Child Find: WHAT IS A “REASONABLE” TIMEFRAME FOR CHILD FIND?

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Sophie:  I read that a school district must honor its Child Find obligation within a “reasonable” timeframe. How many weeks, months or years does “reasonable” mean? For a student who was previously performing strongly in academics, how many alarmingly poor report cards and five-week progress reports need to go by before Child Find is triggered? Note: the student’s disabilities were already documented, and the student had a 504 plan in place (albeit with only partial compliance). The precipitous decline in grades was accompanied by at least a dozen removals from the classroom for disability-related incidents of disruptive behavior. We informed the school regularly of our concerns.

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Sophie –

IDEA does not define what is considered “reasonable” for child find purposes. I am also not aware of any court cases that have defined a specific time limit (most child find cases involve *years* of inaction). I encourage you, though, to work with what you do have.

You mentioned that there is a 504 plan in place. Would the 504 plan meet your child’s needs if it was consistently followed? Or could the 504 plan meet his/her needs with some changes? If yes, consider trying to make the 504 plan work better. If the school is not on board with this, consider requesting a due process hearing.

Perhaps you believe that your child needs more support than the 504 plan could offer, or you want the stronger procedural protections that come with an IEP.

If this is the case, have you requested an initial evaluation for special education eligibility? If not request it now.If yes, did the school respond? If not, consider filing a state complaint to force the issue. If they did and denied the request, consider requesting a due process hearing.

Requesting a due process hearing – either under section 504 plan or IDEA – *is* an extreme step. When a school refuses to take action, however, it is definitely worthy of consideration.

Your local parent center can help you weigh your options, as well as understand any rules or time lines unique to your state (www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/).

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