Wednesday, May 13, 2009

District obligations when you transfer schools

For any parent, the decision to transfer a child from one school to another is an overwhelming one. For parents of children with special needs, this decision is even more daunting. What does the school district have to do about your child's IEP? Does the new school have to assess? Does the new school have to hold an IEP meeting? Where should your child be placed in the mean time?

This blog is a brief overview of what the new school district must do, at least initially, to meet your child's educational needs. The following only applies to students, in California, who already have an IEP when they transfer.

1. Transfer from one district to another, within the same state

If you transfer within your same state to a new school district, then for up to 30 days the local educational agency must provide your child with FAPE. This offer of FAPE must include services comparable to those described in the previous IEP document and the new district should consult with the parents in determining what is "comparable."

At the 30 day point, the new school district must adopt the previously approved IEP that is consistent with the law.

2. Transfer from one district to another, within the same special education local plan area ("SELPA")

If you transfer districts, but you are within the same SELPA as the previous school (what is a SELPA?) the new district must continue, without delay, to provide services comparable to those described in the existing approved IEP unless the parent and the local educational agency agree to develop, adopt, and implement a new IEP that is consistent with the law.

3. Transfer from one state to another

If you transfer from another state into California, the local educational agency must provide the student with FAPE. These services must be comparable to those described in the previously approved IEP and the new district should consult with parents in determining what is "comparable."

In this scenario, the Education Code vaguely addresses assessments by stating that the local educational agency must provide FAPE until it conducts an assessment, if determined to be necessary by the local educational agency, and develops a new IEP, if appropriate, that is consistent with the law. However, there is no mandatory obligation that the new district conduct assessments.

4. Other Requirements

In addition to the above, the following requirements also apply:
  • The new school must "take reasonable steps to promptly obtain the pupil's records."
  • Each local educational agency must ensure that assessments of individuals with exceptional needs are coordinated with the individual's prior and subsequent schools, as necessary and as expeditiously as possible.
5. The Big Picture

So what does this all mean? If any confusion arises, remember, the bottom line is that the District still has the obligation to provide your child with FAPE. Even where there is an interim period, after the first 30 days, every child should be provided with an appropriate education to meet his or her unique educational needs.

What to watch out for? If you enter a new district and its offer of FAPE does not appear to be "comparable" to the placement and services in the previous IEP, then do not blindly accept the new district's offer. You still maintain all your parental rights. In this scenario, request a full battery of assessments and then an IEP meeting where those assessment results can be shared. It is important to keep in mind that the new school district does not yet know your child, so you may have to advocate harder than before to ensure it learns what your child's unique needs are, and what services are appropriate to meet those needs.

Any strategy? To avoid any additional confusion, in most cases, it is the best idea to ensure that before you transfer districts that you have an agreed upon and implemented IEP. However, this does not mean that you should consent to an IEP just for the sake of transferring - but where there is an appropriate IEP, make sure it is consented to and implemented before the transfer.

My situation is a little different.... Please, let us know if your scenario is not covered in the above, and we would love to participate in a discussion with you and other blog readers about what your options may be! (Contact special education attorneys)


  1. I am looking for guest blogs on my new Blog:
    It is a site written by myself: A parent and advocate for kids in foster care.
    You and the other site for IEPs in this catalog are would be great for my parents.


  2. I have a sticky type of question. I'm an advocate for a child. This child transferred from a school district to another when in 4th grade (she's now in 5th grade.) The school did not request the IEP and the child was denied FAPE under her IEP--- until I intervened and was appointed. I found the previous IEP which expired on 11/24/2010. We just had an IEP meeting for the new school to adopt and put in place the IEP services she was entitled to receive. Now-- here's the weird part. At this IEP meeting on 2/14/11, the SPED teacher is trying to change the date of hte 3 yr evaluation, which is 11/24/11. I informed the SPED teacher this was the 3 yr eval date. Her rationale is b'c this child had a MET report dated 1/2010 (the child was to xfer homes, but it did not happen.) Can this new IEP substitute for the 3 yr eval? and can can the 3 yr eval date be changed without district assessment? Only school assessments have been done by reviewing their own information... aside from that there have been no new battery of tests. My thoughts are "no" that is not correct.

  3. Thanks for your comment. Your post does in fact involve a "sticky" situation, and has multiple layers in terms of the answer. Triennial reevaluations (or "3 year reviews") should be conducted by the District every 3 years, as its name implies. However, if an evaluation is conducted before that date, this sometimes will be used to "change" when the next triennial would be due. This does not mean though that the child you are involved with shouldn't be evaluated at the time of the original 3 year review date. There are a couple of different approaches / strategies to this. One would be to argue that the parents did not have knowledge that this MET evaluation was being considered a "triennial," and therefore they have not knowingly consented to a change in the review date for the next triennial. The second would be for the Parent to simply put a request in writing for assessments about 2-3 months prior to when the triennial review would have been due. Parents always have the right to request assessments at any time, even if a reevaluation is not "due" and making a request for an assessment will start a timeline and procedures that the District will have to follow. The third suggestion would be to make an argument in relation to the transfer itself that justifies evaluations sooner rather than later - basically, you would argue that once the child transferred there, the new district should have conducted assessments before it made any changes to the program, and that was not done, so evaluations are now needed. Another, related, argument would be to ask for assessments on the basis of a possible change in the child's needs due to the fact that she was denied FAPE after transferring in (and thus may have experienced regression).
    Good luck, and I hope this was helpful! It is always impossible to give specific advice on a forum like this because I am not aware of all of the possible relevant details, but I hope that these general / broad suggestions are useful to you!