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Initial Referrals to the Committee on Special Education

by Arshi Pal, Esq.

The pandemic has been a real eye opener for many parents. As we transitioned to remote learning, many parents became part time instructors to ensure that their children engaged in instruction and completed assignments. Many parents witnessed firsthand the struggles their children were having with paying attention, completing assignments, understanding concepts and communicating their needs. Of course, the pandemic created a unique learning curve for everyone. However, some parents witnessed their children had difficulty with concepts that they thought their children had mastered. Some parents noticed their children demonstrating letter reversals, poor letter formation, inconsistent pencil grasp, difficulty with phonetics and/or poor sense of number and estimation.  Others observed their children to shut down and demonstrate school anxiety. Some parents received promotion in doubt letters while others noted that their children were not making progress. In such scenarios, it may be appropriate to refer your child for special education services, to the IEP team, in New York, called the Committee on Special Education (CSE).

Step 1: The Initial Referral

The Parent should contact the local CSE chairperson or school administrator, in writing, and document the following:

  • The student’s name
  • The student’s date of birth
  • The student’s Oasis number (in New York City)
  • The student’s school
  • The nature of the problem—state the reasons for the referral
  • Any supports that were provided but did not help with the problem
  • Request evaluations (list specific assessments if applicable)
  • Include any test results or reports that may demonstrate the need for special education supports

Step 2: District Response to the Referral

Within 10 school days of receiving the request, the District must provide the Parent or Guardian with a Prior written notice to advise regarding proposed action. Also, within 10 school days, the District must seek consent from the Parent or Guardian to initiate the evaluations. The Parent should make efforts to cooperate and provide consent. If Parents do not consent to evaluations, the District will not evaluate the Student. Simultaneously, the District may hold a meeting to discuss building level supports or services available to the student. If the parent and District agree at the meeting that the student can be supported with building level supports and the agreement is reduced into writing, the Parent’s referral will be deemed withdrawn.  However, Parents should not feel pressured to withdraw the referral.

Step 3: The Evaluations

The District must complete the initial evaluation within 60 days of the receiving consent unless the deadline is extended by mutual agreement between the District and parent. The Parent must make the student available for appointments and cooperate with district. The evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools by professionals. At a minimum, the initial evaluations must include a Social History; a Classroom Observation; a Physical Examination; and a Psychoeducational Evaluation. Other types of evaluations that can be requested and conducted include: a  Speech and Language Assessment; Occupational Therapy / Physical Therapy Assessment; Vocational Assessment; Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA); Audiological Assessment; Assistive Technology Assessment; and Psychiatric Assessment. The results of the evaluations must be shared with the Parent.

Step 4: Determining Eligibility

Within 60 days of receiving consent, the CSE must convene to determine the Student’s eligibility for special education services. The District must provide notification to the Parent in writing at least five days prior to the meeting. The meeting notice should include the purpose, date, time, and location of the meeting and the name and title of those persons who will be in attendance at the meeting. For an initial eligibility meeting, the mandatory participants include: the Parent, a District Representative, Special Education Teacher, School Psychologist, General Education Teacher, and Related Service Provider (if the student is being recommended for related services.)

At the meeting, the CSE must review the results of the evaluations to determine if the student meets the criteria for one of the disability classifications and requires special education services as a result. The Disability classifications are Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Learning Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Intellectual Disability, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment including blindness. If the student meets the criteria for a disability classification but documents progress in the general education program, the CSE may find that the student is not eligible for special education services. However, if the CSE finds that the student meets the criteria for a disability classification and demonstrates the need for special education services, the CSE will create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP will document the student’s classification, present levels of performance, student’s unique needs, annual goals, program recommendations, transition goals, and testing accommodations.

Parental Disagreements

If the Parent disagrees with an evaluation, the parent can request an independent evaluation at the District’s expense. Additionally, if the Parent disagrees with the eligibility determination, the Parent can seek mediation or file an impartial hearing. The Parent can also seek mediation or file for an impartial hearing if the parent believes the IEP is inappropriate and cannot meet the student’s unique needs.

Navigating the special education process may feel overwhelming, contact our special education attorneys today for assistance in referring your child to the CSE.

For view the NYS Commissioner’s Regulations on Special Education, click here.


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