A Guide to Special Education Timelines for California

What are the Special Education Timelines for California? Brian R. Sciacca can explain this and more. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation. Call now!

Special Education in California

Special education in California is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 34), and the California Education Code.

These laws protect the education rights of children with disabilities and regulate their access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) and compensatory education where necessary. 

However, in many cases, time is of the essence when seeking help for children with special needs. These children often need to get started on a special education program without delay, as their condition could worsen without quick intervention.

To that extent, the special education laws provide time limits for performing important tasks and obligations in the special education process. These time limits bind all parties, including parents, school districts, and state and local education agencies. Failure to stick to the designated timelines could result in liability under the law or the loss of entitlements.

So, if your child is already in the special education system, or you think they might have a disability, it is important that you’re aware of the time requirements for the relevant special education processes to avoid running afoul of the law and losing services you’re entitled to. This knowledge can also help you seek redress if you’re involved in any dispute about the nature of your child’s care with the special education authorities. 

Timelines for Special Education Processes in California


The primary timelines for special education programs in California are summarized as follows:


Initial Assessment and First Individualized Education Program(IEP) Team Meeting

When a child has been referred for an initial assessment to assess their eligibility for special education, the necessary assessments and determinations have to be made by the Local Education Agency (LEA) within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the assessment. The initial IEP meeting would also take place within this time frame.

In essence, this deadline would only apply against the LEA if the parents of the child fail to consent to the assessment or produce the child for evaluation repeatedly.

IEP Review and Revision

IEP teams have a duty to review an individualized education program at least once a year. During the review, the IEP team determines the following:

  • The student’s progress
  • Whether the student’s annual goals are being met
  • The appropriateness of the student’s special education placement.

If the queries on any of the above points are answered negatively, then the IEP team may need to revise the IEP for the student’s benefit.

In such cases, the child may need to be reassessed by a professional before the IEP can be updated. To proceed, the LEA has to deliver a proposed assessment plan to the child’s parents or guardians within 15 days from when the child was referred for assessment.


Transfer Students

In some cases, special education students need to move from one school district to another.

If the child already had an IEP at their old school, the LEA has 30 days to provide the student with FAPE in similar terms as the existing IEP.


Complaints Filed With the Department of Education

If you feel your rights or those of your child have been violated as provided under IDEA and its regulations, you can file a written complaint with the California Department of Education.

The department is required to investigate your case expeditiously and issue a written decision within 60 calendar days from the date when the complaint was received.


Due Process Hearing

Another way to resolve disputes that occur during the special education process is to request a due process hearing.

A due process hearing is a fair and impartial administrative hearing that usually takes place before a hearing officer knowledgeable in special education laws.

Due process hearings may be initiated in several circumstances, including the following:

  • To initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or placement of a child
  • To challenge a refusal to initiate/change the identification, evaluation, or placement of a child or the provision of FAPE to the child
  • To resolve disagreements between parents/guardians and an LEA regarding the availability of an appropriate special education program for a child.

A party who wishes to initiate a due process hearing would need to submit a hearing request in writing within two years from when the facts leading to the dispute or dissatisfaction occurred.

The receiving party has ten days to respond to the due process hearing request notice.

By the California Education Code, due process hearings shall be completed within 45 days after a party submits a written request. A final administrative decision should also be given within that time, which would effectively settle the issues in dispute.


Due Process Appeals

If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your due process hearing, you can appeal the decision within 90 days of receiving your hearing decision.


Request for School Records

As a parent, you are entitled to request and examine all educational records for your child at any time. Once you make such a request, preferably in writing, the public agency has five business days after your request to send you copies of the said records.


Reimbursement for Parentally Placed Private School Kids

In some cases, parents who unilaterally enroll their children with disabilities in private schools may be eligible for reimbursement of the private school special education costs, especially if the LEA or school district had failed to provide FAPE for the child.

The court or a hearing officer usually grants reimbursement. In some cases, however, the reimbursement amount may be reduced or denied if the parents fail to notify the LEA in at least ten working days before the removal about the impending change and the reasons behind it.

So, if you feel your child is not receiving adequate academic instruction in their public school, it is important to notify the LEA of your concerns before transferring to a private school unless you intend to assume total financial responsibility for your child’s special education.

How a Special Education Attorney Can Help You


If you’re facing any challenges with the special education process, consider seeking legal advice and representation from a special education lawyer. Your attorney can help you clarify your position depending on where you are in the special education process.

Maybe your child has not received the special education services they are entitled to, and you intend to request a due process hearing. In that case, you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer who can present evidence, cross-examine opposing witnesses and offer legal arguments on your behalf.

So, if you’re experiencing delays or non-compliance with the designated timelines for executing any special education service, your attorney is in an ideal position to help you resolve the issue so your child can speedily get the help they need.

If you need special education attorneys in California, you don’t have to look far. The law office of Brian R. Sciacca, Attorney at Law is at your service! It is our mission to assist parents like you in navigating special education laws and getting the desired results for their children as much as possible.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you with your case.