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Special Education

Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.

What is the IDEA?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is a federal law that governs special education services for children with disabilities. The IDEA applies to schools in all States, including Wyoming. The IDEA establishes important rules to protect the rights of children with disabilities. These include:
1) Children with disabilities have the right to receive a free appropriate public education.
2) Special education must be designed to meet the unique needs of each child with a disability; and
3) Children with disabilities should be educated in the regular classroom, along with their non-disabled peers, to the greatest extent possible.

Is my child eligible for special education?
The IDEA applies to students between the ages of 3 and 21. To qualify for special education services, your child must have one of several listed disabilities. These disabilities include:
1) Hearing Impairment;
2) Speech or Language Impairment;
3) Visual Impairment;
4) Serious Emotional Disturbance;
5) Orthopedic Impairment;
6) Autism;
7) Mental Retardation;
8) Traumatic Brain Injury;
9) Specific Learning Disability;
10) Deaf-Blindness;
11) Multiple Disabilities;
12) Developmental Delay (Ages 3-9 Only); and
13) Other Health Impairment.

To qualify under the ‘Other Health Impairment’ category, your child’s impairment or condition must impact his or her performance in school. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are examples of conditions that may fit in the ‘Other Health Impairment’ category.

I believe my child should be receiving special education. What should I do?
If you believe your child has a disability impacting his or her education, you should ask the school for a special education evaluation. The initial evaluation must be conducted by trained and knowledgeable professionals and must include a variety of assessment tools. The purpose of the evaluation is to gather information about your child’s functioning, development, and academic skills. The evaluation process will not start until you provide written consent. After receiving your consent, the school must either complete the evaluation within 60 days or give you written notice explaining why they believe an evaluation is unnecessary.

What happens after the initial evaluation?
The school must provide you with a copy of the evaluation report. The school will schedule a meeting to review the evaluation and decide whether your child is eligible for special education. This meeting should include professionals who can explain the results of the evaluation. You, as the parent/guardian, have a right to participate. If the team determines that your child is eligible for special education, the next step is to develop an individualized education program, or IEP.

What if I disagree with the school’s evaluation?
If you disagree with the results of the evaluation, you can request an independent evaluation. The independent evaluation will be paid for by the school and conducted by someone who is not employed by the school. If the school does not want to provide an independent evaluation, they must request a hearing and show that their initial evaluation was appropriate.

What is an IEP?
The term ‘IEP’ stands for individualized education program. An IEP is a written plan that explains how the school will meet your child’s unique educational needs. Among other things, the IEP must include descriptions of the following:
1) Your child’s current performance in school;
2) The amount of special education your child will receive;
3) The amount of related services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy, your child will receive;
4) The amount of time your child will spend in the regular classroom and other settings; and
5) Annual goals for your child, which can be measured throughout the year.

Who determines my child’s IEP?
The contents of your child’s IEP must be determined by a team of individuals. This team should include you as the parent/guardian, plus a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, a school administrator, and anyone else who might provide services to your child. If the team believes it is appropriate, your child may also attend the IEP meeting.

What information should I receive about my child’s special education?
The school must give you written notice before providing any new special education services to your child or changing any of the services your child is receiving. The school must also give you written notice if they are refusing to do something you have asked for. Written notices must include a description of the action that is proposed or refused by the school, as well as the reasons for the school’s decision.

What rights do I have if I disagree with the school’s decision?
If you disagree with the school’s decision or believe the school is violating your child’s rights under the IDEA, you have four main options:
1) IEP Team Meeting. You can request a meeting of your child’s IEP team meeting to discuss a problem with your child’s special education. This might allow for an informal resolution of the problem.
2) Mediation. You can have a trained mediator listen to your complaint and the school’s response. The mediator will try to identify solutions to the problem. There is no cost for the mediation and you do not have to accept the mediator’s recommendations.
3) State Complaint. You can file a written complaint with the Wyoming Department of Education. The complaint must relate to something that the school has done in the past year. The Department of Education will investigate your complaint and send you written findings. If the Department of Education finds that the school violated your child’s rights, the school must create a corrective action plan.
4) Due Process Hearing. A due process hearing is an opportunity for you to present your complaint to an impartial hearing officer. Your request for a due process hearing must be based on something the school has done within the past two years. At the hearing, you and the school will each be able to present evidence and witnesses. You should consult a lawyer before requesting a due process hearing.

What happens when my child is disciplined by the school?
If your child is suspended for ten days or less, the school can follow the same procedures they would follow for students who are not receiving special education. Before the school can suspend your child for more than ten days, they must determine whether the behavior in question resulted from your child’s disability. If the behavior resulted from your child’s disability, then your child must be returned to his or her regular placement. This protection does not apply, however, when a child is suspended for conduct involving drugs, weapons, or serious bodily injury to another person.

If the school does suspend your child for more than 10 days, they must provide services during the suspension that allow your child to participate in the general education curriculum and make progress on his or her IEP goals.