Frequently Asked Questions about Special Education at DCPS 

We have answered some of the most common questions we receive in the Office of Special Education.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Special Education at DCPS

The world of special education can seem complicated and overwhelming at times. This section is organized around common terms and questions that people frequently ask about special education.

It’s important for parents of students with special needs to understand special education, as well as their child’s progress, so they can be the best possible advocates for their child. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here or terms that aren’t explained, you can contact the Office of Special Education Critical Response Team, and someone can help answer your question.

I think my child needs special education services. What do I do?

You should first contact the SEC or principal at your child’s current school to request an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for special education. It always is best to submit this request in writing.

Once the request is submitted to either the SEC or the principal, the evaluation process will be completed and the eligibility meeting will be held within 120 days or less. At the eligibility meeting, you and the IEP team will determine if your child is eligible to receive special education services.

I think my child needs extra support in the classroom – what happens if the IEP team finds him ineligible to receive special education?

If the team finds your child ineligible for special education, this does not mean that he or she will not receive additional support in the classroom. The IEP team will discuss with you alternatives to the IEP that may help your child address any challenges. This may include:

  • Referral to the Student Support Team to discuss additional interventions and supports that can be implemented in the general education classroom
  • Additional interventions and data collection
  • Referral to the 504 team

My child currently attends a non-public school, but I want him to attend a DCPS school again. What are my options?

This request should be made to your child’s progress monitor, who serves as the Local Education Agency representative for DCPS. Your child is always guaranteed a seat at your neighborhood school. If you do not know your child’s progress monitor, please contact the Office of Special Education Critical Response Team at (202) 442-5400.

How do I request my student’s special education records?

The process for requesting special education records is to send an email to Parents or school staff members should submit an email requesting the specific documents or records that are needed. From the date that the email is received, District of Columbia Municipal Regulations requires that the Office of Special Education provide access to the requested record(s) within 45 business days.

My family just moved to the District. In which school should we enroll our child with special needs?

DCPS and the Office of Special Education believe that all students should be served at their neighborhood school. Once a student who receives special education services is enrolled at his or her neighborhood school, the school is required to provide comparable services per the existing IEP. A 30-day review meeting will be held by the IEP team to review what services and supports are needed for the student and the appropriateness of the student’s placement. 

To determine your child’s neighborhood school, you can use the Boundary Information System to enter your address and find the schools that are within the boundary. This system can be accessed here:

You and your child’s IEP team will decide the special education services and placement necessary. If it is determined that the neighborhood school cannot meet those needs, the IEP team will identify and recommend the appropriate educational location for your child.

I want to talk to the chief of special education about my child’s special education services. How do I reach him?

Before speaking with the chief of special education, families should take the proper steps to contact their child’s school and give their child’s IEP team the opportunity to effectively address any concerns. 

If there is an issue with your child’s special education services, your first and best contact is your child’s SEC or IEP case manager. If you already have discussed your concerns with your child’s IEP case manager and the IEP team, but you have not received a response, you also should make your child’s principal aware of the issue. To resolve any issues, an IEP meeting should be held to make sure that everyone is on the same page. 

If you are having difficulty in contacting your child’s IEP team to address and resolve an issue, please contact the OSE Critical Response team at (202) 442-5400.

What are Medicaid School-Based Services?

Federal law allows DCPS to bill Medicaid for special education services provided to students who are eligible for Medicaid. Funds from Medicaid can be used to buy equipment and supplies for students, to hire and train staff, and to enhance Special Education programs. Learn more »

My student receives special education services and has been suspended for behavioral issues. I don’t agree with this decision. What can I do about it?

DCPS school staff have the right to suspend any student who has committed any action that is illegal, causes significant disruption to the academic environment, or causes harm to the student or to others. For more information, please follow this link on expectations of students.

If a student who receives special education services is suspended for more than 10 cumulative days over the course of a school year, the parent and members of the child’s IEP team must hold a manifestation meeting.

At this meeting, it is determined whether or not the child’s behavior is the result of the child’s disability. If the child’s behavior is not the result of his or her disability and the school is implementing the child’s IEP plan appropriately, the student will be suspended. If it is found that the behavior is a result of the child’s disability or if the school is not appropriately implementing the IEP, then the student will not be suspended.

A child receiving special education services can be suspended without holding a manifestation meeting if it is for less than 10 cumulative days. Parents have the right to appeal any disciplinary action to the principal. 

For more information, please visit the above link on Expectations of Students and download Chapter 25. Guidelines for discipline of a student with a disability can be found in section B2510.

I feel my child is entitled to private tutoring for the special education services they have not received. What can I do?

Tutoring is a service that is determined by the IEP team, and it is not a guaranteed service. It’s important to maximize services provided during school hours, and the IEP team always will work to improve those services to support a student’s needs. If you feel like your student is receiving inappropriate services, please contact your child’s IEP case manager.

My child receives special education services. What schools are available to my child through the lottery?

All students can participate in the out-of-boundary lottery, regardless of whether they receive special education services. It is important to note, however, that a family should not use the lottery instead of working with the IEP team to find an appropriate placement for their child.

Parents with children who receive special education services and are interested in participating in the lottery should contact the IEP case manager or SEC at the schools of interest to ensure that the school can accommodate the child’s needs.

It also is valuable for parents to consult with their child’s IEP team and related service providers, as they may be able to recommend schools that have appropriate programming in place for their child to achieve his or her IEP goals.

DCPS’ three special education schools are not part of the lottery process. IEP meetings must be held to receive a seat at these three schools, which are the Mamie D. Lee School, Prospect Learning Center and Sharpe Health School.

How can I apply for my child to attend Extended School Year (ESY)?

As required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, all students with disabilities who are determined to be eligible by their IEP team should participate in Extended School Year, or ESY. ESY can consist of specialized instruction and/or related services that are provided beyond the regular school year to prevent a substantial decline in a child’s educational progress.

The IEP team decides whether a student is eligible to attend ESY. To make this decision, the IEP team analyzes various student data to determine whether the progress a student has made during the regular school year would be significantly and negatively impacted without ESY services.

If a student is found eligible for ESY, the IEP team will develop specific IEP goals for that time period. As a result, ESY is an individualized program for each student, depending on his or her ESY goals.

All students, regardless of whether they have an IEP, can participate in summer school, which is considered an enrichment program. 

Learn more about summer school

I feel that my student is not attending the right school. What are my options?

The default school location is the student’s neighborhood school, however, school location can also be identified through the out-of-boundary lottery, which begins mid-January. Even though a student may get a seat at another school via lottery, the family needs to check with the receiving school to ensure that it can implement the student’s IEP as written.

If you feel that your child’s current school is not appropriate based on your child’s needs, you should ask the IEP case manager to have an IEP meeting to discuss educational placement and location of services. If the IEP team determines that an alternative location of services is necessary, they will make a recommendation based on the student’s IEP and disability.

If your child has an IEP and currently is not enrolled in a DCPS school, you will need to register and enroll at your neighborhood school, and a 30-day review IEP meeting can be held to discuss the appropriate supports and services.

Federal law requires that students be served in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), which means special education students should receive supports and services to succeed alongside their peers in a general education classroom whenever possible.

I would like my student to receive transportation. How do I arrange that?

Transportation is a related service and the IEP team determines whether it is necessary based on a specific set of criteria. If you would like your child’s IEP team to discuss whether transportation should be provided, please contact your child’s IEP case manager to request an IEP meeting.

Who do I contact if I have concerns about my child’s transportation services?

DCPS does not oversee transportation services. The Division of Transportation, which is under the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, oversees and provides transportation services. If your child currently receives transportation, and you have a concern, please contact the Parent Call Center at (202) 576-5000.

Still have questions?

One thing we’ve learned is that not all questions fit into neat little boxes.

Do you still have a question for the Office of Special Education that wasn’t answered in the Frequently Asked Questions or explained in Common Terms in Special Education?

You can contact the Office of Special Education Critical Response Team at (202) 442-5400 or send us a message. Real people are available to provide real answers from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each business day.

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