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Special Education Evaluation/Eligibility
A school has a duty to make a referral for an initial evaluation for special education services any time it suspects that a child has a disability and a need for special education services under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You may also initiate a referral for an initial evaluation of your child at any time.
If a parent makes a written request for an initial evaluation for special education services to the director of special education services or an administrative employee of the school district or open enrollment charter school, the district or charter school must respond no later than 15 school days after receiving the request. At that time, the district or charter school must give the parent a prior written notice of whether it agrees to or refuses to evaluate the student, along with a copy of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards. If the school district or charter school agrees to evaluate the student, it must also give the parent the opportunity to give written consent for the evaluation.
Please note that a request for a special education evaluation may be made verbally and does not need to be in writing. Districts and charter schools must still comply with all federal prior written notice and procedural safeguard requirements and the requirements for identifying, locating, and evaluating children who are suspected of being a child with a disability and in need of special education. However, a verbal request does not require the district or charter school to respond within the 15-school-day timeline.
The initial evaluation and the resulting report must be completed no later than 45 school days from the day the school receives your written consent, except that if your child has been absent from school during the evaluation period on three or more school days, the evaluation period must be extended by a number of school days equal to the number of school days that your child has been absent. The school must give you a copy of the evaluation report at no cost.
If your child is under five years of age by September 1 of the school year and not enrolled in public school, or is enrolled in a private or home school setting regardless of age, the initial evaluation and the resulting report must be completed no later than 45 school days from the day the school receives your written consent.
There is an exception to the 45 school day timeline if the school receives your consent for the initial evaluation at least 35 but less than 45 school days before the last instructional day of the school year. In this case, the written report must be completed and provided to you by June 30 of that year. However, if your child is absent from school on three or more days during the evaluation period, the June 30th due date no longer applies. Instead, the general timeline of 45 school days plus extensions for absences of three or more days will apply.
If you do not consent to the initial evaluation, the school may, but is not required to, pursue the evaluation by asking for mediation or requesting a due process hearing. If the school decides not to pursue the evaluation, the school does not violate the requirement under IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. This requirement is referred to as the child find duty. After the initial evaluation report is completed, an ARD committee must be formed to review the report and determine whether your child is eligible for special education and related services.
There is a two-part test for determining whether your child is eligible for special education and related services: (1) your child must have a disability; and (2) as a result of the disability, your child must need special education and related services to benefit from education. To meet the first part of the two-part test for eligibility, a child between the ages of 3 through 21, except as noted, must meet the criteria for one or more of the disability categories listed below:
• Auditory Impairment (from birth);
• Deaf-Blindness (from birth);
• Emotional Disturbance;
• Intellectual Disability;
• Multiple Disabilities;
• Noncategorical Early Childhood (ages three through five);
• Orthopedic Impairment;
• Other Health Impairment;
• Specific Learning Disability;
• Speech or Language Impairment;
• Traumatic Brain Injury; or
• Visual Impairment (including blindness from birth).
The ARD committee must make the eligibility determination within 30 calendar days from the date of completion of the initial evaluation report. If the 30th day falls during the summer and school is not in session, the ARD committee has until the first day of classes in the fall to finalize decisions concerning the initial eligibility determination, the IEP, and placement; unless the initial evaluation indicates that the child will need extended school year (ESY) services during that summer.
If, however, the school received your consent for an initial evaluation at least 35 but less than 45 school days before the last instructional day of the school year and your child was not absent three or more days between the time you provided consent and the last instructional day (i.e., the conditions are met for receiving the evaluation report by June 30th), the ARD committee must meet not later than the 15th school day of the next school year to consider the evaluation report, unless the evaluation indicates that your child will need ESY services during that summer. If the evaluation indicates that your child needs summer ESY services, the ARD committee must meet as expeditiously as possible to consider the child’s evaluation.
Not all struggling learners are eligible for special education services. If your child’s problems are primarily from a lack of appropriate instruction in reading or math or due to the fact that your child has limited English proficiency, your child is not eligible for special education services. If the evaluation reflects that your child does not have a disability, the campus based support team may meet and recommend other services or programs in general education to help your child.
If the evaluation shows that your child has a disability, the ARD committee must then address the second part of the two-part eligibility test by deciding whether your child has a need for specially designed instruction for special education and related services to benefit from education. If your child does not have an educational need for special education services, he or she is not eligible for any such services.
If you have additional questions regarding the special education referral and evaluation process you may contact SSISD Special Programs at 903-885-6230.
The mission of the Sulphur Springs Independent School District is to provide students with the skills that will prepare them to adapt and excel in a fast-changing world, enabling them to lead productive lives. The district shares with parents and the community the responsibility of promoting high standards and expectations as we provide opportunities for all students within our diverse community to attain personal growth and to become lifelong learners.
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