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Special Education
Most students receive special education services in their own community schools. A smaller number of students in need of intensive or specialized services attend "City-Wide Special Education", or District 75 services.
Special Education ImageTo determine what services a child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is receiving, look at the first page of the IEP. If it says "Special Class in a Special School", the student is attending a District 75 school. A very small number attend private special education schools or day treatment programs, and their IEP’s will include the name of the program. All special education services are described in a document called the Continuum of Special Education Services.

Students may also be receiving "related services", such as speech therapy or counseling. These will be listed on page 9 of the IEP.

Initial Referrals for Special Education

Referrals may be made by parents or persons authorized to act as the parent (see Consent section below), or by authorized school officials. Children's Services make a request for a referral in writing, to the Committee on Special Education for the district in which the child lives. See sample request for referral letter and sample referral letter for use by a parent. Within ten days of the request, the principal of the school must either 1) request that the parent consent for evaluation or 2) offer the parent a meeting to discuss the request. If the parent or person acting as the parent gives consent, the student then receives a series of evaluations to determine whether s/he is eligible. Evaluations must be completed and a CSE meeting must be scheduled. If the student is found to be eligible for special education, an IEP is written, and the service recommendations must be implemented. There are strict timeline requirements for the different steps in the process, and overall, it should not take longer than 60 school days (not calendar days) from the time the parent or person acting as the parent gives consent for evaluation to implementing the IEP recommendations.


Consent is required for evaluation, and then must be given again for services to be initiated. Ordinarily, the student’s birth or adoptive parent or court-appointed guardian may give consent. If the student is in foster care and his or her parents’ rights have been terminated, a foster parent is authorized to act as his or her parent. If his or her parents can’t be identified or their whereabouts are unknown despite reasonable efforts to locate them, a “surrogate parent” must be appointed by the CSE. This person may be and usually is the foster parent. No person employed by the foster care agency from which the child is receiving services, or from ACS, may act as surrogate parent or give consent to the CSE. If there is no foster parent, as with a student in a group home, the CSE must identify a person qualified to act as surrogate parent.

A parent also has the right to name someone to act as the parent, by signing a legal document called a Designation of Person in Parental Relation , which should be carefully read and completed.

The rules about when consent is required and who may give consent are strict legal requirements contained in state regulations. See the consent summary chart for more detailed information about the legal requirements.

For additional information and questions regarding the assignment or roles of a surrogate parent, consult the DOE's Standard Operating Procedure Manual or the Guidelines and Procedures for Assignment of a Surrogate Parent.

Requested IEP Reviews

IEP meetings may be requested at any time for any reason. It’s best to request a review in writing and send the request to the CSE and the principal of the student’s school.


If a student is recommended for a special class in a community school, a Special Education Placement Officer at the Borough Enrollment Office will be responsible for finding an appropriate classroom. However, if the student attends either a charter school or a private school then the CSE Special Education Placement Officer will look for placement. For a student recommended for a class in a District 75 school, placement will be the responsibility of District 75’s Office of Placement

Placement in a Day Treatment Program

Day treatment is an extremely restrictive special education program that offers on-site mental health services – including psychiatric care.  Day treatment programs may be hospital-based, located in a community site, or public school and are licensed by the NYS Office of Mental Health.  Students attending a day treatment program receive therapy and psychiatric services in the program and not from other providers in the community.  Prior to considering a youngster for this level of treatment/schooling, less restrictive interventions and classroom placements should be considered. This tipsheet on day treatment applications will help to guide ACS and foster care agency staff through the day treatment referral process.


Getting Help Within the DOE

The DOE’s District Family Advocates and Borough Directors provide information and support for parents.

Resolving Special Education Disputes

If parents are unable to resolve a disagreement with the CSE, they can request special education mediation, with a third party mediator who tries to help them come to an agreement. Parents can also request an Impartial Hearing, with a hearing officer who listens to evidence and renders a decision.

Resources for Parents

The State Education Department publishes a Parent Guide to special education. SED also funds parent training and information centers offering information, training and advocacy. There are a number of other advocacy organizations providing assistance to parents with special education problems.

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