An Overview for Parents
The chart below
is a basic overview of the special education process. It is not designed
to show all the steps or the specific details. It shows what happens
from the time a child is referred for evaluation and is identified as
having a disability, through the development of an Individualized
Education Program (IEP).
The process begins with someone (school
staff, parents, etc.) making a referral for an initial evaluation. A
general explanation of each numbered area follows the chart.
Parents, school personnel, students or others may make a request for
evaluation. If you request an evaluation to determine whether your child
has a disability and needs special education, the school district must
complete a full and individual evaluation. If it refuses to conduct the
evaluation, it must give you appropriate notice, and let you know your
You must give permission in writing for an initial
(first-time) evaluation, and for any tests that are completed as part of
- A team of qualified professionals and you
will review the results of the evaluation, and determine if your child
is eligible for special educational services.
- If your child is
not eligible, you will be appropriately notified and the process stops.
However, you have a right to disagree with the results of the evaluation
or the eligibility decision.
If you disagree with the results
of an evaluation, you have a right to an Independent Educational
Evaluation (IEE). Someone who does not work for the school district
completes the IEE. The school district must pay for the IEE or show at
an impartial due process hearing (see box on last page) that its
evaluation is appropriate.
- If you and the school district agree
that you child is eligible for services, you and the school staff will
plan your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), at an IEP team
meeting. You are an equal member of this team.
- The IEP lists
any special services your child needs, including goals your child is
expected to achieve in one year, and benchmarks to note progress. The
team determines what services are in the IEP as well as the location of
those services and any necessary modifications. At times, the IEP and
placement decisions will take place at one meeting. At other times,
placement may be made at a separate meeting (usually called a placement
Placement for your child must be in the Least
Restrictive Environment (LRE) appropriate to your child’s needs. He or
she will be placed in the regular classroom to receive services unless
the IEP team determines that, even with special additional aids and
services, the child cannot be successful there. You are part of any
group that decides what services you child will receive and where they
will be provided.
- If you disagree with the IEP and/or the
proposed placement, you should first try to work out an agreement with
your child’s IEP team. If you still disagree, you can use your due
process rights (see box on last page).
- If you agree with the
IEP and placement, your child will receive the services that are written
into the IEP. You will receive reports on your child’s progress at
least as often as parents are given reports on their children who do not
have disabilities. You can request that the IEP team meet if reports
show that changes need to be made in the IEP.
- The IEP team
meets at least once per year to discuss progress and write any new goals
or services into the IEP. As a parent, you can agree or disagree with
the proposed changes. If you disagree, you should do so in writing.
If you disagree with any changes in the IEP and you request a due
process hearing, your child will continue to receive the services listed
in the previous IEP until you and school staff reach agreement. You
should discuss your concerns with the other members of the IEP team. If
you continue to disagree with the IEP, there are several things you can
do, including pursuing mediation or resolving the disagreement using due
process (see last page).
- Your child will continue to receive
special education services if the team agrees that the services are
needed. A re-evaluation is completed at least once every three years to
see if your child continues to be eligible for special education
services, and what services he or she needs.
the right of parents to have input into their child’s education program
and to take steps to resolve disagreements. When parents and school
districts disagree with one another, they may seek mediation or request
an impartial due process hearing.
meeting between parents and the school district with an impartial
person, called a mediator, who helps both sides come to an agreement
that each finds acceptable.
An impartial due process hearing
is a meeting between parents and the school district where each side
presents their position, and a hearing officer makes the decision about
what is the appropriate educational program, based on requirements in
School districts must give parents a copy of special
education procedural safeguards, which include the steps for due process
hearings and mediation, at several stages in the special education
process. This includes when their child is first referred for an
evaluation and each time they are notified of an IEP meeting for their
Reprinted with permission from PACER
PACER Center, Inc. • 8161 Normandale Boulevard • Minneapolis, MN 55437-1044
Phone (952) 838-9000 • Toll-free: 1-888-248-0822 • Fax (952) 838-0199 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
and approved by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative
Services. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC