New Jersey Special Education Guide
Below is a useful guide for parents involved in New Jersey Special Education matters.
Free and Appropriate Public Education
Federal and New Jersey law requires that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) be available to all children with disabilities form age three (3) through age twenty-one (21) or high school graduation (whichever comes first). There are specific rules for eligible children ages three (3) to five (5) who are classified as preschool disabled.
Once a child turns three (3), the New Jersey Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that children who are eligible for special education receive appropriate services. These services are delivered under the direction of the local school district and may continue until high school graduation or age twenty-one (21), whichever occurs first.
*The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et.seq. and New Jersey Department of Education Administrative Code: N.J.A.C. 6A:14
Requests for Screening and Evaluation
The process for providing special education services to a child with a disability begins with a written request for evaluations made to school district’s director of special education or special services. Parents who believe their child is having significant problems in school may make a written request for school evaluations at any time.
Individualized Education Programs
Additionally, the school district has a legal responsibility to identify and evaluate children who may need special education services. Teachers, administrators, other school staff and state agencies who work with children may also make a written request for the initial school evaluations. However, these evaluations can only be performed if the parent provides written consent. If the evaluation determines that a child needs special education services, a plan known as the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is then developed specially for that child.
Child Study Teams
A Child Study Team (CST) is developed for children who are eligible for special education services. A CST is responsible for developing and overseeing the child’s education. In every district, the CST consists of: a school psychologist, a learning disabilities teacher-consultant, a school social worker and, in certain cases, a speech-language specialist. Additional specialists may be added as needed. In addition, each child has an IEP team, which is responsible for developing the plan in accordance with the child’s evaluations, observations and the parents’ input.
Parents’ participation in their child’s education is critical, but especially crucial for every child, especially those with special education needs. Therefore, it is extremely important for parents to attend all scheduled meetings regarding their child.
It is also important that parents are active members of the IEP team. Parents should be involved with the development of their child’s program and for the child to receive services, parents must agree in writing to the first IEP developed for a child. Parents do have the right to disagree with decisions made by the school district about their child’s IEP by using certain procedures. These are known as “procedural rights” and include requesting independent evaluations, mediation and/or “due process hearings.”
Contact a New Jersey Education Lawyer for Children with Special Needs
If you are the parent of a child with special needs or a disability and have questions about New Jersey special education law, or you are seeking an advocate who can help you and your family with an education matter, contact The Elfant Rickett Law Firm in Bergen County at 201.968.5700 to consult with a New Jersey special education lawyer.