Special Ed Referrals

 Federal law requires the NYC DOE to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities and those suspected of having a disability who reside in New York City. This obligation, known as “child find,” is an obligation that extends to all professional staff members.

Who may initiate an evaluation?

Beginning on July 1, 2012, school districts must have a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework in place as part of the process to determine if a student in grades K–4 has a learning disability in the area of reading.  Notwithstanding this requirement, the use of RtI strategies cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation requested by a parent to determine if his or her child has a disability. 

Governing laws and regulations:

  • Federal Law: 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3) (Child Find); 20 U.S.C. §1414(a) (Referral)
  • Federal Regulations: 34 C.F.R § 300.111(Child Find); 34 C.F.R § 300.301(b) (Referral)
  • State Regulations: 8 NYCRR § 200.2(a) (Child Find); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(a) (Referral)
  • State Regulations:  8 NYCRR § 200.4(j) (Additional procedures for identifying students with learning disabilities)

Federal and state guidance:

Use the UFT Special Education Complaint Form to notify the UFT of a violation.

Requests for Referral from Professional Staff Members (if suspected disability is not learning disability in reading grades K-5)

A professional member of the school staff who suspects that a student may have a disability may make a written request to refer the student for evaluation. The request is submitted to the principal on the Request for Initial Referral Form.

Professional staff members must explain the reasons for requesting the referral and include any test results, records or reports upon which the referral is based; describe the intervention services, programs or instructional methodologies used to remediate the student’s performance prior to the request for referral, including any supplementary aids or support services provided or the reasons why no such attempts were made, and describe the extent of parental contact or involvement prior to the referral request.

It is important to provide all of the information requested on the Request for Referral Form. Requests for referrals that do not include all of the required information will be considered incomplete and returned.

Within 10 school days of filing a Request for Initial Referral with the principal, the principal must do one of two things:

  1. If the principal agrees with the Request for Referral, the principal initiates the process for obtaining parental consent to evaluate the child and the Notice of Referral: Initial is sent to the parent OR
  2. If the principal does not agree with the Request for Referral, the principal must give the parent a copy of the Request for Initial Referral; inform the parent of his/her right to refer the student; and offer the parent the opportunity to discuss the request to refer the student, and, as appropriate the availability of appropriate general education support services, with the principal and the professional staff member who requested the referral. This process is explained in the Notice of Request for Initial Referral, which must be sent to the parent within the above 10-day timeframe.

Source: NYC DOE Standard Operating Procedures Manual p. 25-26

Requests for Referral from Professional Staff Members (if suspected disability is learning disability in reading grades K-5)

A professional school staff member’s decision to request an initial referral for a special education evaluation for a student in grades K through 5 suspected of having a learning disability in reading should be based on the student’s response to intensive intervention at Tier 3.  Evidence of sufficient attempts at intensive intervention at Tier 3 of the school’s RtI model must be documented in SESIS.  Professional staff are also required to document communication with parents including the date parents were notified in writing that their child would begin to receive Tier 2 services and the date they were notified of their child’s movement to Tier 3.


Initial Referrals by Parents

Parents may refer their child for evaluation by:

  1. Writing directly to the Committee on Special Education Office or
  2. Making a written request to the principal, the building administrator or a professional member of the school staff.

When a professional school staff member receives a referral, he/she should record the date, initial it and transmit it within 24 hours to the CSE chairperson. If the parent makes an oral request for evaluation to a professional staff member, the staff member must help the parent make a written request.

Federal and State Guidance

Alternatives to Special Education (Post-Referral Services)

Once a student has been referred, the principal may ask for a meeting with the parent and student, if appropriate, to discuss whether the student could benefit from alternatives to special education which are available in the building but have not yet been attempted. It is the principal’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. The meeting must take place within 10 days of the principal’s receipt of the referral.
  2. If a professional staff member requested the referral, the staff member must attend the meeting.
  3. If the parent and the administration meet and agree on a plan, a written agreement is developed describing the additional general education support services that will be provided, the instructional strategies that will be used, the data that will be collected regarding the student’s progress, and the proposed duration of the program.
  4. A copy of the agreement is provided to the parent, the CSE, the professional staff member who requested the referral and the student, if appropriate.
  5. The agreement is placed in the student’s cumulative record.

Pending the meeting, the referral proceeds as if the evaluation will be conducted. Once an agreement is reached, the referral is withdrawn from the evaluation process.

NYCDOE Standard Operating Procedures Manual, pp. 29-30

Other Resources

NYCDOE Standard Operating Procedures Manual: The Referral, Evaluation and Placement of School-Age Students with Disabilities

State Regulations: 8 NYCRR § 200.4(a)


Note: The following forms should be available on SESIS.

Request for Initial Referral Form

Notice of Referral: Initial Form

Use this form if the principal agrees to proceed with the evaluation.

Notice of Request for Initial Referral Form

Use this form if the principal does not agree to proceed with evaluation.

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