Skip to main content

Special Education FAQs

The following information was taken directly from the Virginia Department of Education's Parent’s Guide to Special Education (2010).

Special Education FAQ

  1. You (parent), a teacher, another person, or the school-based team (referring source) may request an evaluation at any time by writing or by speaking to the special education administrator. Although you are not required to put your request in writing, a written request documents your referral and starts the timeline. The referring source must explain the reasons that an evaluation is requested and any efforts that have been made to address the concerns. (page 12)

  2. When the referral is received, the special education administrator must:

    • record the date, reason for referral, and name of the person or agency making the referral;
    • ensure confidentiality; and
    • provide you with prior written notice and a procedural safeguards notice.

    Within three business days, the special education administrator must decide whether to evaluate your child, request a review by the school-based team, or to deny the request.

    If the special education administrator refers the evaluation request to the school-based team, within 10 business days of its receipt of the referral, the team must decide whether to evaluate. The referral to the school-based team, however, does not increase the number of days for conducting an evaluation; rather, the team’s work is part of the time period set by law of 65 business days from the date the special education administrator receives the referral to the date of the eligibility decision. (page 12)

  3. Schools must conduct Child Find. That is, schools must locate, identify, and evaluate those children in Virginia, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, who need special education and related services, including children who are:

    • enrolled in public (including charter), private, or religious elementary or secondary schools;
    • highly mobile, such as migrant and homeless children;
    • receiving homebound or home-based instruction from the school;
    • receiving home tutoring, or home instruction (“home-schooling”);
    • advancing from grade to grade;
    • under 18 and incarcerated in a regional or local jail for 10 or more days or under house arrest;
    • suspended or expelled;
    • in foster care; or
    • placed in a private residential placement by a Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) team. For more information on the CSA, refer to the Web site at  (page 9)
  4. You (Parents) must be provided an opportunity to participate in meetings concerning your child’s special education identification, evaluation, and educational placement and the provision of FAPE to him or her. Therefore, the school must provide notice of a meeting early enough to ensure that you have an opportunity to participate. Examples of these meetings include eligibility determinations and IEP meetings. The school also must ensure that you understand what is discussed at the meetings about your child's placement, including providing an interpreter for you if you are deaf or do not speak English. (page 39)

  5. If the decision is to evaluate, the special education administrator must:

    • give you all notices of the evaluation process, give you a copy of the procedural safeguards, inform you of the procedures for the evaluation process, involve you in deciding what evaluation information is needed, and request any evaluation information that you may have;
    • include you as a member of the team reviewing evaluation data and deciding whether more information is needed;
    • get your written consent to conduct an evaluation; and
    • ensure that all evaluations are completed and that a decision about eligibility for special education is made within 65 business days after the referral for evaluation is received by the special education administrator. This timeline does not apply if:
    • you repeatedly fail or refuse to make your child available to be evaluated; or
    • your child transfers to a new school division during the evaluation process. This exception only applies if the new school division is making sufficient progress to complete the evaluation process and you and the new school division agree to a specific date when the evaluation process will be completed. (pages 12 &13)
  6. The school must provide you notice that explains in writing:

    • the school’s proposal or refusal to act; and
    • your rights.

    You must receive this notice before the school implements whatever it proposes or refuses to do.

    The school must give this notice on matters involving the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child or the provision of FAPE to your child. (page 37)

  7. Another type of notice is the procedural safeguards notice, which provides an explanation of your legal rights.

    A copy of the procedural safeguards notice must be given only one time a school year, except that a copy must be provided to you at the following times:

    • if you request a copy;
    • at your child's initial referral or your request for an evaluation;
    • the school's receipt of the first request for a due process hearing in a school year;
    • the school's receipt of the first state complaint in a school year; and
    • if a decision is made to change your child's placement through a disciplinary removal because your child violated the school's code of student conduct.

    The school division may post a copy of this notice to its Web site; however, the school division still must provide you a copy of the procedural safeguards notice, as required. (page 38)

  8. Eligibility for special education and related services must be determined within 65 business days after the special education administrator receives the referral for evaluation, unless the parent and the eligibility group agree in writing to extend the 65 business day timeline to obtain additional data that cannot be obtained during the initial 65 business days. (page 21)

    When your child is first found eligible, a meeting must be held within 30 calendar days to develop an individualized education program (IEP). (page 24)

  9. The following provisions are required by law to ensure the quality of the information collected:

    • Tests and other evaluation materials must be provided and administered in your child’s native language and in the form most likely to provide accurate information about what your child knows and can do academically, developmentally, or functionally, unless it is not feasible.
    • If your child has limited English proficiency (or uses a language other than English), materials and procedures used in the testing must be selected and administered to ensure that they measure the extent to which your child has a disability and needs special education, rather than measuring his or her English language skills.
    • A variety of tests or strategies must be used to gather information about your child, including functional, academic, and developmental information about your child.
    • Any standardized tests must be validated for the specific purpose for which they are used. They also must be administered by trained personnel according to the instructions provided by the producer of the tests.
    • If a test is not conducted under standard conditions, a description of the extent to which it varied from standard conditions must be included in the evaluation report. Any nonstandardized test administered by qualified personnel may be used by the group.
    • Tests must measure specific areas of educational need and not merely those that provide your child’s intelligence score.
    • Tests must take into consideration any impaired sensory (for example, vision or hearing), motor, or communication skills so that these impairments do not negatively affect the test results.
    • The evaluation must be broad enough to identify all of your child’s special education needs and related services even if those needs are not commonly linked to the suspected disability.
    • The tests and other evaluation materials must provide information that will assist the group in determining your child's educational needs.
    • The tests must determine the impact of cognitive, behavioral, physical, and developmental factors. No single test may be used by itself to determine if your child has a disability, or to determine your child's educational program. (page 15)
  10. FAPE means special education and related services that:

    • are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
    • meet the standards of the Virginia Board of Education;
    • include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, middle school, or secondary school education in the state; and
    • are provided in keeping with an individualized education program (IEP).
  11. LRE means that children with disabilities are educated with children without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.  Your child must not be placed in special classes or separate schools unless education in general education classes with aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.   Similarly, your child must be able to participate with children without disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate, in nonacademic activities such as meals and recess, or other extracurricular activities. If the IEP team determines that your child needs aids and services to help him or her to participate in these activities, the school must make those available.

    In selecting the LRE, consideration is given to any potential harmful effect on your child or on the quality of the services that he or she needs. Your child may not be removed from education in age- appropriate general classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum. (pages 32 & 33)

  12. If you disagree with a test given during your child’s evaluation process, you have the right to have an independent educational evaluation (IEE) conducted by a qualified person who does not work for the school. You may request one IEE for each test given to your child during the current evaluation process. The school may ask, but not require, you to explain your objection to the school’s evaluation of your child.

    Upon your request for an IEE, the school division must provide you with information about available sources for obtaining an independent evaluation and about the school’s requirements for that evaluation. The IEE must be obtained under the same requirements, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, as the school uses for its evaluations. The school may not require additional conditions or timelines, nor may it unnecessarily delay providing for an IEE.

    You also may request that the school pay the cost of the IEE. However, the school may ask for a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. If the hearing officer decides that the school’s evaluation is appropriate, then you still have the right to an IEE, but the school does not have to pay for it.

    In addition, the results of the IEE, and any evaluations you obtain at private expense that are shared with the school division, will be considered in any decision about your child’s special education and may be presented as evidence at a due process hearing by you or the school division. (page 18)

    • autism;
    • deafness;
    • deaf-blindness;
    • developmental delay (if your school division allows the use of this category);
    • emotional disability;
    • hearing impairment, including deafness;
    • intellectual disability;
    • multiple disabilities;
    • orthopedic impairment;
    • other health impairment;
    • specific learning disability;
    • speech or language impairment;
    • traumatic brain injury; or
    • visual impairment, including blindness. (page 19)
  13. Once the evaluations are completed, a decision is made to determine whether your child is or continues to be a child with a disability and in need of special education and related services. The group that makes this decision may be the IEP team or an eligibility group and must include:

    • you;
    • the special education administrator;
    • school personnel from disciplines providing the assessments;
    • a special education teacher;
    • your child’s general education teacher (or, if your child does not have a general education teacher, a general education teacher qualified to teach a child of your child's age); and
    • a person qualified to conduct diagnostic examinations of children, such as a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, or teacher of remedial reading.

    The eligibility group must be qualified to:

    • conduct appropriate individual diagnostic assessments for children;
    • interpret and analyze the information from the assessments; and
    • develop educational and transitional recommendations.  (pages 18 & 19)
  14. If your child is found eligible for special education, the group must forward a summary statement to the IEP team. From this point, no changes can be made to your child’s eligibility without consent from you. (page 21)

    When your child is first found eligible, a meeting must be held within 30 calendar days to develop an individualized education program (IEP). (page 24)