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Military & Department of Defense (DOD) Special Education
Military Education l Autism l Reading l Transition l Caselaw
Resources l
Reports/Mil Family l Publications
Teachers & Administrators

reunion dad and son New Regulations! Effective July 27, 2015

On June 25, 2015 the Department of Defense issued their new special education regulations, which became effective on July 27, 2015.

They are published in Volume 80 of the Federal Register (FR) beginning at page 36654. The regulations become a part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and are located in Volume 32 of CFR, beginning at Part 57. The legal citation for the first regulation, the purpose, is 32 CRF 57.1 and begins on FR page 36660. The pdf document is 36 pages long and can be downloaded from Wrightslaw at:


The first seven and a half pages are a preamble to the actual regulations and explain what changes were and were not made in the initial proposed regs vis a vis these Final Regulations, based on the comments submitted.

If you want to review the regs, I suggest that you download the complete pdf file from the above link. Then, using your deluxe Wrightslaw highligher pen, turn to page 36660, middle column, where the new regulations actually start, and highlight that portion in bold - "Part 57."

At that point, you will see that the regs consist of six subsections, 57.1, 57.2, etc -

57.1. Purpose
57.2. Applicability
57.3. Definitions
57.4. Policy
57.5. Responsibilities and ends with
57.6. Procedures.

On that same page, highlight the headings for subsections 1, 2, and 3. Then turn to page 36663, bottom right corner, and highlight the heading for subsection 4 and then on the next page, same for subsection 5. Then turn to FR page 36666 and highlight the last subsection, 6.

The bulk of the regulations are in 32 CRF 57.6, which begins on 36666 and ends on 36688, i.e. 22 pages later.

Reading and understanding regulations and laws can become confusing and overwhelming, especially when subsections of subsections are not physically and visually indented. It is easy to become confused, so I suggest that, before you start trying to read and digest these regulations, after highlighting the heading for each of the 6 sections, you now turn to section 6, (32 CFR 57.6) at 36666 and highlight each main subsection under Section 57.6, beginning with

(a) Procedures . . . Infants and Toddlers, then go to 36670 and highlight, bottom left,
(b) Procedures . . . ages 3-21,
then go to 36679, top, middle column, and highlight
(c) Procedures . . . in a DoDDS,
then go to the right column and highlight
(d) Dispute resolution . . . ,
then go to 36686, bottom left and highlight
(e) Dod-CC on . . . ,
then, middle column, highlight
(f) Monitoring,
then go to 36687, top right, and highlight
(g) Types of disabilities . . .

You have now highlighted each main subsection of 32 CFR 57.6. Your work is not done, however, now go back to 36666, right column, 57.6(a) and you will see that the first subsection of (a) is 1. General. Highlight that. Then go down a few inches and you will see the next main subsection, (2) Identification and Screening, highlight that.

On the next page are subsections 3 through 6, highlight each one. Then highlight # 7 on 36668, middle column, then 8 and 9, top right on page 36669 and finish with # 10, bottom left, page 36670. You have now completed subsection (a) of 57.6.

Now go through each of the other subsections, (b) through (g), and highlight each of the numbered subsections.

Subsection (b) has 19 subsections ending at 36677, (c) has 3 on page 36679, (d) has 21 ending at 36686, (f) has 5 ending at 36687, and the last one (g), lists 13 "Types of Disabilities."

This highlighting process will take you some time, but in the end it will save you time as you will be able to quickly find your answers to legal questions. Once you have completed that task, you may want to do an overview skim of the entire document to have an even better understanding.

A few years ago I had extensive written contact with the Department of Defense regarding my concerns about their regs providing the military child and family with less rights in the special ed process than their civilian counterpart.

With the former regulations there was no procedure for the military parent to file an "Administrative Complaint" with an SEA, i.e., the DoD. Those former regulations did not provide for a "Comparable IEP" when a military child with an IEP moved from a civilian school to a DoDEA school. When the "Proposed Regulations" were issued for public comment, I repeated my earlier concerns and filed comments on those and other issues. Now, with the new regs, the military child has a clear right to a "comparable IEP" which is "similar" or "equivalent" to the prior IEP. (32 CFR 57.6(b)(3)(i)(B)) The military parent can now file an "Administrative Complaint" in lieu of having to request a special education due process hearing. (32 CFR 57.6(d)(3))

When a special education due process hearing is held, whether in the military or civilian sector, the losing party has a right to appeal. In the early years of the special education law, many states had a two-tiered approach. The losing party could appeal to the state department of education for appointment of a review panel or review officer. After that "Review Decision" was rendered, the losing party could then appeal to either state or federal court. That "two-tier" approach has been eliminated by many states and now most use the single-tier approach, i.e. the losing party can appeal directly to state or federal court and not be burdened with the costly and time consuming two-tiered approach.

The "Proposed Regulations" provided a two-tier approach to special education due process proceedings. I proposed that the new regs follow the lead of most states and simply use the single-tier model. The Final Regs have kept the two-tier approach. (See FR 36658 and 32 CFR 57.6(d)(17))

These new regulations are a tremendous improvement over the former DoD regulations regarding the education of children with disabilities in the DoD schools.


On another note, if you or your family is a member of the military or a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, you may be entitled to our Military Discount of between 25 to 40% off of purchases from our online store. We have free shipping for orders of $35.00 or more. To see if you qualify for our discount, please go to: http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/mil.discount.htm.


Children whose parents are active in any of the branches of the military often have a rather non-traditional educational experience. These children transfer schools often and sometimes attend school overseas. Although military children may not be educated in the U.S., they are still entitled to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

The information on the Military and Department of Defense page describes various aspects of a military special education and the unique issues these children face, including frequent transfers in and out of schools with different levels of instructional programming, and the emotional issues that accompany the deployment of family members.

PCS ? The military parent must read these two articles by LTC Elizabeth Schuchs-Gopaul, USAF about finding the right program for your child before you move and "Legal Issues Facing Military Families with Special Needs Children." Also you might want to download Pete's handout that he provides at his training for military families and watch his Military Child with Special Needs video on the Wrightslaw YouTube Channel.

US DOE, OSEP guidance (July 2013) to school districts to ensure that military children receive required special education and related services. (1) Highly mobile children should have timely and expedited evaluations and eligibility determinations. (2) Comparable services include services during the summer, such as Extended School Year (ESY) services.

September 2012 GAO Report: Better Oversight Needed to Provide Services for Children with Special Needs. GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense (1) ensure the military branches medically and educationally screen all school-age children before relocation overseas; (2) direct OSN to establish benchmarks and performance goals for the EFM program; and (3) direct OSN to develop and implement a process for ensuring the branches' compliance with EFM program requirements. DOD generally agreed with the recommendations.

Donna Anders and Pete and Pam Wright with Commandant of USMC General and Mrs. James F. Amos at his Passage of Command ceremony Pete and Pam Wright with Commandant of USMC General and Mrs. James F. Amos at his Passage of Command ceremony at the Marine Barracks, Washington DC (Oct 22, 2010).

Pete works extensively with military families and Generals Amos and Conway spoke to Pete about it after the ceremony. Both General Conway and General Amos mentioned "families with special needs children" in their speeches. The Marines are fortunate in this regard.

Pete Wright at DoD/Joint Conference: Improving the Quality of Life for Military Families with Special Needs

Support Improves for Families with Special Needs from the Pentagon’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy.

On November 16-18, 2009, the department sponsored its first joint exceptional family member support conference in Jacksonville, FL. The DoD/Joint Conference: Improving the Quality of Life for Military Families with Special Needs featured Pete Wright. Each attendee received a copy of the Special Ed Law book and our From Emotions to Advocacy book. Pete Wright autographed the books after he completed his training session on Special Education Law and Advocacy.

The Military Child and Special Education by Jeremy Hilton, published in the Aug/Sep Exceptional Parent Magazine. "Since aging out of early childhood intervention and starting preschool at age 3, our daughter, Kate (now 6), has been in four different elementary schools..." Jeremy recommends parent resources like STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents), Military Homefront (now Military OneSource), and Wrightslaw.com.

Wrightslaw has been a subscriber to Exceptional Parent Magazine for many years. Each issue of this trusted resource for the special needs community contains a United States Military Section.

Military & Department of Defense Education

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
DoDEA operates over 200 public schools in 15 districts located in 13 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. All schools within DoDEA are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies. Approximately 8,785 teachers serve DoDEA's 102,600 students.

DoDEA Special Education
Special education is specially designed instruction, support, and services provided to students with an identified disability requiring an individually designed instructional program to meet their unique learning needs.

The purpose of special education is to enable students to successfully develop to their fullest potential by providing a free appropriate public education in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as implemented by DoD Instruction 1342.12, "Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents."

DoDEA Special Education Parent Rights for Special Education

DoDEA Parent Handbook on Special Education (pdf)

Free Special Education Products for Military-Connected Schools. Sponsored by DoDEA's Educational Partnership Branch, includes 16 special education training modules and is available for any school supporting military families.

State-by-State Education Resource Center

The Military Child: Law + Resources prepared by Peter W. D. Wright, Esq. Comparable IEPs - United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register

Changing Schools and IEPs - 1 week, 1 month, 90 Days? When a child transfers schools, when must the new school provide services in the IEP? Find out what IDEA 2004 says about providing comparable services for children who transfer.

Want to Find a Special Education Program That Meets Your Child’s Needs Before You Move? Go Shopping by Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Schuchs-Gopaul, USAF. A real issue that confronts military families every two to four years. If you are facing a move, learn strategies to help you find a special education program that meets your child’s needs -- before you move.

12 Things Every JAG (and Military Parent) Should Know. Legal issues facing military families with special needs by Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Schuchs-Gopaul, USAF.

Informing and Empowering Military Families. Focus on issues and concerns for military or EFMP families spotlighted on the Master List of Reports, Articles, and Regulations developed for the DoD Military Family Readiness Council.

DoDEA NAEP Results 2013, State Snapshot Report, Nation's Report Card for Math and Reading.

Youth Programs and Summer Camps for Military Kids

DoDEA's Playgrounds Renovated to Meet Needs of Special Needs Students. Within the next month the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) will finalize renovations to some of its school playgrounds to better serve special needs students.(DoDEA Press Room, December 16, 2009

New! Special Care Organizational Record (SCOR) for Children with Special Health Care Needs announced by the Office of Military and Community Family Policy tailored to the unique needs of a special needs family member. The SCORs are tools for caregivers, providing central repositories for recording and tracking information about their family member’s ongoing support and health needs.

Exceptional Family Member Program LogoMilitary OneSource

Exceptional Family Member Program

Exceptional Family Member Program Mobile Web

Special Needs Parent Toolkit

Special Needs Parent Toolkit (free download)

The Exceptional Advocate eNewsletter, a monthly electronic newsletter published by EFMP for military families with special needs. Welcome new subscribers!

Military OneSource EFMP Tool Box

  • This site is a resource that provides contact information for programs and services, maps and directions, links to comprehensive location overviews and community points of interest for military installations worldwide.
  • Family Support Centers located on military installations, both in the continental United States and overseas, provide a wide variety of support services for families with special needs members, including enrollment and support for those already enrolled in the EFMP.
  • Contact information for installation services can be found under the program/services titled "Educational and Developmental Intervention Services," "Enrollment/EFMP," "Exceptional Family Member Program/Special Needs" and "Family Support/EFMP."
  • Military families with special needs who are not located near a military installation are encouraged to call Military OneSource (1-800-342-9647) and ask to speak with a special needs consultant.

Military One Source Online (*free content)

*You must first register and login to http://www.militaryonesource.com before being able to access this premium, free content from Military One Source Online

Articles from Military One Source *

  • ADHD Identification and Management Program
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Building Successful Parent-Professional Relationships
  • Children Who Bully
  • Connecting with Boys: Closing the Asset Gap
  • Coping with Crisis: Helping Children with Special Needs
  • Cyberbullying
  • Developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Disaster Preparedness Plans for Individuals with Special Needs
  • Families with Special Needs: Caregiving Tips
  • Helping a Shy Child Overcome Shyness
  • How to Be an Advocate for a Gifted or Special Needs Child
  • How to Be a Non-Anxious Parent of a Highly Anxious Child
  • Mood Disorders: Bipolar in Children and Teens
  • Parenting a Child with Special Needs: Your Support Network
  • Reducing Your Parenting Stress
  • Spotting Danger Signals in Your Child's Behavior
  • Supporting the Siblings of Your Child with Special Needs
  • The Delicate Balance Between Being Gifted and Being a Child
  • Understanding ADHD in Children and Teens
  • Understanding Eating Disorders in Children and Teens
  • What is a Learning Disability?
  • Your Child with Special Needs: Coping with the Diagnosis

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New! TRICARE for Kids Provision in HR 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, signed by President on January 2, 2013.

Military Family Input on Sec 735 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Report from the Military Special Needs Network.

Educational Directory for Children with Special Needs provides useful, practical information about the services for children with ASD and the information assignment personnel and families need to make informed decisions when considering assignments of military members with children who have ASD.

Health & Special Education Services for Military Children with Autism. Based on the most recent prevalence data that 1 in 88 children (from Autism Speaks) have an autism spectrum disorder, as many as 12,000 children in military families (active duty, reserve and guard) may have autism. These families are affected substantially by the financial and emotional costs of raising a child with autism.

Autism Research Institute: Military Families

All active duty and retired military families can receive a FREE copy of ARI's book, "Recovering Autistic Children". To order your FREE copy of ARI's book, "Recovering Autistic Children" click here.

Act Today for Military Families. Military families with autism face even more extraordinary circumstances. With your help and support, we can make a difference in the life of a military child and bring hope for a better tomorrow! Apply for a grant.

Life Journey through Autism: A Guide for Military Families. The guide (free download) includes information about services, resources, & support available to military families.


United Through Reading® Military Program helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having deployed parents read children’s books aloud via DVD for their child to watch at home. Find out how it works. Watch the video.

DoD Summer Reading Program for children, teens and adults. IRead. For more information contact your installation Library or DoDsumread@navy.mil.

DOD Schools: Additional Reporting Could Improve Accountability for Academic Achievement of Students with Dyslexia. GAO Study GAO-08-70 to determine how DOD supports students with dyslexia and how it used $3.2 million in funds designated to support them. (December 2007) Report Highlights.

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Transition and Transferring Schools

Comparable Services in the IEP. Moving from state-to-state? What are comparable services? This article explains comparable services when a child with an IEP transfer to a different state.

Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. Military children enrolled in special programs, like gifted and talent, can automatically be placed in similar programs in a new school when the family transfers. As of June 28, 2010, 35 states have now adopted the compact developed in 2008 by Department of Defense and the Council of State Government officials.

Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission recognizes the unique situation of military children who, through no fault of their own, move many times during their school years. Find the Interstate Compact and Commissioner in your state.

Parent Toolkit: Military Students on the MoveMilitary Students on the Move. This "Toolkit for Military Parents" is one of three Toolkits prepared by the Department of Defense to help parents, installation commanders, and school leaders make the education transition for military children as smooth as possible.

Special Education information is found on p.15 featuring resources including the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids.

Download Toolkit (The is a large PDF file, so please allow time for the toolkit to load.)

Tips for Parents: Relocating and Special Education Records from Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS).

School Quest. Designed for military families, SchoolQuest is organized so that you can access information that the MCEC has gathered to help you make decisions on future schools for your children. SchoolQuest also offers an Online Library that provides resources for families in transition.


G. v. Fort Bragg Dependent Schools (4th Cir. 2003). ABA/Lovaas case; rights of children who attend Dept of Defense schools; FAPE & educational benefit; methodology; reimbursement for home-based Lovaas program; procedural safeguards and notice by parents; compensatory education for failure to provide FAPE; prevailing party status & attorneys fees (pdf)

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Military OneSource
This free 24-hour service, provided by the Department of Defense, is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues. You can reach the program by telephone at 1-800-342-9647.

Military Special Needs Network. When military families have a dependent with special needs in the mix, it can be overwhelming. Get help here.

DoD Military Family Readiness Council focus on the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). Master List of reports, articles, and regulations relevant to EFMP families.

spinning red dotFree, Online tutoring Service. - The Defense Department has launched a free online tutoring service for servicemembers and their families.The site, http://www.tutor.com/military, offers round-the-clock professional tutors who can assist with homework, studying, test preparation, resume writing and more. (January 2010)

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
The Military Child Education Coalition is a non-profit, world-wide organization that identifies the challenges that face the highly mobile military child, increases awareness of these challenges in military and educational communities and initiates and implements programs to meet the challenges.
This site includes information on moving, transferring students, deployment, and scholarships, and includes links to military organizations devoted to the military family.

The MCEC offers the Responding to the Military Child with Exceptional Needs
course designed to inform the participants about military-connected children who have exceptional needs and the issues they may face as they transition from school to school

STOMP is a Parent Training and Information Center for military families providing support, advice, and training to military parents whose children have special challenges. Here you can interact with parents who have already experienced much of what you are going through. They are happy to help.

Military Community & Family Policy (MC&FP) MC&FP coordinates the Office of Community Support for Families with Special Needs (OSN) and ensures that military families with special needs receive direct services; assignment coordination; oversight of the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP); and family support.

Congressional Military Family Caucus. A group formed to work on child care, education, health and deployment issues. Congressional Military Family Caucus on Facebook.

The Defense Centers of Excellence For Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury has recommended Military Kids Connect as "a fun site for military kids and it includes a resource section for both parents and educators."

Our Military Kids – Their mission is straightforward. Support military kids through enriching activities. Thousands of military children from Guard, Reserve and wounded families have received funds for tutoring, ballet, music, martial arts and so much more thanks to the compassion and business savvy of two women (not from military families) who wanted to make a difference in the lives of the nation’s military kids. Mission accomplished!

National Military Family Association (NMFA)
The National Military Family Association's primary goals are to educate military families concerning their rights, benefits and services available to them and to inform them regarding the issues that affect their lives; and to promote and protect the interests of military families by influencing the development and implementation of legislation and policies affecting them. This Web site includes information, articles, resources, and web links on deployment, education, family life, family member benefits, health care, and money management.

Military K-12 Partners
As military families move to accept new assignments, children often face many challenges related to education. DoDEA's Partnership program provides information and support to increase understanding of the unique needs of military children as well as academic support to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for military children.

Special Education Professional Development - Resources to Empower School. Through a contract with Cambium Learning Group, the Partnership Program has developed 16 Special Education training modules available to school districts that serve children from military families.

Military Youth on the Move
Moving Out Moving Up Moving On. Advice for elementary school, middle school, and high school kids covering all stages of a military move.

Family Matters Blog provides resources and support to military families, as well as to encourage a dialogue on topics ranging from deployments and separations to the challenges of everyday life, military schoolchildren, and education.

Making it in the MilLife BLog. Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Spouse Blog. Here are MOAA Spouse’s Favorite Things (10 military non profits).

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National Council on Disability (NCD) report on the issues facing military families impacted by a child or a spouse with a disability (exceptional family members). The Report considers Marine Corps’ programs and people, however the findings are relevant to all four services and their programs as well as the Congress, Tricare, and state and local governments. (November 2011)

Linking Early Intervention Processes: Family Centered and Functional in Natural Environments. Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS) IFSP Process Handbook.This military document makes it easier for service providers to understand how to help families identify their needs and priorities, as well as actually making the IFSP meaningful to the family and the child. (pdf format)

Reports and Military Family News

Disabled Military Child Protection Act (National Defense Authorization Act of 2015) allows a military parent to provide a survivor benefit for a disabled child by paying it to a special needs trust for that child’s benefit.

June 21, 2012: Military Families Affected by Disabilities: Act Today! Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel to conduct Senate Hearing on Thursday, June 21, 1430.  Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room SD-10.

Jeremy Hilton's Prepared Statement before the Committee, other Statements, Follow-up: What You Can Do! audio iconView the Hearing.

March 2011 GAO Report to Congress: Education of Military Dependent Students. GAO recommends determination of requirement for school districts to report data on the academic outcomes of military dependent students and the need for any additional legislative authority. The issues: frequent moves, transitions, stress, fear, inadequate evaluations, inadequate IEPs, inadequate services upon move to a new jurisdiction.“... 58 percent [school districts] reported meeting the needs of military dependent students with disabilities was moderately, very, or extremely challenging”

NDAA 2011 considers oversight of DoD's ability to ensure proper support of our military families impacted by a child or spouse’s chronic medical condition or disability (families within the service’s Exceptional Family Member Programs (EFMP)). Senate Report No. 111-201, page 137 specified that DoD was to conduct a thorough investigation and provide a report to Congress. Full Report (PDF)

January 2011 National Defense Authorization Act signed by the President. Congress removed the voucher program discussed in the following article, but did include authorization for a study to look at the issues surrounding military kids and special education.  Sec 586 of HR 6523, NDAA  

DoDEA Announces 2011 NAEP Results. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) fourth and eighth grade students continued their strong performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 Reading and Mathematics Assessments. (November 10, 2011)

Bill Calls for Vouchers for Disabled Military Children. The proposed $5 million voucher program, for military families who have children with special education needs, is part of the defense-spending bill and would start in the 2011-12 school year and provide up to $7,500 per year for school costs. (Education Week, 10/29/10)

Congressional Briefing: Overcoming Barriers Faced by Military Children by Jessica Butler, Esq. Report on the Congressional Briefing (January 2010) that focused on the barriers faced by military parents of children with disabilities, including special education.

Military Helps Families Find Care for Special Needs Kids. Military families who move from post to post have in the past struggled to get consistent support for their special needs children. Recently the Army and Marine Corps began providing caseworkers and legal aid to help parents negotiate for more resources. (Washington Post, 12/28/09) pdf format

Teachers and School Administrators

New! AASA Toolkit: Supporting the Military Child. Guidance from the American Association of School Administrators for school leaders on meeting the unique educational needs of children whose parents are deployed or in transition. Includes Resources for Supporting the Military Child, Q & A for Meeting the Military Child's Needs, Videos, and Tips for School Leaders.

Support to Civilian Schools Educating Military Children

Working with Military Children A Primer for School Personnel

An Educator's Guide to the Military Child During Deployment

usa ribbonTo learn how you can support military service men and women and their families, please see Be A Hero...To A Hero: Support Our Troops.

Like many of you, we are frustrated about the wars. Like many of you, we said "We support the troops." We asked ourselves, "What have we done to 'support the troops?'" The painful answer: "Not much."

After this, we spent a great deal of time on the Internet. We wanted to learn all we could about how ordinary people - like us and you - could support the young men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read A Message from Pete and Pam Wright


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Last revised: 09/30/2015

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