Students with Exceptional Needs
Under federal and state law, each school district that accepts federal funding has a “child find” duty. This means that it is the school’s responsibility to identify all children in the school district who need exceptional (also known as “special”) student education services. This responsibility to find and support children with disabilities extends to those in private school, homeschool, institutional settings, as well as those who are temporarily homeless.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
Exceptional student education is not limited to academics and may not be withheld simply because a student’s grades are too low.
Your child may need one or more of the following services:
- Educational evaluations
- Behavior support
- Speech/Language therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Specialized Transportation
- Assistive Technology
- Vocational Training
- Special services and accommodations
- Pre-kindergarten services
As a parent, you have the right to request an evaluation if:
- You have reason to believe your child has a disability;
- You have expressed concern to school employees about your child’s performance at school.
- Your child has a pattern of suspensions or an expulsion;
- Your child has been held back a grade, or if the school is considering holding them back;
- Your child has had multiple interventions at school and does not seem to be making progress;
- Your child has a diagnosis from a physician that may impact their education;
- Your child has poor grades or a recent decline in grades;
- Your child has truancy issues;
- Your child has behavior issues at school; and
- Your child has social problems with other peers or staff members.
Once the evaluation is complete, you have the right to be part of the decision-making process. Generally, you have the right to share input and concerns about the evaluation and bring letters or outside evaluations from physicians to be considered as part of the evaluation process. Districts must obtain signed parental consent for the evaluations and when your child begins special education services.
If you disagree with an evaluation, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation. This can be a difficult process. If you feel you are at this point, you should contact the Children’s Rights Unit at Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida at (386) 361-5254.
You have the right to have an attorney, or any other person with knowledge of the child, attend your meetings with the school.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Disagreements with a school can often be worked out easily, but sometimes you will need an experienced advocate to work with you. If you believe your child has not been identified as a student with a disability or is not receiving appropriate educational support and services, you should contact a qualified attorney who is familiar with education law. CLSMF advises parents and children about their legal rights concerning education. We will assist you in obtaining needed educational services and testing. We will mediate disagreements, and, if necessary, we will litigate the issues in court on your behalf.
Make sure all communication with the school district is in writing, preferably by email.
If you have a meeting with your child’s teacher or school administrators about your child’s specific needs, do your best to document that meeting in writing after it is over so that your requests are documented and cannot later be denied as having happened.
Save any letters or emails that you receive from the school district.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?
Have you alerted someone at the school that you believe your child may need exceptional student education services?
Have you put your concerns in writing?
If you have concerns regarding eligibility for special education services, contact us at 386-361-5254.