The best way for the DoSE to achieve its primary mission to reduce costs of special education to the District is to be passive. Even thought it is supposed to do so, the Special Education department does not pro-actively identify eligible children within the community. In fact, the trend is moving in the opposite direction. Other than some half-hearted, bare-minimum effort like running tiny classified ads in the Journal News, there is no serious outreach program in the community. You will be hard-pressed to find examples where the District is aggressively advertising its services, sending out mass mailings to New Rochelle residents, attending back-to-school nights or PTA meetings and certainly not going outside the public school system to private and parochial schools in New Rochelle (students in private and parochial schools ARE entitled to services as well).
In the past, there were any number of people who could refer a child for Special Education services – teachers, principals, school nurses, school psychologists, doctors, parents and guardians and others. Based on new policies enacted by the District in 2008, only parents and PUBLIC school principals can make referrals [note: check this] to the Department of Special Education. That serves the District quite well since that now means that only ELEVEN (11) people other than a parent in all of New Rochelle can refer a child to the Department of Special Education and the eleven are under orders to keep referrals for Special Education to a minimum.
Given the mission of the Department of Special Education, it should come as no surprise that they will make it as difficult as possible for a parent to make a referral to them. Despite the best efforts of the District to the contrary, children are still referred to the Department of Special Education. There are many good resources online that can explain all of the details about how the whole process works but the short-version is that in order to obtain services and accommodations from the District a student must be referred to the “CSE” Or “Committee on Special Education”. The CSE meets to review information about the student to make a determination whether or not the child is “eligible” for services and, if deemed eligible, the CSE appoints a member to write an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
[NOTE: if a student is not deemed eligible services but the CSE believes the student should get accommodations, the student may be referred to a “504 Committee” which is outside the scope of this article]
A CSE consists of the following members: special education teacher, regular education teacher, school psychologist, parent representative,school system representative (usually the committee chair), child’s parents (The parents are voting members of the committee), student (if parents/student so choose). Other representatives with knowledge or special expertise about the child. The parents can bring an advocate, a medical doctor, an outside psychologist, a legal representative, etc. The committee meets to establish classification, placement, appropriate services, and most importantly to write the IEP.
The District has 30 days to respond to a valid “referral to the CSE” (that’s the commonly used phrase). If they fail to do so they are deemed to be “out of compliance”. Theoretically, being “out of compliance” is bad thing but as a practical matter the only recourse for a parent when the District is “out of compliance” is to complain to the District (pleas which will fall on deaf ears) or make a referral to “VESID”, New York State’s Department of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities. VESID is basically part of the same educational bureaucracy and largely toothless. The most they will do is call the District and make the same complaint you have made and then do nothing. In reality, the District is “out of compliance” in one way or another in just about every one of the 1,200+ cases the Department of Special Education manages but since the Department does not care and the parents do not know, they get away with it year in and year out.
With all that said, the District does not like being CAUGHT being out of compliance because, as noted above, their operative assumption is, at all times, that you are going to end up either filing an Impartial Hearing complaint or a Civil Rights complaint or some other sort of litigation or legal dispute. Rather than actually comply with State and Federal law, it is far easier to APPEAR to be in compliance. The District has several ways to achieve this once you send them a letter requesting a referral to the CSE which she will cover in another article.