special education

"Public Education is NOT by invitation only!" - J.D.

adams county school districts

District 12

(720) 972-4000

1500 E. 128th Ave. Thornton, CO 80241

District 14

(303) 853-3333

5291 E. 60th Ave. Commerce City, CO 80022

27J Public Schools

(303) 655-2900

18551 E. 160th Ave. Brighton, CO 80601


(303) 853-1000

7350 N. Broadway Denver, CO 80221

Westminster Public Schools

(303) 428-3511

6933 Raleigh St. Westminster, CO 80030


(303) 622-9211

56729 E. Colorado Ave., Strasburg, CO 80136


(303) 644-3234

615 7th St. Bennett, CO 80102


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that provides a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to eligible students with disabilities and ensures special education and related services.

Special education is specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of a student who qualifies for these services in order to receive FAPE. Special education is provided at no cost to the family. 


Qualifying for Special Education

There are 3 steps to qualify for special education services: Referral Process, Evaluation, and Eligibility

Referral Process

If a parent has concerns about their child’s academic performance, they can ask the school to evaluate their child for special education. This is called a referral and should be put in writing.


Once the permission to evaluate form has been signed by the parent or legal guardian, the school has 60 calendar days to complete the assessments.  However, the school may determine through current data if an evaluation is needed.  The school may decline the request if they feel the student is sufficiently benefitting from current services.  If the referral is denied by the school, they must put the reason in writing on a form called Prior Written Notice (PWN). The parent can request a due process hearing to challenge the district’s refusal to evaluate.  See Dispute Resolution section for more information.


  • After the evaluation is completed, the school will hold an initial IEP meeting to review all information.
  • Parents are part of the team and their input is critical.
  • Based on the results of the evaluation, the school team will determine if the student is eligible for special education.
  • The decision is based on specific disability criteria and categories.

How to Advocate for Your Child

Preparing & Participating in an IEP Meeting

  • Speak up if the day/time of meeting does not work for you.
  • Check that all key team members are attending.
  • Create a list of questions/concerns and share with school ahead of time.
  • Invite a support person, if you wish.
  • Include the student for all or part of meeting, if possible.
  • Share information from outside providers.
  • If issues remain at the end of the meeting, ask to meet again.
  • Keep all copies of IEPs, evaluations and reports.

Monitor Progress & Addressing Concerns

  • Parents should receive IEP progress reports as often as report cards.
  • Progress report should show progress towards IEP goals
  • If you do not receive a report, ask. If the report does not have specific data, ask.
  • You can ask for data/progress on a more regular basis.
  • You can request an IEP meeting at any time. Some reasons to meet:
    • Lack of progress
    • Adjustments to services
    • Services not being implemented
  • Try to collaborate and communicate regularly with the team; work together.
  • If concerns remain, see steps under “Dispute Resolution.”

Dispute Resolution

Informal Resolution

When issues arise, try to resolve the situation at the building level.  These steps represent going up the “chain of command.”  Always document steps taken and save any written contacts/emails to document your efforts.

  • School – teacher(s), case manager, principal
  • School District –
    • Special Education Coordinator and/or Assistant Director
    • Special Education Director
    • Superintendent

Formal Resolution

There are three options for formal resolution; Mediation, State Complaint, Due Process.

Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities During the Pandemic: A Tool for Parents/Guardians

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