Not Yet Eligible for Special Education
All school districts have a “Child Find” obligation: they are supposed to find students with disabilities who may need help. This includes private and charter schools. See the MDE OSE Guide to Child Find for information.
Evaluations are free. Contact your local school district’s Director of Special Education to find out where you should send a written request for evaluation. Remember: If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen!
You may want to request a Special Education Evaluation (in writing) if your child is:
- Having academic problems
- Doing well in some classes but failing others
- Experiencing a sudden drop in grades, or a teacher expresses concerns to you about your child’s academic progress
- Having repeated behavior or social problems that interfere with learning.
- Not able to focus or sit still
- Depressed, angry, or moody
- See the Michigan Rules for determinations of different categories of eligibility.
The Evaluation Process
- A parent or educator requests an evaluation, in writing, (see Sample Letter to Request Special Education Evaluation) because a student is having school problems like those listed above.
- Within 10 school days, the school district must give written information about the evaluation to the parent and request written signed consent from the parent. The district can’t evaluate until the parent consents.
- The school is required to evaluate the child and hold a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) meeting to decide if the student is eligible for Special Education. Parent input is important. The parent is an active member of the MET meeting and discussion. You can ask to have the MET report explained to you before the meeting.
- An Individual Educational Planning Team (IEPT) meeting must take place within 30 school days of getting the parent’s consent for evaluation.
- See MDE OSE Timeline for Initials for a brief description of the rules.
Who should be at the IEPT?
- the student, if s/he is old enough
- a parent or guardian
- at least one of the child’s teachers
- a Special Education professional or representative
- a member of the testing team, to review the results of the evaluation
- an administrator, usually the principal (or an administrative representative)
- an advocate: a friend, relative, religious advisor, professional, or anyone who will offer moral support and has the student’s best interest at heart
An IEPT meeting is student-centered and a parent should be at the meeting. If the child is found eligible for special education, a contract (the Individualized Educational Program, or IEP) providing the child with the supports and extra resources necessary for him/her to be successful should be discussed and agreed upon. The first (initial) IEP that says a student is eligible for special education must be signed by a parent before it can be started.
- A parent does not need to agree with anything a school official says at an IEPT meeting.
- A parent does not need to sign anything they do not wholly agree with.
- A parent may ask for a copy of the IEP to take home and review.
- If you withdraw your consent, your child no longer gets services.
Note: The school must make every effort to assure that the parent is told about the meeting with plenty of time to make arrangements, and that the meeting is at a mutually convenient time and place.
The IEP is a written legal document of the instruction, supports and services the district is offering to meet the child’s needs. When a parent signs the initial IEP, that means that you are accepting the offer. Therefore the school district is held responsible for providing the services and supports outlined in the IEP. Parents should be given a signed copy of the IEP and MET. Ideally, the IEP will support the child in being successful throughout their remaining years in the public school system.
Potential Snags in the IEP Process
IEP Disagreements: If the the parent and school cannot agree on the supports and services for the child, a parent can ask for mediation. Mediation is a collaborative means of resolving disputes. When parents, educators or service providers disagree over a special education or early intervention matter, they can try to find a solution together with help from a neutral third party. Mediation is a free service from the Michigan Special Education Mediation Program.
Student Not Eligible: After evaluation, if the school does not find a child eligible for Special Education services and the parent disagrees, the parent can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for more information about a specific concern. This testing is done by a qualified and impartial evaluator outside the school. See Sample Letter for Independent Educational Evaluation. The school is required by IDEA ’04 to pay for an independent evaluation. Once the IEE is complete, if the parent and school still do not agree, there are still some options:
- Ask for a due process hearing. These hearings take time and are costly. The hearing will function a lot like a court of law, and legal representation is highly recommended. If the hearing is won by the family, the school pays their attorney’s fees. Other fees (the cost of expert witnesses, for example) are not covered.
- Ask for a Section 504 Plan. Students with disabilities cannot be “excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” A 504 plan lists the accommodations needed to be able to participate in a general education classroom.