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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is IDEA?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is Federal law that requires equal access for eligible students with disabilities to a free appropriate education.

What is a Free Appropriate Public Education?
A Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) ensures that students with disabilities have access to special education and related services designed to address their unique needs and prepare them ready for further education, employment and independent living.

How can I get the school district to evaluate or assess my child?
Your school district has an obligation to "identify, locate and evaluate" all children with disabilities who may be eligible for special education, including those who are attending private schools or are homeless or wards of the court. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.111; Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56300 & 301.). This is called "child find." You can also make a referral for assessment at any time. Contact your local school administrator (for example, the principal or special education director). Outline areas areas of concern about your child's suspected disability and request an "evaluation" or "assessment." Follow up with a written, dated request in order to document timelines. School district personnel must help you put your request in writing. [Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56029, 56301, 56302 & 56321(a); 5 C.C.R. Sec. 3021.]

How long will it take for the district to complete my child's assessment?
Under state law, your school district must give you an assessment plan within 15 days of their receipt of your written referral for special education services. If a referral for assessment is made 10 days or less prior to the end of the regular year, the assessment plan must be developed within 10 days after school commences the following school year. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321(a).] You have at least 15 days to respond to or approve the assessment plan. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321(c)(4).] Once the district has received the signed assessment plan, it has 60 days (excluding days of school vacation in excess of five and days that school is not in session) to complete the assessment and develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), assuming it finds the child to be eligible. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56344(a).]

How often must evaluations be conducted for a student with a disability?
An initial evaluation must be conducted prior to a student being considered for special education and related services. A re-evaluation must be conducted at least every three years for special education students with certain exceptions. A reevaluation must also be conducted whenever the student's parents, teacher or district staff request one. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(a)(2); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.303.]

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and how do I request one for my child?
An IEP is a written statement that describes your child's present levels of performance, learning goals, school placement, and services. In order to obtain an IEP, your child must first be assessed. Starting from the date the district receives your written consent to assessment, the assessment(s) must be completed, and the IEP developed at a meeting within 60 calendar days. In counting days, you do not count the days in between regular school sessions or school vacation in excess of five school days. If an initial referral of a student to special education has been made 30 days or less before the end of the regular school year, an IEP shall be developed within 30 days after the beginning of the next school year. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.320; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56344 (a).]

What is a parent's role in special education?
Parents are an essential aspect in their child's education. Educators and parents partner in the decision-making and planning of the educational program and services, including assessment, individualized program and services, placement, and program review.

What happens if the student is not found eligible for special education?
The IEP team members review assessment results and determine special education eligibility. If the team determines that the student is not eligible for special education and related services, and the parent is not in agreement with the decision, the district must provide information as to what the parent can do under IDEA.