"Child Find" is a concept that refers to the affirmative, ongoing obligation of states and local school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities residing within the jurisdiction that either have or are suspected of having disabilities and need special education as a result of those disabilities. The Individuals With Disabilities In Education Act ("IDEA") includes a "child find" mandate that all children with special education needs be evaluated and that their needs be identified and special education services be provided where applicable.
It is important to note that a school district's duty is not strictly dependent on any request by the parent for special education testing or referral for services. The duty arises with the district's knowledge of facts tending to establish a suspected disability and the need for IDEA special education services. Courts have found that it does not take a lot of evidence to trigger a school district's Child Find duties. Consistent low grades, low scores on state testing, behavior issues or sharp changes in your child's grades or behavior can all trigger a school district's duty to provide special education assessment.
A school district's unawareness of a student's possible disability and need for special education and related services will not relieve the school district of its child find obligation if it should have suspected that a student might have a disability. Failing to meet child find requirements has been determined by multiple courts to be a matter of serious concern that can deprive of FAPE a student who should have been identified, possibly entitling him to compensatory education or tuition reimbursement accruing from the time the district first should have suspected the disability.
While a school district has the Child Find mandate, it may attempt pre-referral interventions before referring a student for an IDEA evaluation (such as Student Study Team meetings or possibly even a 504 Plan). However, a school district violates its child find duty by repeatedly referring a student for interventions rather than evaluating the student's need for special education and related services.
The attorneys at Augustin Egelsee have a wealth of experience dealing with Child Find-related issues, whether your child has never been identified or has been assessed, qualified and subsequently disqualified.
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