Please contact the special services office at 360-398-7111 or your school principal for more information on the process of qualifying students for Special Education Services.
Identification and Referral (Child Find)
The purpose of child find is to locate, evaluate and identify children with suspected disabilities in need of special education services including those who are not currently receiving special education and related services and who may be eligible for those services. Activities are to reach:
- Children residing in the school district boundaries including preschool-aged children;
- Children attending private elementary and secondary schools located within the district boundaries. Elementary or secondary schools includes public schools, nonprofit institutional day or residential schools and private schools;
- Highly mobile children (such as homeless, foster care and migrant children);
- Children who have a disability and may need special education services even though they are advancing from grade to grade; and
- Children at home or home schooled.
The district will consult with parents and representatives of private school students to ensure its child find activities are comparable in private schools located within district boundaries. These consultations will occur annually.
The district reaches students who may be eligible for special education services through:
- Information regarding child find on the district’s Web site;
- Notification to private schools located in the district’s boundaries;
- District informational mailings;
- Notifying and coordinating with the designated Part C lead agencies;
- Early childhood screenings conducted by the district;
- Coordination with other public and private agencies and practitioners;
- Written information provided to district staff on referral procedures;
- Training teachers and administrators on referral/evaluation/identification procedures; and
- Review of student behavior, discipline and absentee information and information gathered from district-wide assessment activities.
When district staff have concerns that a student may have a suspected disability which could result in eligibility for special education services, they will notify their principal and school student assistance team (SAT).
The district’s special education department conducts early childhood screenings for ages three to five. These occur weekly at the preschool.Screenings between birth to three take place at the Opportunity Council in Bellingham. When parents or others inquire about screenings; the caller will be referred to district special education department at the district office.
The screening process involves the following:
- Parents are asked to provide information to assist in assessing their child; and
- Children are screened to assess cognitive, communication, physical, social-emotional and adaptive development.
Parents will be notified at the screening of the results and the parents will also be provided written notice of the results within ten days of the screening. If the screening supports evaluation, obtain written consent for evaluation at the exit interview if possible, or include consent forms with the written notice notifying the parents of the results. If the screening results indicate that the child does not need an evaluation, written notice will be sent to the parents within 10 days of the screening explaining the basis for the district’s decision not to evaluate. Evaluation occurs in accordance with evaluation procedures.
A student whether or not enrolled in school, may be referred for a special education evaluation by parents, district staff or other persons knowledgeable about the student. Each building principal will designate a person responsible for ensuring that district staff understands the referral process. Referrals are required to be in writing unless the person referring is unable to write. A person who makes a referral orally should be asked to either make the referral in writing or go to the main office of the building for assistance in making the referral.
When a referral is made, the district must act within a 25 school-day timeline to make a decision about whether or not the student will receive an evaluation for eligibility for special education services.
All certificated employees will document referrals immediately upon a referral being made to or by them. All other staff receiving a referral from another person will notify the special education director: (a) records the referral; (b) provides written notice of the referral to the parent; and (c) advises special education officeto collect and review district data and information provided by the parent to determine whether evaluation is warranted.
During the referral period the school psychologist and special education department staff will collect and review existing information from all sources, including parents. Examples may include:
- Child’s history, including developmental milestones;
- Report cards and progress reports;
- Individual teacher’s or other provider information regarding the child including observations;
- Assessment data;
- Medical information, if provided; and
- Other information that may be relevant to assist in determining whether the child should be evaluated.
If the review of data occurs at a meeting, the parent will be invited. The special education department provides written notice to the parents of the decision regarding evaluation, whether or not the parents attend the meeting.
Recommendations regarding evaluation are forwarded to the special education department.
After staff reviews the request for evaluation and supporting data and does not suspect that the child has a disability, the district may deny the request. In this case written notice, including the reason for the denial and the information used as the basis for the denial, must be given to the parent.
If the determination is that the child should be evaluated, the reviewers will include information about the recommended areas of evaluation, including the need for further medical evaluation of the student. This information will assist the district in providing parents prior written notice and will assist the district in selecting appropriate evaluation group members. The special education department is responsible for notifying parents of the results using prior written notice. When the determination is that the child will be evaluated, parent consent for evaluation and consent for release of appropriate records will be sent with the notice.
District staff will seek parental consent to conduct the evaluation. The school district is not required to obtain consent from the biological parent if:
- The student is a ward of the state and does not reside with a parent;
- The parent cannot be located, or their rights have been terminated; or
- Consent for an evaluation is given by an individual appointed to represent the student.
When the parent provides consent, the district will select an evaluation group. The evaluation group is to complete the evaluation with 35 school days after parent consent, unless:
- The parents and district agree in writing to extending the timeline;
- The parent fails or refuses to make the student available for the evaluation; or
- The student enrolls in another school district after the evaluation is begun but before completion and the parent and new district have an agreement for completion of the evaluation.
If a parent does not provide consent, notify the special education department at the district office. District staff will make a determination as to whether it wishes to use mediation to seek agreement to evaluate or file a due process hearing to override the parent’s refusal to consent. The district may not override a parent’s refusal to consent for an evaluation if the student is homeschooled or is unilaterally placed in a private school.