Special Education Timelines

There are many indications that a child may need to additional services and support as a special education student. Some of those signs may be:

  • Trouble with school work such as in reading or math

  • Conflict with peers or adults

  • Challenging behaviors that are having on impact on the child being able to access their education

  • A diagnosis of Autism or developmental delays

The steps to see if a child needs special education services and beginning those services are:

  • Referral for special education evaluations

  • Review of the evaluations and determination if the child qualifies

  • Developing and Independent Education Program (IEP)

  • Reviewing the IEP and services on a yearly basis

  • Reevaluating a child at least every three years

Once a referral is made, how long does the school have to act on that referral?

Once a referral is made for special education, the school has 15 school days to set up an IEP meeting to discuss the referral and what evaluations need to take place. For ANY IEP meeting, the school must provide at least 7 days written notice of the time and location of the meeting. If the school decides not to have the meeting to discuss evaluations they still have an obligation to get the parents a consent to evaluation form within 15 school days.


How long will the evaluation process take?

Once the consent to evaluate form is signed by the parent or adult student, the school has 45 school days complete the evaluations and hold an eligibility meeting. A copy of all of the evaluations that were completed need to be sent to the parent or adult child at least 3 days before the IEP meeting to discuss the evaluations.


What if a parent or adult child does not agree with the evaluations that are completed?

A parent or adult child has a right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) if they do not agree with the evaluation that was provided by the school. This would be an additional evaluation at no cost to the parent or adult child. If the parent or adult child would like to request an IEE the request should be put into writing and given to the school. The school then has 30 calendar days to respond in writing to the IEE request. They can either:

  • Approve the parent’s request, or

  • File a due process hearing request to show that the IEE is not needed.


What happens if the child is determined to be eligible for special education services?

If at the eligibility IEP meeting the child is determined to be eligible for special education services, another IEP meeting needs to be conducted within 30 calendar days to determine the services that the child needs. The IEP, once created, should be started as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days after it was determined that the child qualified for special education services. A copy of the IEP needs to be sent to the parent within 21 school days of when the IEP was developed.

A child’s IEP needs to be current at the beginning of each school year. The IEP, including the goals and services, should be reviewed each year. This is call the child’s annual review.


How often do new evaluations occur?

New evaluations need to occur at least every 3 years. This is called a triennial review. A parent or adult student can ask for evaluations to occur more regularly but not more than once a year. The parents and the school can agree to evaluations occurring more often.


What needs to happen if a child is placed in an out-of-district placement?

Sometimes the IEP team determines that the in-district school is not able to provide the level of support that a child needs. When this happens a child may be placed in an out-of-district placement at no cost to the family or adult student.

Once the child has moved to the new school the IEP team is required to meeting after the child has been in that placement for 30 days. This is often called a transition meeting. At this meeting the team will talk about how the transition went and how the child is doing in the new setting.  


What if the school is not able to provide the services on a child’s IEP?

Sometimes the school is unable to provide the services that are listed on a child’s IEP. For example, the school may not have a speech and language therapist to deliver services. If the school is unable to provide the services that are on a child’s IEP, the school must meet within 30 calendar days of the beginning of the school year or start date of the child’s IEP. This meeting will be held to discuss alternate services that can be provided. A child is entitled to compensatory education for any services missed. This means that the school has to make up the missed services.


What are the requirements if a child is put on a shortened or abbreviated school day?

If a student receives an abbreviated school day, less time at school than same aged peers, for more than 10 school days, this is considered a change in placement. This decision can only be made by the IEP Team. At the meeting that determines that a child needs an abbreviated school day, the Team must develop a re-entry plan for the child to return to school. The return must be within 45 calendar days.

If the child is unable to return to school full-time within 45 calendar days and remains on an abbreviated school day, the team must meet every 20 school days to review the child’s progress toward returning. If the child is not progressing, the IEP Team must determine what setting will allow the child to progress to a full-time school day.

If abbreviated school day is based on child’s medical needs, IEP Team must meet at least every 90 calendar days until child is medically able to return to school full-time


Does the IEP Team help with a student transitioning out of high school?

Yes! Part of the job of the IEP Team is to get a special education student ready to have a successful transition out of high school. The school is required to hold a transition meeting no later than the child’s ninth grade year. The plan needs to be updated every year.

Any special education student that reaches the age of 18 during the school year, needs to be notified by the school that all of the student’s rights under IDEA will transfer to the adult student on their 18th birthday.


Does the parent or adult student have a right to review the child’s special education records?

Yes! A parent or adult student may inspect and review any educational records of their child. A school must comply with the parent’s request without unnecessary delay, before any IEP meeting, and in no case more than 45 days after the request was made. Schools may charge a fee for copying of records. However, you can review and inspect the records for no cost.


If a parent puts a child in private school can they ask the school to pay for it?

If a parent puts a child in private school because they feel like the public school is not providing an appropriate education, they MAY be able to get the school to play for this placement. (Note: It is very difficult to get a school to agree to pay for a school that the parents enrolled a child in without approval first from the school district. Reimbursement is not a guarantee!)

If a parent or adult student seeks tuition reimbursement from the school, the parent or adult student must:

  • Provide written notice to the school at least 10 business days before removing the child from public school, or

  • Notify the IEP Team at an IEP meeting before removing the child from school that they are rejecting the proposed placement and state concerns as to why they are rejecting the placement that is being offered by the school. They must also notify the Team about the intent to enroll the child in a private school at public expense.


What are the timelines if there is a dispute between a parent and the school?

If the parent or adult child disagree with a decision of the IEP Team, there are processes that a parent or adult student can begin to get those issues resolved. This process is called a due process hearing. The following timeline applies to a due process hearing:

  • A parent or adult child must file within 2 years of when the disagreement happened.

  • Once the due process hearing request is sent to the school and the Department of Education, the school has 10 days to respond to the issues that are raised in the request.

  • If the school does not think that the request has all of the information that is required, they have 15 days to let the hearing officer know that they believe the request is defective.

  • The hearing officer then has 5 days to determine if the complaint meets all of the requirements. If there is not enough information, the school can agree to let the parent add more information of the hearing officer can allow more information to be included. This needs to be done at least 5 calendar days before the hearing is scheduled.

  • The school must schedule a dispute resolution session within 15 calendar days of receiving the due process hearing request.

  • If a resolution is reached, the school has 30 calendar days implement those changes.

  • If the resolution session is not successful, the pre-hearing conference and hearing will be held within 30 calendar days.

  • At least 5 days before the hearing, both sides must give all evaluations to the other including any recommendations provided. If this is not done it cannot be used at the hearing!

  • Once the hearing is over, the hearing officer has 15 calendar days to give their written decision.


If a child is involved in a disciplinary action, can a due process hearing happen more quickly?

Yes! If a child is involved in a disciplinary action, the parent, adult child, or school can request an expedited due process hearing. If this is requested, the following timeline applies:

  • The dispute resolution session must occur within 7 calendar days of receiving the due process hearing request.

  • If the dispute resolution session is unsuccessful, the hearing must occur within 20 school days from the date the hearing request was filed.

  • The hearing officer has 10 school days after the hearing to issue the decision.


What if a parent does not agree with the hearing officer’s decision?

If a parent or adult student does not agree with the due process hearing officer’s decision, they may file an appeal with the Federal District Court or Maine Superior Court. This must be dome within 90 days of receiving the hearing officer’s decision.