Teachers and parents often ask PC READS whether or not a school is required to evaluate a student suspected of a disability? The simple answer to this question is “yes,” and is found within what is known as the “Child Find” mandate.
The Child Find mandate is part of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (referred to as “IDEA” or “IDEA 2004”). Child Find legally requires public school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children who have disabilities from birth through the age of 21. This includes children residing within the district that are attending private schools or are homeschooled.
Under Child Find, a school district must have an established process for identifying and evaluating children who may require special education and related services. Students with disabilities have a right to a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under the IDEA. Thus, services deemed necessary are to be provided at no cost to parents.
Therefore, if the school is aware that a child has a disability or suspects that a child may have a disability, the school must evaluate the child. If a teacher or parent is concerned about a student’s performance and requests an evaluation, the request must be seriously considered. It is important to understand that there must be reason to suspect a disability, otherwise, the school can refuse a request for an evaluation. Therefore, when a teacher or parent is making a request, it is best to substantiate the evaluation request with relevant information (school performance, family history, outside screening, etc.).
If a request for an evaluation by a parent is denied, Child Find provides parents the opportunity to seek a due process hearing with an independent hearing officer. Teachers, parents and outside professionals may partake in this hearing and provide evidence to substantiate their concerns about a student.
As a teacher, it is important to understand the Child Find mandate. Failing to request an evaluation of a student suspected of a disability is a breach of your district’s duty to identify, locate and evaluate children with disabilities. If a school district fails to act under Child Find and a student does not receive the necessary services, the district may be held liable for violating the IDEA.
For more information, refer to Wrightslaw – Child Find.