Your youngest child is struggling in school. You’ve discussed your concerns with his teacher, but he doesn’t seem to be getting enough support. You wish that you had more information about what his needs are and how he could be successful in school.
There is an important federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). In general, under the IDEA school districts must take action to identify and evaluate students who are suspected of having a disability and being in need of special education. This legal obligation is known as “Child Find”.
Here are some key things to know about Child Find:
- There are many factors that might trigger the Child Find duty – such as poor grades or behavior problems, or information about a child’s medical diagnosis.
- Although school districts should meet their legal obligations under Child Find, parents do not have to wait for the school district to take action.
- In general, parents have the right to request that their child be evaluated by the school district to determine if they are eligible for special education. It is a very good idea to make this request in writing and to keep proof of when it was received by the school district.
- This evaluation is free to parents. It should be comprehensive and address all areas of suspected disability – such as physical health, communication, learning challenges, and emotional issues. The evaluation will hopefully provide very useful information about the student and what their needs are in school.
- If the child is eligible, this evaluation will likely be used to develop an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”).
- If the school district refuses to perform this evaluation, they should give the parent written notice of the refusal. There are steps that parents can take to resolve this dispute.
If you have additional questions about this program, talking to a dedicated attorney can be a good first step.