Making a Referral for Special Education
Each school district has a duty to locate students residing within the district who might be in need of special education. This responsibility is called "child find." In order to meet its "child find" obligations, your district will have procedures in place to locate, identify, and evaluate students between the ages of 3 and 21 who are suspected of having a disability and may be eligible for special education and related services.
If at any time you believe your student may need special education, you should contact someone at your student's school and/or at your school district central office to request that your student be evaluated for special education. Download an optional sample form to assist you in submitting a request for an evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who can make a referral for special education?
Parents, school personnel, school district staff, or other persons with knowledge about a student may make a referral requesting that the student be evaluated to determine eligibility for special education.
- Does the request need to be in writing?
Yes. A request for an evaluation to determine if a student qualifies to receive special education services must be made in writing. An email may be used as a written request.
- What information should be in the written request?
When requesting to have your student evaluated, be sure to include why you think your student may need special education services and all of the areas of suspected disability. If you think, for example, that your student has difficulty in reading and also has emotional or behavioral struggles that need to be addressed, then ask for both areas to be evaluated. It is also helpful to provide examples of the types of situations that appear challenging to your student. If you have them, provide any documents which indicate that your student may have a specific condition or impairment, such as letters from doctors or mental health providers.
- Who do I submit the referral to?
Send your written referral both to a school staff member involved in special education (e.g., principal, school psychologist or special education teacher) and to your school district's special education director at the administrative office. Keep a copy of your written request(s) for your files.
- What happens after I submit my referral?
Your written referral puts into motion a series of timelines the school district must meet in response to your request. The district must acknowledge and/or notify you of the referral and make a decision within 25 school days as to whether or not it will evaluate your student.
- Is the school district required to have a referral meeting?
A meeting to discuss the referral is not required. If, however, a meeting is scheduled by the district to take place, then you must be invited to attend a meeting to discuss the referral.
- How will the district make a decision about evaluating my student?
The referral process includes a review of existing data about your student. Existing data includes, but is not limited to, any information you have provided, any medical information available, and any information about your student's performance at school or in other settings (such as preschool, private school, at home, and other settings). Based on all of this information, the district must make a decision within 25 school days as to whether or not it will evaluate the student.
- What happens if a school district decides not to evaluate my student?
If a school district decides the information in the referral does not support the need for an evaluation, it must provide you with a Prior Written Notice letter of its decision not to evaluate. The Prior Written Notice must include the reasons why the district does not believe your student needs to be evaluated. You have the option of challenging the district's decision using one of the dispute resolution options available under special education law and/or inquiring about eligibility under Section 504.