Law Office of Michelle Ball Disabilities,Special education/IEP Special Education Parents Must Know These Timelines

Special Education Parents Must Know These Timelines

special education timelines are specific

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Special education can be challenging for a parent enmeshed in the special education system. One of the first things to know are the timelines for certain actions. For example, what is the timeline for holding an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting? What about the timeline for an assessment to be completed?

The answers may depend on who requested the IEP meeting, the student’s status as a special education student, what time of the year a request was made, or other factors.

Young girl in purple shiny hood with purple background
Knowing special education timelines is important, so parents can enforce them

Legal Timeline To Complete an Initial Evaluation for Special Education

If a parent sends correspondence requesting a student be assessed for special education, how fast does the school have to complete the initial student assessment and hold an IEP meeting? The assessment and IEP to review it must be held within sixty (60) days of the date the school receives the signed assessment plan.

Per United States Code 20 USC section 1414(a)(1)(C):

  “Initial evaluation shall consist of procedures-
(I)  to determine whether a child is a child with a disability … within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation, or, if the State establishes a timeframe within which the evaluation must be conducted, within such timeframe; and
(II) to determine the educational needs of such child.” (emphasis added)

California law mirrors these timelines in California Education Code section 56344, which similarly requires an IEP meeting be held within 60 days of “receipt of the parents written consent for assessment.”  

Once a parent signs and returns the assessment plan, the 60 day timeline starts ticking for the student’s assessment and future IEP meeting to be held by the school.

Young Black girl giving peace sign
Students have to receive special education assessments within certain timeframes

Exceptions to 60 Day Mandate

Exceptions to this rule include when a student transfers from one educational agency to another, or the parent “repeatedly fails or refuses to produce the child for the evaluation.”

Parents may also waive the timeline in writing.

Vacation Days Impact Timeline Mandates

School vacation days over five (5) days or days between regular school sessions or terms do not count in the 60 day calculation. So, winter break or summer vacations will delay any assessment or IEP being convened.

If a referral for student special education assessment is made less than thirty (30) days before the end of a school year, the evaluations must be completed and a student IEP meeting held within 30 days after the next school year starts.

Timeline to Hold IEP Meeting for Current Special Education Student

If a student is already an IEP student, and a parent requests an IEP meeting, it must be convened within thirty (30) days.

Assessment Plan Must Be Provided Within 15 Days To Parent

When a parent requests a student assessment, the school must provide the proposed assessment plan to the parent within fifteen (15) days of the request.  

Pursuant to California Education Code section 56321, if a referral for special education evaluation is made within ten (10) days of the end of a school year, the special education assessment plan must be provided within 10 days after the start of the next school year.  

Vacation days in excess of 5 days and/or between school sessions similarly do not count in the timeline calculation for the provision of the assessment plan.  

Male teen sitting looking at phone
Students can become lost if they do not receive their special education rights, and a proper IEP plan

Parent Has At Least Fifteen Days To Return the Assessment Plan

On receipt of a proposed special education assessment plan, a parent has at least 15 days to return the signed assessment plan for the student to the school.

IEP Meetings Must Be Convened Annually

Students have a right to have their IEP reviewed and updated annually, unless the parent waives this right. During the year, amendments to the IEP may occur via an IEP meeting, or more minor changes may occur via discussions and agreement outside an IEP meeting.

Reassessments Must Occur Every Three Years

Students are entitled to receive reassessments every three years, called “triennials” and to have an IEP convened to review those results. This may be reviewed at the annual IEP meeting.

Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps parents and students with special education qualification and assessments, IEP meetings, and other disability issues. As a Sacramento California education attorney, Michelle can assist in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Tahoe, Burbank, Fresno, Sonora, Folsom, Jackson, Auburn, Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Newcastle, Vallejo and many other locations.

Originally written February 16, 2011