Special Education Overview

What is Special Education?

Special education is defined in the California Education Code (Section 56031) as "specifically designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and other settings, and instruction in physical education." Special education ensures students receive a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which is outlined in the student's Individual Education Plan (IEP). Special Education ensures all students receive instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE is defined as the education of students with disabilities with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. Once a student qualifies for Special Education services, an IEP is developed by the IEP team.

Special Education Eligibility

  • Students may qualify for special education services as an individual with special needs in one of thirteen areas identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These areas are: 
      * Autism
  •   * Deaf-blindness
  •   * Deafness 
  •   * Emotional disturbances
  •   * Hearing impairment
  •   * Intellectual disabilities
  •   * Multiple disabilities
  •   * Orthopedic impairment
  •   * Other health impairment
  •   * Specific learning disability
  •   * Speech or language impairment
  •   * Traumatic brain injury
  •   * Visual impairment, including blindness

According to the IDEA, the disability must affect the student's educational performance. Eligibility is based upon whether a student is identified, through assessment, as having one or more of the 13 disabilities above and whether that disability affects how the student performs in school. Specifically, the disability must cause the student to need special education and related services.

Child Find

Child Find is a component of the Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that requires all school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate all students with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities.

Referral Process

If a parent/guardian believes their child is experiencing learning difficulties, they should first discuss their concerns with their child's classroom teacher. As part of the school's Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), there are interventions for reading and math difficulties that can be provided through the general education curriculum. Following a series of interventions, if a child continues to demonstrate learning difficulties they will be referred to the Student Study Team (SST), a regular education function. Through the problem-solving process utilized by the SST, a student may be referred for assessment to determine whether the student exhibits a disability. A parent, teacher, or administrator may refer a child who is suspected of having a disability to the Student Study Team. 

Assessment Process

An assessment plan is a description of the assessments that will be used to explore a student's strengths and needs in the area(s) related to a suspected disability. After the parent receives a copy of the Procedural Safeguards and provides written consent to assess the child, the appropriate specialists conduct the assessment with parent input. No single procedure can be used as the sole criterion for determining an appropriate educational program. The school must complete the assessment and conduct an initial IEP meeting within 60 days of receiving parent consent. An exception is made for school breaks in excess of 5 school days. 

Individual Education Plan (IEP)

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed for each student identified through the assessment process as having a disability and eligible for special education services. The IEP is a written document that is developed, reviewed, and revised to meet the educational needs of the student. 

IEPs are reviewed and updated annually. However, a parent, teacher, or administrator may request a review in writing at any time. Requests may be submitted to the student's case carrier who manages the implementation of the student's IEP or directly to the office of the North State Charter JPA. The IEP meeting, by law, must be held within 30 days from the time the written request is received.

The IEP will remain in place as long as the IEP team, including the parents, agree that special education services are needed. This will be based on ongoing evaluation of the student's need for special education. If a student transfers from their current school, the student's IEP will be valid and honored by the new school district. The student will be placed in a comparable program in the new school for a period of 30 days. During that time, an IEP review should take place at the new school.

Related Services

Related services are services such as transportation and developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. The following are included within the definition of related services:
  * Speech-language services
  * Audiology services
  * Interpreting services
  * Psychological and counseling services
  * Physical and occupational therapy
  * Orientation and mobility services
  * School health services
  * Social work services
  * Transportation

Programs and Services

The appropriate services and programs will be based upon a student's individual special education needs, which are based on the assessment of all areas of suspected disability. The planning of a student's program and service is done by the IEP team. The parent is an important member of this team. 

Parent/Guardian Concerns Regarding the IEP

If a parent/guardian has a concern with any portion of their child's IEP, the parent should first discuss the concern with their child's special education case carrier and/or any other school personnel who are familiar with their child's IEP and who may be able to address their concerns. A parent/guardian may request that the IEP team meet to review the IEP. 

A parent may give consent to those parts of the IEP with which they agree and they will be implemented, thus not causing a delay in services. The parent/guardian will be asked to specify the areas and services with which they disagree. Administration will work with the parent/guardian to resolve the disagreement. 


Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The law requires that a student be placed in the least restrictive environment possible to effectively address his or her needs. The intent is to have students with special needs as much a part of the regular school program as possible, while giving consideration to the needs of the exceptional and typically developing children participating in the program.