Skip to main content
Full Menu Close Menu

Special education 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?

Consistent with state guidance, schools should use Response to Intervention (RTI) as part of the process to determine if a student in grades K–4 has a learning disability in the area of reading.  While often beneficial, 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)

Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual, Topic: The Initial Referral Process, Parent Referrals

Federal and state guidance:

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

Requests for referral from professional staff members

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 in SESIS.

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 must make an initial referral OR
  2. If the principal does not agree with the Request for Referral, the principal must do all of the following: provide the parent with prior written notice (PWN) that he/she has refused the request for initial evaluation; 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.

Source: Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual, Topic: the Initial Referral Process, Request for Initial Referral

Initial referrals by parents

Parents may refer their child for evaluation by:

  1. Writing directly to the student's DOE school or Committee on Special Education Office or
  2. Making an oral request (by phone or in person) to a professional member of the school staff who must promptly assist the parent in creating an initial referral document. If a parent makes a request to refer his or her child to a non-professional school staff member, the staff member must connect the parent with a professional staff member who can assist the parent in completing a written referral document.

When a professional school staff member receives a referral, he/she should make sure that it is date stamped by the school on the date it is received, and immediately either open the case in SESIS or bring the referral to a professional colleague, typically the school psychologist or social worker, who is able to do so.

Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual, Topic: The Initial Referral Process, Parent Referrals

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 alternative strategies and general education interventions which are available in the building but have not yet been attempted. The parent should not be discouraged from proceeding with the referral at or before the meeting.

It is the principal's responsibility to ensure that:

  1. The meeting takes place within 10 school days of the school’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 to track the 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 meeting is documented in the SESIS Events Log and the agreement is entered in SESIS.

The scheduling of the meeting does not alter the IEP team's responsibilities with regard to the referral. The IEP team must, for example, proceed to obtain parental consent for the evaluation.

Special Education Standard Operating Procedures Manual

Other resources