special education

“Every student can learn; just not on the same day or in the same way.” - George Evans

Special education is the practice of educating students in school,  in a way that accommodates their individual differences, disabilities, and special needs. 

special education Process

If a parent/guardian has concerns about their child’s academic performance, they can make a request to the school/district to start the Special Education eligibility process.
  • It is highly recommended that such a request be put in writing (letter or email).
  • In the letter, identify the areas of concern:
    • Academics – reading, writing and math
    • Motor skills
    • Communication/Speech
    • Social/Emotional/Behavioral
    • Cognitive/Adaptive Skills
  • Address the request to teacher(s) and the principal.
  • The school district has a special form that must be signed by the parent/guardian in order Special Education testing to be approved. Once the form is signed, the evaluation can begin.  The school district has up to 60 calendar days to complete the testing.
  • Note:
    • The school district may suggest offering intervention strategies before doing any special education evaluations. 
    • If the school district does not agree to Special Education evaluation, they must put the reason in writing using a form called Prior Written Notice (PWN).
    • The family can appeal the school district’s decision through formal dispute options:
      • Colorado Department of Education (CDE), or
      • Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Once the permission to evaluate form is signed and dated, the school district will test in the areas identified on the form. 
  • The school district has 60 calendar days to complete all the assessments.
  • School districts can use a variety of documentation to determine school performance.
  • Once the- evaluations have been completed, a meeting is held to review the information and data. 
  • It is highly recommended that the results from the assessments be provided to the family prior to this meeting.
  • Qualifying for an IEP is a team decision. 
  • The parent/guardian is a member of the IEP team.
  • Outside evaluations by other professionals may be provided to the school team for consideration.
  • To qualify:
    • The student must meet one of the 13 disability categories as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
    • The student must require specifically designed instruction to receive educational benefits.
    • When a student qualifies, an IEP will be created.

IEP process

  • Once a student qualifies, an IEP meeting will be held to create the plan.
  • A booklet will be provided to the family that outlines a set of Procedural Safeguards that identifies certain protected rights.
  • The student is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  • IEP services will be considered in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • Goals, accommodations, and special education services (Related Services) will be determined.
  • The IEP will be reviewed every year.


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. 

What if a student does not qualify for an IEP?

504 Plan
  • If a student has a documented disability/diagnosis, the team may suggest a 504 Plan.
  • This plan is covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • A 504 Plan offers accommodations in the general education environment so that the student has needed supports.
  • Intervention services offered in the general environment can be added to the Plan.
**If you do not agree with the results of the individualized evaluation of your child, as conducted by the school system, you have the right to request what is known as an Independent Educational Evaluation, or an IEE, from the school district.

Advocating for your child

Preparing for an IEP Meeting

● You should be included in picking the date/time of the meeting at a reasonable time that works for you and the school team.

● Ask for a DRAFT copy before the meeting so you can create a list of questions/concerns and share with the school team before the meeting. If the school doesn’t provide drafts ahead of time – still bring questions/concerns that have come up from the previous year.

● If you have reports/evaluations from outside providers, give them to the school team ahead of the meeting allowing them to review them.

● Invite a support person (family member, advocate, private therapist, etc.) and let the team know who will be attending.

Participating in an IEP Meeting

● Check that all key team members are attending: an administrator, a therapist, special and general education teacher, etc. It should include all service providers for your child.

● If possible, include the student for all or part of the meeting. If they don’t want to be present, you can still write down their words around what’s working/what could help etc.

● If issues remain at the end of the meeting or all the sections have not been addressed, ask to meet again. You can also ask for a short break just to collect your thoughts (~5 min.) if needed.

Monitor Progress & Address Concerns

● Parents should receive IEP progress reports as often as report cards. Ask about their progress during the IEP meeting.

● Progress reports should show progress toward IEP goals.

● If you did 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.

  • Establish communication that works for you with the IEP team.

● You can request an IEP meeting at any time. Some reasons to meet may include:

  • Lack of progress
  • Adjustment to services
  • Services not being implemented

● Try to collaborate and communicate regularly with the team, in writing would be best. Work together and include the whole team so everyone is on the same page.

● If concerns remain, see “Dispute Resolution.”

BE AWARE: School districts will destroy all records when your student turns 23. Be sure to keep all copies of IEPs, evaluations, and reports.

Dispute resolution

Informal Resolution

When issues arise, try to resolve them 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

adams county school districts


(303) 853-1000

7350 N. Broadway Denver, CO 80221

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


(303) 655-2900

18551 E. 160th Ave. Brighton, CO 80601

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

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