If you’re a parent and determined that your child meets the requirements for SPED, what happens next? Rather than immediate referrals and placement, your school district will first attempt to keep the child in a regular classroom and incorporate an alternative general education program. It is within your authority to approach the school district on implementing an alternative program for your child, but should he or she continues having problems in a non-SPED classroom, a referral is the next course of action.
A referral is “a written request for an evaluation of a child who is suspected of having a disability and who may be in need of special education and related services.” Various parties may submit the referral:
- The student, if 18 years of age or older.
- The parent, guardian, or surrogate parent of the student.
- A member of the school’s personnel.
- Other qualified individuals, such as the student’s physician or social worker, provided parental permission to make the referral was previously granted.
The student need not actually be attending school yet to qualify for a referral: remember, one of the qualifications for SPED under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers an age range of 3 to 21 years. Your school district is obligated to “identify children in need of special education from birth on, [a duty called] ‘child find.’”
If you are not the individual who made the referral, you will receive a written notification (or notice) of it. In addition, you will have the right to participate on your child’s PPT, which is tasked with “review[ing] existing evaluation information that the school district has about your child to determine whether there is a need for any additional data or information.” In other words, this is the group of individuals that determines whether the information they have on hand supports SPED placement, and you have the ability to directly impact that decision through your own participation.
The following is a list of those who typically comprise the PPT:
- The child’s parents
- One or more of the child’s regular education teachers (if any)
- One or more of the child’s special education teachers/providers
- A school district representative “who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities and is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and about the availability of resources of the school district”
- A member of student services, such as a guidance counselor or school psychologist
- An individual “who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results” (possible dual-role with previously listed individuals, except for the parent)
- The student him- or herself, when warranted
- “[O]ther individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding children.”
As a parent, you have the right to refuse consent of an evaluation. Informed consent means “you must be given full and complete disclosure of all relevant facts and information pertaining to your child regarding certain proposed activities by your local educational agency.” It is required in the referral process when:
(a) [Y]our child undergoes an initial evaluation to determine his or her eligibility for special education and related services, (b) before your child is placed in special education services, (c) before your child is placed in private placement, and (d) before your child is reevaulated.
Consent to an initial evaluation does not automatically extend to the additional steps listed above: rather, new consent is required before the school district may take action. However, “a parent’s failure to give consent to a reevaulation may be overridden if the school district can show that a good-faith effort was made to obtain consent and the child’s parent failed to respond.” Regardless, if you reject a proposed course of action, the school district must still provide your child with a free appropriate public education, or FAPE.
The upcoming articles will focus on the initial evaluation process, as well as the product of the PPT if the parent agrees to go forward with a SPED program and the child’s eligibility is upheld: the individualized education program, or IEP. If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
 “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.2. Accessed October 8, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf
 “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., pp.10-11.
 See Footnote 1.
 See Footnote 1.
 See Footnote 2 at 11.
 Id at 11-12, citing 34 C.F.R. § 300.300.