If your child has disabilities of any kind, you might have received early intervention services to help meet their needs. Now that they are approaching school age, it can be both exciting and stressful for parents.
After looking into programs and special education benefits, one question parents might have at this time is whether or not they can select the school their child attends. The answer to this question is more complicated than it seems. We cannot cover all of the details in a single blog post, but here is a brief overview to help you gain a basic understanding.
There are rules about where your child attends school
In most cases, your child receives an assignment to a specific public school based on where you live. Schools often require families to be residents within the district for their children to attend the school there.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education (FAPE) for children with disabilities. Therefore, it is important to understand that the assigned school must take the necessary steps to evaluate your child’s needs and meet them to provide this appropriate education.
However, there are exceptions
Even with the rules regarding residency and school district boundaries, you may still have some options regarding where your child attends school. For example, you and the school district may consider:
- Your child’s needs: Depending on your child’s needs, they may be able to attend a school out of your district in certain cases. A primary example would be if your child has a hearing impairment, and you wish for them to attend the California School for the Deaf. This will require you to follow the process of applying for an open spot within the school, which usually requires a referral from the public school to which your child is assigned.
- Private schools: You have the choice to enroll your child in a private school. It is critical to be aware that private schools are not necessarily required to provide special education – unlike public schools. Though, many of them still do. In fact, there are some situations when an education evaluation might result in a request to place students in private schools to meet their specific needs.
- Transfers: According to California rules, parents can give their preference or request their child transfer to a school within or outside their assigned district as well. Of course, there are specific conditions to consider in these cases, but it may be possible to transfer your child to a different school if their current one does not meet their needs.
Where your child goes to school is a much bigger matter than many parents think at first. Understanding all of the different requirements and alternative options can be overwhelming. This is especially true when you simply want to find a program that will effectively meet your child’s needs. In these cases, it can be helpful to seek guidance, so you can understand your way forward.