Special Education Frequently Asked Questions
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How do I get a copy of my student’s IEP?

How does a student get referred for Special Education?

As a parent, guardian or advocate, you have a legal right to request that your public school evaluate your child for special education. Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as amended in 2007 (IDEA), gives you that legal right. States, through local school districts, must “identify, locate, and evaluate every child who may have a disability requiring special education services.” This is called “Child Find.” When there is suspicion that a child has a disability, parents and educators have a responsibility and a right to request a full, individual, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluation.

Parents may request an evaluation in writing, with copies to the principal and the school district’s director or coordinator of special education. Parents should retain copies of all correspondence relating to their child and follow up with the school principal on the status of the request.

According to the law, a student shall be referred for special education instruction and services only after the resources of the general education program have been considered and, where appropriate, utilized. (30 EC 56303)

Student Study Teams (SST) are school-based, problem-solving groups whose mission is to assist teachers, administrators, and school staff with interventions and strategies for dealing with the academic, social/emotional, and behavior needs of students.  Such groups seek creative ways to maximize the use of available resources and formalize what is already being done for students at the site.

Typically, the SST process is not appropriate for students described below because they require immediate referrals to special education. Students with Certain Disabilities. Students suspected of having apparent disabilities, such as hearing impairment, visual impairment, deaf-blindness, severe and recent traumatic brain injury, intellectual disability (moderate or severe), multiple disabilities, and some students with severe autism, severe orthopedic impairments and/or significant health issues  Students with Mental Illness. For students suspected of exhibiting a significant mental illness, the school psychologist should evaluate the student’s needs and, as appropriate, contact their Special Education Administrator for consultation and/or initiate a possible referral for a special education assessment

Response to Intervention (RTI)  Response to Intervention is a mandated requirement of IDEA 2004.  Response to Intervention employs three tiers of support and intervention to ensure that all students succeed.  The three tiers are universal interventions, strategic interventions, and intensive interventions. Each of these three tiers incorporates intensities of instruction/intervention that are provided to students in direct proportion to their individual needs (Response to Intervention:  Policy Considerations and Implementation, 2006).

A student may be referred for special education services at any time by the student’s parent, teacher, or other service provider. Staff of other public agencies may also request an assessment of students. Referrals pertain to students enrolled in SCUSD, residing in SCUSD boundaries, or attending a private school in SCUSD’s boundaries. Written Referral by Parent or Other Individuals Outside of the School: All referrals must be in writing, signed, dated, and include a brief reason for the referral.  If the request is received orally or if a parent does not submit a written request, the individual receiving the request must communicate with the parent to learn the basis for the referral, and document the information with the date the request was completed.

What is the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and how do I join?

Please visit our Community Advisory Committee website for more information.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, is a process for resolving conflicts in a manner that respects the dignity of individuals while creating mutually satisfying solutions. 

Learn more about the ADR process and how to contact our Independent Dispute Resolution Specialist. 

What are eligible disabilities the IEP Assessment Team evaluates for?

  • Hearing Impairment (including deafness)  
  • Both Hearing and Visual Impairment (Deaf-blindness)  
  • Speech or language impairment  
  • Visual Impairment (including blindness)  
  • Orthopedic impairment  
  • Other Health Impairment (OHI)  
  • Exhibition of Autistic-like behaviors  
  • Intellectual Disabilities  
  • Emotional Disturbance  
  • Learning Disability  
  • Multiple Disabilities  
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

IDEA defines these disabilities as follows:

Hearing Impairment (including deafness)  

Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(3).))

Hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section (IDEA 300.8 (c)(5).))  

Both Hearing and Visual Impairment (Deaf-blindness)

Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness (IDEA 300.8 (c)(2).)  

Speech or Language Impairment  

Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(11).)  

Visual Impairment (including blindness)  

Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness (IDEA 300.8 (c)(13).)

Orthopedic Impairment  

Orthopedic impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures) (IDEA 300.8 (c)(8).)  

Other Health Impairment (OHI)

Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that:  Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome (IDEA 300.8 (c)(9)(i).)  Adversely affects a child’s educational performance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(9)(ii).)

Autistic-like behaviors  

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences (IDEA 300.8 (c)(1)(i).)  Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(1)(ii).) A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if he/she satisfies the above criteria (IDEA 300.8 (c)(1)(iii).)

Intellectual Disability  

Intellectual Disability means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(6).)  

Emotional Disturbance  

Emotional Disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:  An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(i)(A).) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(i)(B).)  Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(i)(C).) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(i)(D).) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(i)(E).)  Emotional Disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance under the criteria listed above (IDEA 300.8 (c)(4)(ii).)

Specific Learning Disability  

Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as:  

  • Perceptual disabilities  
  • Brain injury  
  • Minimal brain dysfunction  
  • Dyslexia  
  • Developmental aphasia (IDEA 300.8 (c)(10)(i).)  

Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage (IDEA 300.8 (c)(10)(ii).)  

Multiple Disabilities  

Multiple disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as intellectual disabled blindness or intellectual disabled-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness (IDEA 300.8 (c)(7).)  

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance (IDEA 300.8 (c)(12).)  

Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as (IDEA 300.8 (c)(12).):

  • Cognition  
  • Language  
  • Memory  
  • Attention  
  • Reasoning  
  • Abstract thinking  
  • Judgment  
  • Sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities  
  • Psychosocial behavior
  • Physical functions  
  • Information processing  
  • Speech  

Traumatic Brain Injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma (IDEA 300.8 (c)(12).)

Students meeting eligibility under some of the above federal classifications are considered to be severely disabled as follows:
  • “Severely disabled” means individuals with exceptional needs who require intensive instruction and training in programs serving pupils with the following profound disabilities:
    • Autism  
    • Blindness
    • Deafness  
    • Orthopedic Impairments  
    • Emotional Disturbances  
    • Intellectual Disability  
    • Individuals who would have been eligible for enrollment in a development center for handicapped pupils under (E.C., Sec. 56030.5)  

If the IEP team determines that a student has a disability, the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team must meet and determine if the student is in need of special education and related services. The IEP team includes qualified special education professionals and the student’s parent(s). For more information on IEP teams and the IEP process, reference Part VI: Individualized Education Programs.

A student may demonstrate a disability, but may not necessarily be eligible for special education/ related services. The IEP team will determine eligibility based on the requirement that the student’s disability negatively/adversely affects his/her educational performance.

Parents are full participants in the planning and development of services for their child(ren). As such, parental rights related to their child’s disability eligibility are as follows:  

  • To make a direct referral to SCUSD for disability assessment for their child
  • To receive and approve the proposed Assessment Plan (AP)  
  • To question the Assessment  
  • To request an independent assessment  
  • To receive a copy of the Assessment Report  
  • To give or revoke parental consent for services at any time  To be informed of all the service options available
  • To be informed of and utilize due process procedures to resolve a dispute (20 USC Section 1412(d); 34 CFR 300.504; EC sections 56301(d)(2), 56321, and 56341.1(g)(1)).)

What should a parent expect to find in an Assessment Report?

SCUSD personnel must document the information gathered during the assessment process in an Assessment Report. This is in accordance with the following regulation:

Assessments result in a written report or reports that include the findings of each assessment (34 CFR 300.306(a)(2), 30 EC 56327.)

The Assessment Report must include:

  • Results of tests administered in the student’s primary language by qualified personnel (20 USC 1412(a)(6)(B), 34 CFR 304(c)(1(i), 30 EC 56320.)  
  • If a test was administered through an interpreter:  The written report includes a statement regarding the validity of the assessment (30 EC 56320(b), 5 CCR 3023(a).)  
  • A description of the extent to which testing varied from standard conditions (20 USC 1414(b)(3)(A)(iii), 5 CCR 3023(a))  
  • Information related to enabling the student to be involved in, and progress in, the general education curriculum or, for preschool students, to participate in appropriate activities (20 USC 1414(b)(2)(A)(ii).)  
  • A determination of whether the student needs special education and related services (30 EC 56327(a).)  
  • Information on relevant behavior noted during observation of the student in the appropriate setting (30 EC 56327(c).)  
  • Educationally relevant health, developmental and medical findings, if any (34 CFR 300.532, 30 EC 56327(e).)  
  • A determination of the effects of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage, where appropriate (30 EC 56327(g).)  
  • A description of the need for specialized services, materials, and equipment for students with low incidence disabilities (30 C 56327(h).)  
  • Consideration of independent evaluations (34 CFR 300.502(b), 30 EC 56329(b).)
  • The basis for making the determination of eligibility for students with specific learning disabilities (34 CFR 300.311(a)(2) 30 EC 56327(b).)

Following completion of a student’s Assessment Report SCUSD must provide a copy to the student’s parents (20 USC 1414(b)(4)(B), 34 CFR 300.306(a)(2), 30 EC 56329.).

What is a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

IDEA requires an IEP team to address “behavior that impedes his or her learning or that of others.”  This can be addressed through a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) which is considered a supplementary aide and support.

A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP):

  • Attempts to understand “why” the behavior is occurring; what “function” it serves for the individual  
  • Identifies how the environment can be altered to eliminate the student’s need to use the behavior  
  • Identifies how educators can support students using identified positive replacement behaviors that meet his/her need  Is essentially a teaching plan
  • Assessment Plan (Behavior Assessment or FBA can lead to the development of an IEP) is required  
  • Involves systematic data collection (definition of target behaviors, Antecedent Behavior
  • Consequence (ABC) data, frequency data, duration data, interview and/or observations
  • Requires that an IEP meeting be held to propose and formalize the BIP (considered a supplementary aid and support)  
  • Implementation of the BIP and ongoing data collection to determine whether or not the BIP is effective and what, if any, changes or next steps are necessary

In 1991, California wrote into law a procedure for addressing serious behavior problems of students with special needs. This law is often referred to as the “Hughes Bill.” Per the Hughes Bill, SCUSD is required to conduct behavior-based assessments of students with special needs when  one of the following has occurred and/or been observed from a student:

  • The behavior is self-injurious, assaultive, or causing property damage leading to suspension or expulsion  
  • The behavior is so pervasive/maladaptive as to require systematic and frequent application of behavioral interventions  
  • The serious behavior problem interferes with the individual’s opportunity for placement in the least restrictive environment  
  • A behavioral emergency has occurred that required the use of restricted, emergency techniques in order to protect the safety of the student or others  
  • An assessment has been conducted and a report written that identified the need for a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

Behavior Assessment and Development of a BIP- If an IEP team agrees that a behavior-based assessment is warranted for a student with special needs, it is required to complete a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).  The FBA is initiated when the behavior of a student with an IEP has been determined to be a manifestation of his/her disability. A signed assessment plan is required.

In addition, SCUSD must complete the following reports, which relate to the student’s behaviors:

  • Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)  
  • Behavioral Emergency Report (BER) – Reference the SEIS document library for a BER template

When does the IEP begin to address Transition and Post-Secondary Goals?

Beginning no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the student is 16, and updated annually thereafter, appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills and the transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the student in reaching those goals

As a parent, when should I receive notice of an IEP Team Meeting?

IEP teams are required to notify parents of IEP team meetings as follows (34 CFR 300.322 (a)(1 & 2), 30 EC 56341.5(a).):  

  • The notice is early enough (at least 10 days before the IEP meeting is scheduled to occur) to ensure they have an opportunity to attend (34 CFR 300.322 (a)(1 & 2), 30 EC 56341.5(b).)  
  • IEP meetings are scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place (34 CFR 300.322 (2), 30 EC 56341.5(c).)  
  • The notice includes an indication of the purpose, time and location of the meeting and the individuals who will attend (34 CFR 300.322 (b).)  
  • The notice includes information relating to the participation of other individuals on the IEP team that the parent may invite who have knowledge or special expertise about the student (34 CFR 300.322 (b)(1)(ii).)  
  • The notice is provided in writing   
  • For all English Learners, notices of IEP meetings are in parent’s primary language and inform parents of interpretation rights (explaining process for requesting interpretation services)

Who is required to attend an IEP meeting?

  • Education Rights Holder (Parent/Guardian/Surrogate)
  • Case Manager
  • General Education Teacher
  • LEA Representative

What does FAPE stand for?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that each child who has a disability and needs special education and related services will receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).