As parents of a child with a disability or a suspected disability, you may have many questions or concerns about the supports and services available to your child at school. You may find yourself without a clear understanding of where to go, or to whom you can speak to for assistance.
This document addresses and provides answers to frequently asked questions including identifying the communication chain of command for this process to further assist you. It is always helpful to begin with your child’s teacher, guidance counselor, and/or case manager, and if further assistance is needed to include the building principal and/or the school district’s supervisor of special services.
Department of Special Education Parents: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
My child continues to struggle in the general education classroom despite the teacher’s efforts. Where can I request additional help?
In each school building in which general education students are served, there are Intervention and Referral Service (I&RS) committees that are designed to assist students who are experiencing learning, behavior or health difficulties and to assist staff who have questions regarding addressing students’ learning, behavior or health needs. Staff members, parents or concerned community members are encouraged to request formal assistance from the I&RS committee. Requests by parents can be made to the teacher and/or the building principal to initiate the process. The I&RS committee provides an appropriate multidisciplinary team approach for planning and delivering the intervention and referral services.
I would like my child to be evaluated for special education services, where would I make this request?
As a parent or guardian, 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 (IDEA), gives you that legal right. When it is suspected 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 should request an evaluation in writing, with copies to the building principal and the School District’s director or supervisor of special services. Per the New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14, once the request is made, the Child Study Team (CST) is required to convene an initial identification meeting within 20 calendar days. After a review of the data provided, the CST will consider whether to proceed with evaluations.
I consented to special education evaluations over a month ago and I am unsure as to where I am in the process. Who do I contact?
A case manager is assigned to each child who is in the process of being evaluated. The case manager’s name will be listed on the documents you receive. Once it is determined that assessments are necessary, an initial evaluation plan is developed. The District has ninety (90) days to complete the necessary evaluations, determine eligibility, and if eligible, hold a meeting to develop the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
My child has been found eligible for special education services, however I do not agree with the classification or the services recommended in the initial or first IEP. With whom can I speak?
The school can only provide your child with special education and related services if you agree. If you do not agree, the School District may not implement the initial IEP. It is recommended that you discuss your concerns with your case manager and IEP team. However, you may also request mediation or a due process hearing to resolve the dispute with the classification or the services recommended in the IEP. To request mediation or a due process hearing, you must put your request in writing and send it to the Department of Education and the Superintendent of Schools.
I don’t agree with my child being classified, however I am aware of the availability of a Section 504 plan. Where do I go to get one for my child?
Section 504 is a civil rights law. Section 504 protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination and ensures that children with disabilities have equal access to an education. If a child has a disability that does not adversely affect educational performance, that child is not generally eligible for special education services under IDEA. However, the student may be entitled to protections under Section 504. (e.g. Chronic Asthma, Sickle Cell, etc.), if the disability substantially limits one or more major life activity.
If you have questions about Section 504, your building administrator is available to answer any questions as well as District’s director or supervisor of specialized programs.
Who can I contact if I have a question about my child’s IEP and its implementation?
Following an IEP is the law. First you may want to start by talking to your child’s teacher. If your meeting with the teacher is unsuccessful, your next step is to request a meeting with the case manager/IEP team and to notify the building administrator. If your meeting with the IEP team is unsuccessful or the case manager is unresponsive, you can contact the District’s special education administrator at (201) 833-5490 for further assistance.
Who can I contact for assistance if my my child has an IEP and is having disciplinary issues, including suspensions?
You should contact your case manager. It is important to know that students with IEPs and 504 plans have extra protections in cases of school discipline. That’s true whether or not the IEP or 504 plan covers behavior issues. The general rule is a student with an IEP or a 504 plan can’t be suspended for more than 10 days in a school year without a manifestation determination meeting to decide if the behavior was related to the student’s disability. Your case manager must be advised by the building administration of each suspension. Consecutive or multiple suspensions which exhibit a pattern of behavior and exceed 10 school days, will require the scheduling of a manifestation determination meeting to discuss the nature of the suspensions. If the behavior is found to be related to the student’s disability, then the school is required to address the behavior and develop a plan for improvement through the IEP process.
What can parents do if they think a child has been misidentified as a classified/special education student?
The law protects children from being misidentified as special education students by requiring schools to use procedures that safeguard against misclassifying disabled students. It is useful that you are aware of the IDEA’s protections for parents and children.
You have the right to disagree with the school’s decisions concerning your child. In all cases where the family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to first discuss their concerns and try to reach consensus. If you still cannot agree with the school, you have the option of requesting to speak with the District’s director or supervisor of special services by calling (201) 833-5490. The law and its regulations include ways for parents and schools to resolve disagreements. You also have the right to refuse consent for initial provision of special education and related services, or to revoke all special education and related services for your child.
Can the school hold an IEP meeting without my participation as a parent?
All parents are an important and integral part of the IEP process and are encouraged to attend all meetings. However, the IDEA’s regulations allow the Child Study Team to hold the IEP meeting without you if they have tried repeatedly to contact you to attend a meeting. The school may use other methods to encourage your participation, including, individual conferences, or conference telephone calls. If, however, you still cannot attend or participate in the IEP meeting, the school may hold the IEP meeting without you. If the school does hold the meeting without you, it must keep you informed, via written notice, about the meeting and any decisions made at this meeting. The school must also ask for (and receive) your written permission before special education and related services may be provided to your child for the first time.
What if I disagree with the school about what is right for my child? What do I do?
You have the right to disagree with the school’s decisions concerning your child. In all cases where the family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to first discuss their concerns and try to reach consensus. If you still cannot agree with the school, you have the option of requesting to speak with the District’s director or supervisor of special services by calling (201) 833-5490. It’s also useful that you are aware of the IDEA’s protections for parents and children. The law and its regulations include ways for parents and schools to resolve disagreements. You also have the right to refuse consent for initial provision of special education and related services, or to revoke all special education and related services for your child.
How do I know that special education services are working for my child?
You will receive quarterly progress reports toward the IEP goals and objectives and report cards. In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the school to test and measure the yearly performance of students who are receiving special education and related services. Based on this progress, a student’s program is modified to address current needs. Students who are receiving special education and related services are also reevaluated every three years, or sooner if needed, to determine continued eligibility for special education and related services.