If the child is struggling at all — in school work (academics), making friends, teachers complaining about behavior, almost anything that concerns you or the teachers — the school should be notifying you and suggesting to meet to evaluate the child for a 504 plan (accommodations) or an IEP (special education).
But if the school has not contacted you, then you should contact the school. Do not hesitate because early intervention is key to addressing issues and leads to some of the best outcomes. Otherwise, your child’s difficulties increase, the gap in learning widens, and your child has not learned strategies to help him or her learn.
Emails are the best record of your communications. Even if you write a letter, attach the letter to the email and also cut and paste from the letter into an email.
Remember, if it is not in writing, (the school can say) it was never said! Who do you write to and what do you say? Email at least two, preferably three people so that your email doesn’t get “lost” (deleted or ignored or hanging out in one person’s spam).
Send to the main teacher and the school principal (headmaster if a charter school), and the special education coordinator for the school — you can find the person on the school’s website along with the email. For schools the don’t list emails, call the school for the emails.
On the subject line, write your child’s name and “concerns, request for evaluation.” In the email, say who you are in relation to your child, your child’s name and the reason you are writing is that you have “some concerns that include…” List them, and say there are other concerns, too.
Then ask for a meeting to evaluate your child for special education. The school then has 15 school days to either hold the meeting or send you a Prior Written Notice (“PWN”) that it refuses to meet.
If the school refuses to evaluate your child, keep a log of any increasing concerns and reach out to the school again when you have collected your own “data” — that is, the facts you have of increasing struggles, including emails from teachers about problems at school (not finishing work, not doing work, distractions, behaviors, etc.), report cards, standardized test scores, and also ask to see the “45 day screening report.”
Sometimes a school will say it is using or will use RTI, that is, Response to Intervention. That is when a child is not learning at the same rate, but a school cannot use RTI to delay the evaluation.
Regardless of the response to your request for an evaluation, the school must send you a PWN. Read it, and if inaccurate, email all the same people who you wrote to in the first place to ask that the inaccuracies be corrected.
Editor’s note: Hope Kirsch is a special education attorney with the firm Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC.