Referral Process

PRIOR TO REFERRAL

Frequently, students struggling with learning are effectively addressed through informal and formal interventions in the general education program. When a student continues to experience difficulty, a referral to the school's Student Support Team (SST) will provide a systematic approach to addressing any educational, behavioral or health difficulty. These interventions shall be attempted prior to referral - when the student is not responding to interventions completed with fidelity, a referral to the school’s child study team would be appropriate. However, when a teacher, parent, staff member or other person with knowledge of a student’s development believe that a student may have an educational disability that requires special education and related services in order to benefit from learning, a referral must be made to the school’s child study team.

INITIATING A REFERRAL

To initiate the referral process, school personnel shall complete the district’s Referral to the Child Study Team for Evaluation form. District expectations require an array of interventions to have been attempted prior to a referral, including the Student Support Team process. Whenever the principal and staff conclude a referral to the team is warranted, the principal, or designee, must inform the parent in writing that a referral has been made.


Parents can also refer their child for a child study team evaluation, but must do so in writing with original signature in a letter to the principal or to the Director of Student Services.


REFERRAL PROCESS

Upon receipt by the Student Services Department of a referral requesting an evaluation, or receipt of a parent letter, the child study team must meet with parents (and referring staff member) within twenty (20) calendar days (including weekends, but not including holidays), to discuss the concerns and decide whether an evaluation is warranted. A referral is not a guarantee of an evaluation.


A referral from the school must be accompanied by documentation of the student’s school performance that supports the reason for the referral, and proof of regular education interventions, including copies of SST Request for Assistance, Meeting Notes/Minutes and Action Plan. Interventions must be accompanied by outcomes and timelines. In the absence of pre-referral interventions, the child study team must return the referral to the principal for reconsideration, unless a teacher, parent, staff member or other person with knowledge of a student’s development believes that a student may have an educational disability that requires special education and related services in order to benefit from learning.


Parent letters requesting a child study team evaluation that are received by the school must be dated as received, and forwarded immediately to the Student Services Department for an official special education file to be created. The principal should ensure that the Necessary School Information to Accompany a Parent Referral to the CST form is completed and is forwarded to the school’s child study team. It is critical that any parent letter that is received by school staff must be forwarded immediately to the child study team in order to honor the twenty-day timeline for their meeting.


DETERMINING IF EVALUATION IS WARRANTED

If the child study team, in consultation with the teacher and parent, believe an evaluation is not warranted, the child study team must communicate its findings to the parent, or to the principal and the referring staff member. The child study team must offer a rationale to support its denial, and must offer suggestions to address the identified concerns in the general education program. A referral to the school’s Student Support Team process should be considered.


If an evaluation is warranted, because additional data is necessary in order to determine whether an educational disability exists, the child study team must develop an Evaluation Plan, and seek written consent from the parent to conduct a comprehensive evaluation. The child study team must evaluate all areas of suspected disability, must identify those evaluations, and must identify the evaluators. No evaluation can be completed unless it has been identified in an Evaluation Plan and consent is provided by the parent.


AFTER EVALUATION

Upon completion of the evaluation process, and prior to determining whether a student is eligible for special education, the case manager must discuss the outcomes with the principal and teacher(s), and inquire whether the student’s needs might be met in regular education. If the student's needs can be effectively met within the resources of the general education program, then the student is not eligible for special education. If the student’s educational needs are such that a special education program and specially designed instruction is warranted, then the child study team must meet with the parent and/or referring staff member to discuss the results of the evaluation, and explain the student is eligible for special education and related services.


The child study team must present to the parent a written statement summarizing the evaluation results and offer recommendations to the school to promote the student’s success. Parent consent for eligibility determination is not required. If the student is eligible, the child study team must develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and present the IEP to the parent for consideration. Parental consent is required before an initial IEP can be implemented. In the absence of a parental consent for an initial IEP, the school must explore the use of all regular education resources to address the identified needs.


Prior to the meeting of the IEP Team (child study team, teacher(s) and parent), the parent must be provided a copy of the discussion documents (evaluation report(s), collaborative evaluation report, if any).


PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDSA

A copy of the Parents Rights in Special Education (PRISE) booklet must be offered upon referral for an initial evaluation, upon request from the parent, the first time a request for a complaint investigation or due process hearing is submitted and, for a disciplinary action that will result in a change in placement. At the Evaluation Plan meeting and at the Eligibility meeting, parents must be offered a copy of NJAC 6A:14, New Jersey’s regulations governing the special education process.

 

IMPORTANT POINTS

 

  • Teachers and other staff are advised not to encourage parents to write a letter in an effort to circumvent the school review and referral process. Such encouragement is a legal and ethical violation.
  • A parent or school referral does not guarantee a CST evaluation. The child study team shall offer suggestions to address any identified concerns if a CST evaluation is not merited or when determining a child is not eligible for special education and related services after testing.
  • It is critical that any parent letter that is received by school staff must be forwarded immediately to the child study team in order to honor the twenty-day timeline for the identification meeting.
  • Even when a student has a disability, if the student's needs can be effectively met within the resources of the general education program, the student may not be eligible for special education and related services.
  • Parental consent is required before an initial IEP can be implemented.