indicates your intent to privately place your child but will seek reimbursement from the district for this placement.  It is not an intent to remove the child from the district’s legal responsibility to provide your child with an appropriate education.  Failure to provide a 10-day notice can impact the amount of reimbursement you may be entitled to seek under the law.  You can give a shorter notice orally during an IEP meeting.  The oral notice allows for the immediate removal of your child and creating the set up for reimbursement.

You take your letter to the front desk of your school of residence.  Hand it to anyone at the front desk.  Make a copy for your self and write on your copy the date and the name of the person who took your letter.  That is all you have to do.  It is then up to the school to process your letter according to the law. The school cannot refuse to take your letter requesting assessments.

At that time, if you believe that the grades do not reflect the issues that your child is experiencing you need to file for due process to force the District to assess.  Many times just filing for Due Process and attending a mediation will result in the District agreeing to conduct the assessments and hold the IEP.  At that time, even if your child does not qualify for an IEP eligibility the District may be willing to offer a Section 504 plan that provides for accommodations such as extra time for testing or turning in assignments or even a quiet room in which your child can take a test.

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