Dear Legal Chatter,
My son is failing some of his classes and is very unhappy and stressed. In January, when my son returned to school after the holiday break, I spoke with the principal of his school and asked if there was anything the school could do for my son because I suspect that he has a learning disability. The principal promised me that she would follow-up. I still haven’t heard anything from the principal. What can I do to get the principal to follow-up quickly?
A Concerned Parent
Dear Concerned Parent,
“Child Find” is a part of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) and requires public school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities. However, the reality is that you, the parent, must do everything in your power to bring your child’s disability or suspected disability to the attention of the school (and do what you can) to trigger the school’s responsibility to act.
What does this mean? This means that, if you want the school to do something,
PUT YOUR REQUEST IN WRITING.
A written request triggers the school district’s legal responsibility to act. For example, when you make a written request for your child to be evaluated because you suspect he has a disability that is interfering with his education, that written request triggers a timeline during which the school must act.
Connecticut law requires school districts to accept and process referrals from a child's parents in order to determine a child's eligibility for special education and related services. The school district must have a standard referral form for the parent(s) to use; however, you do not have to use that form.
The school district must evaluate each child who has been referred and who may need special education and related services in order to determine whether the child is eligible for special education.
Connecticut law requires that an Individual Education Plan (“IEP”) be written and implemented within 45 school days of the referral, except when the referral is made in between school years, then the 45 school day timeline begins to run on the first day of the following school year.
This means that once a public school in Connecticut has received from you a written request to evaluate your son, it must do so within 45 school days and, if necessary, write and implement an IEP. It also must involve you, the parent, in the process.
The school district also has an obligation to notify you in writing 5 school days before it proposes to, or refuses to, evaluate your child. The school district must also inform you of your legal rights. This is usually done by providing you with a copy of a document from the State of Connecticut Department of Education that outlines your “Procedural Safeguards.”
This is just the beginning of your journey.
Good Luck Concerned Parent!