Your school district has an obligation to “identify, locate and evaluate” all children with disabilities who may be eligible for special education, including those who are attending private schools or are homeless or wards of the court. [34 Code of Federal Regulations [C.F.R.] Sec. 300.111; California Education Code (Cal. Ed. Code) Secs. 56300-56302.] This is called “Child Find.” If the district has a reason to suspect that your child may have a disability, it has its own duty to conduct a full evaluation to determine her eligibility. The threshold for suspecting a disability is relatively low. The district must assess a student based on a suspicion of disability and consequent need for services, not whether a student actually qualifies for special education services. [Student v. Berkeley Unified School District (2014) 114 IDELR 17833.]
You can also make a referral for assessment at any time. Send a written, dated referral to your local school administrator (for example, the principal or special education program consultant); outline your areas of concern about your child’s suspected disability and request an “evaluation” or “assessment.” Follow up with a phone call to ensure the school district is aware of your referral and to remind them of the timeline they must follow.
Once the school district receives your written referral for assessment, the assessment process must begin. A referral is defined as any written request for assessment by a parent, guardian, foster parent, teacher, or other service provider [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56029.] Under California regulations, all written referrals shall initiate the assessment process. [5 Cal. Code of Regulations (C.C.R.) Sec. 3021.] If you call or speak to school staff to make a referral, the school district must offer to put your request in writing. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56029 and 5 C.C.R. Sec. 3021.]
See Sample Letter – Request for Assessment, Appendices Section – Appendix A.
If the district refuses to assess your child following your written request for assessment, you have the right to challenge that refusal by filing a compliance complaint with the California Department of Education’s (CDE’s) Complaint Management and Mediation Unit or you can request a Due Process Hearing. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints.