Our special education services are rooted in the needs of your child. These services can begin as early as preschool, extend past high school and support the parents and caregivers as well as the student. Learn more about how we can help your child succeed.
ChildFind: Searching for Children with Special Needs
Tacoma Public Schools conducts specific activities for the purposes of locating, evaluating and identifying students ages birth to 21 with suspected disabilities and who reside within the district’s boundaries. This includes students attending private schools. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of all children have a disability that hinders their educational development. Early identification of disabilities assists parents, students and schools in the design of appropriate educational services.
If your child is a preschooler
If your child is a preschooler and you have concerns about your child’s development, Tacoma Public Schools offers screening clinics for preschool children to provide information to parents on school-related development. Parents are encouraged to take advantage of this FREE service, especially if you have questions regarding your child’s development. Vision, hearing and motor coordination screening is provided, as well as information on how well your child is doing with language, learning and behavior skills.
Preschool ChildFind screenings are held monthly during the academic year, and only take one to two hours per child. The screening site is located at 3201 South D Street (Willard Early Learning Center).
Parents are provided the screening results on the same day. Screening takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Contact the ChildFind office at 253-571-2610 to make an appointment for your child.
If your child will be entering kindergarten
If your child will be entering a kindergarten program next year and you have particular concerns in any of these areas, the screening is especially advised.
If your child is in school
If your child is in school and you believe a disability may impair his/her educational performance, you will be provided further information so you can decide whether to formally refer your child for a special education evaluation. It doesn’t matter if your child attends a public school or a private school.
Special Education Referrals
Once your child has been referred for special education
A student who is experiencing difficulties in school may be referred to the school review team by a teacher, parent, principal or other concerned person. The team reviews referral information and works with the classroom teacher to develop intervention strategies designed to help the student succeed in his or her current classroom. These interventions may be immediately implemented.
Parents are invited to their child’s team meeting. These teams may also determine the need for special education evaluation. The team will provide parents with written notification regarding its recommendations on whether or not to pursue an evaluation. Written parental consent must be obtained before an initial evaluation begins.
Upon completion of the evaluation, parents are invited to a formal conference with the team. At this meeting, parents will have the opportunity to review the evaluation results and discuss their student's eligibility for special education services. Recommendations regarding eligibility are made by a consensus of members of the team based on the data obtained through the evaluation process.
To qualify for special education, the following criteria must be met:
- The student must have a disability, and
- the disability must have a significant negative impact on the student’s education, and
- the impact can only be addressed through specially designed instruction.
If a student is eligible for special education services, an Individual Education Program is developed.
- OSPI Special Education - The OSPI website is dedicated to providing students and families with information about special education, to ensuring that students and families know about their rights, and to answer questions they may have about how the process works. This resources provides a complete and clear picture of the entire special education process.
You have the right to be informed by the school district of your rights under Section 504. This is a notice of you and your child’s rights under Section 504 and the rights you have if you disagree with the school district’s decisions.
What is a Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called “Section 504,” is a federal law that protects students from discrimination based on disability. Section 504 assures that students with disabilities have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to students without disabilities. To be eligible, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION
Your child has the right to:
- Receive a free and appropriate public education.
- Participate in and benefit from the district’s educational programs without discrimination.
- Be provided an equal opportunity to participate in the district’s nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
- Be educated with students who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.
- Be educated in facilities and receive services that are comparable to those provided to students without disabilities.
- Receive accommodations and/or related aids and services to allow your child an equal opportunity to participate in school activities.
- Receive educational and related aids and services without cost, except for those fees imposed on the parents of children without disabilities.
- Receive special education services if needed.
YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATIONAL RECORDS
You have the right to:
- Review your child’s educational records and to receive copies at a reasonable cost. You will not be charged if the cost would keep you from reviewing the records.
- Ask the district to change your child’s education records if you believe that they are wrong, misleading, or are otherwise in violation of your child’s privacy rights. If the district refuses this request, you have the right to challenge the refusal by requesting an impartial hearing.
- A response to your reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of your child’s education records.
THE SECTION 504 PROCESS
Your child has the right to an evaluation before the school determines if he or she is eligible under Section 504. You have the right to:
- Receive notice before the district takes any action regarding the identification, evaluation, and placement of your child.
- Have evaluation and placement decisions made by a group of persons, often called a “504 team”, including persons who know your child, the meaning of the evaluation information, and the placement options available.
- Have evaluation decisions based on a variety of sources, such as aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical conditions, medical records, and parental observations.
- Refuse consent for the initial evaluation and initial placement of your child.
- If your child is eligible under Section 504, your child has a right to periodic re-evaluations, including re-evaluations before any significant change is made in your child’s placement.
IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE DISTRICT’S DECISION
If you disagree with the district’s decisions regarding your child’s identification, evaluation, educational program, or placement under Section 504, you may request mediation or an impartial due process hearing. You and your child have the right to take part in the hearing and have an attorney represent you. Hearing requests and other concerns can be made to your district’s Section 504 Coordinator:
601 S. 8th St., Room 100,
Tacoma, WA 98405
You have the right to file a complaint of discrimination with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), or to file a complaint in federal court. Generally, an OCR complaint may be filed within 180 calendar days of the act that you believe was discriminatory. The regional office is located at 915 Second Ave, Room 3310, Seattle, WA 98174-1099.
Phone: 206-607-1600/TDD: 206-607-1647