As a parent of a child who has been referred for special education services or who is already receiving special education benefits, you and your child have certain rights which are protected by state or federal law. Some of those rights include:
1) The right to examine all educational records relating to your child;
2) Confidentiality of personally identifiable information;
3) The right to request an independent educational evaluation if you disagree with a public evaluation;
4) The right to notice. This includes the right to be notified of all meetings before any changes to special education placement can be determined;
5) The right to consent. This includes the right to give consent before an initial evaluation or a re-evaluation is conducted as well as the right to give consent before initial placement can be made in special education;
6) The right to request a due process hearing or mediation;
7) The right to have a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s educational needs by Gwinnett County Public Schools;
8) The right to have your child educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate;
9) The right to a free appropriate public education.
Referral Process (Students not presently receiving special education services)
The referral process for possible special education and related services may begin after a referral has been recommended by the school Student Support Team (SST). Once a student is referred for special education from the SST, the evaluation process will begin.
Referral Process (Students new to Gwinnett County Public Schools)
When you enroll your child in a GCPS school, the parent or guardian should infom the school that he/she is a student with special needs. The school will require a copy of his/her most recent Individualized Education Program to assist in the correct initial placement. Students new to GCPS may need assessment, and as a parent you will be notified if this is to take place.
Following completion of the referral process, an evaluation will be scheduled according to the specific needs of each child. The evaluation will be a comprehensive assessment, possibly consisting of the following: administration of standardized developmental tests, classroom work samples, parent and/or teacher interviews, and observation of the child. School professionals who may take part in the evaluation include a school psychologist, a diagnostician/teacher, a social worker, a speech and language pathologist, an occupational therapist, and/or a physical therapist.
Independent Educational Evaluations
Parents of a student with a disability have the right to request an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parents disagree with an evaluation obtained by the public agency.
Although parents have a right to request an independent educational evaluation, the Gwinnett County Public Schools Department of Special Education has the right to first conduct its own evaluation. It is the procedure of the department to ask parents the reason or reasons they object to the public evaluation; however, according to the regulations, the parents are not required to state why they object.
The Department of Special Education has developed a list of approved examiners who have demonstrated that they meet the qualifications and professional standards required by Gwinnett County Public Schools for educational evaluations. While the parent is not obligated to choose an evaluator from this list, Gwinnett County Public Schools Department of Special Education reserves the right to object to any evaluator selected by the parent if that examiner, in the opinion of the Executive Director of Special Education and Psychological Services, does not meet the qualifications and professional standards established by Gwinnett County Public Schools. In performing the independent evaluation, the examiner must meet the same evaluation criteria used by our own staff in conducting evaluations.
You will be invited to participate in an eligibility meeting when your child's evaluation has been completed. The purpose of this meeting is to review and discuss assessment results and any other pertinent information, and to determine whether or not your child has a disability and is eligible for special education services. Determination of eligibility is in accordance with criteria established through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Georgia Department of Education's Rules and Regulations. If your child is found eligible for special education services, you will be invited to attend a separate meeting to develop an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) to address the needs of your child. Special education services designed to meet those needs will be determined at that time. The following is a list of areas in which your child may receive services: Autism, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Intellectual Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairments, Significant Developmental Delay, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and Language Impairments, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Visual Impairments, and Other Health Impairment.
Individualized Education Program
Following determination of eligibility, parents will be invited to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to review your child’s current level of functioning in all areas of development and to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child. The IEP committee meeting will follow specific procedures which meet federal and state guidelines.
Parents should receive adequate advance notice of this meeting. Typically, parents are contacted at least 7 days prior to the meeting by a special education teacher serving as a case manager; however, any mutually agreed upon time is appropriate.
In addition to the parents, a case manager who is a special education teacher, a regular education teacher (if your child is involved in any aspect of regular education), an administrative designee, and any other required personnel such as a speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist may be present at the IEP meeting. Parents can expect to be informed who will attend the meeting via the notification form and/or by telephone, as well as the title of each person attending. Parents may bring persons with specialized knowledge to the meeting, such as private therapists, preschool teachers, grandparents, advocates, and service coordinators to provide support or bring relevant information about their child. Parents should notify the case manager of who will be attending the meeting in order to arrange for adequate meeting space.
The child's IEP should indicate:
- The child’s present levels of academic and functional performance;
- The effect of the child’s disability on participation in developmentally appropriate activities;
- To what extent the child will participate in the general education curriculum;
- What services the child needs in order to benefit from the general curriculum;
- To what extent those services will be provided;
- What the special education program is attempting to accomplish; and
- How those accomplishments are to be measured.
Upon completion of the IEP, parents may be asked to complete a transportation form or to sign other forms which require parental consent.
Development of the IEP is an ongoing process. As such, parents and/or teachers may call for another IEP meeting during the year as necessary and appropriate if there are any significant changes which may require alterations to the IEP.
Placement is fluid. As a child makes progress, services may need to change. If, at an IEP meeting, the IEP team determines that a child is not making progress in the current setting, a change may also be recommended.
Once the IEP determines placement, the child will begin to receive special education services.
Georgia Alternate Assessment
Federal and state laws mandate that all students either a) take the statewide and district-wide tests at their grade level, or b) participate in the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA). The Georgia Alternate Assessment is required to be administered to students whose IEPs have recommended that they do not participate in the regular assessments given to all students.
Students who should participate in the GAA are those students whose IEP teams have determined that it is not reasonable for the students to participate in statewide and countywide assessments even with maximum accommodations. Only when the IEP is unable to identify any reasonable accommodations that would allow participation in the regular assessment should the student be considered for participation in the alternate assessment.
Students who are eligible to participate in the GAA are those students who:
1. Participate in an alternate, functional curriculum;
2. Are not able to participate in a group test even with maximum or nonstandard accommodations;
3. Do not need the test-taking skills of standards assessments for future use;
4. Are working toward an Individualized Education Diploma.
Extended School Year
The term "extended school year" (ESY) services refers to special education and related services that are provided to a student beyond the normal school year, in accordance with the student’s IEP and at no cost to the parents of the student. Extended school year may include a range of services offered during the summer or other days and times when school is not officially in session. Such services may include, but are not limited to, classroom instruction, home tutoring, transition, provision of related services, Saturday services, or assistance on particular skills that address specific goals targeted for ESY.
It is important to remember that ESY services are not provided to enhance a student’s education or to provide a student with the best possible educational program. Nor are ESY services to be provided as “compensatory time” to help a student who has missed some school to “catch up.” ESY services are required when determined to be necessary for a child to progress over time and to benefit from the IEP. An “appropriate” program, rather than the “best” possible program, must be made available.