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    A referral is the first step toward receiving special education services. A referral is a written request for evaluation, explaining why the student might need special education services.

    A student must be referred before they are evaluated. Evaluation determines if a student is eligible for special education services, and what those services might be. Once a student has been referred, a team at the student’s school will decide whether or not to evaluate the student within 25 school days.

    If a student already has an IEP and is transferring into Seattle Public Schools, they do not need to be referred. Instead, the district will use the Out of District placement process.


    Making a Referral

    Any member of a student's community may initiate a referral for evaluation. This community is comprised of their parents or guardians, extended family, teachers, medical professionals, community members, and/or agencies.

    If your student is already enrolled in Seattle Public Schools, communicate with the staff at your student's school to begin the referral process. A good place to start is your student's teacher or a building administrator. If you need help making a referral, please contact us. All referrals must be made in writing, but can occur at any time.

    If necessary, we can work with families to accept verbal referrals.

    For students not enrolled in Seattle Public Schools:


    Referral process

    What to expect during the referral process.


    Pre-referral is the process a school-based team goes through to determine if a student may need additional supports to make academic progress. Typically, in-class intervention is designed by the student's teacher. If a student does not make progress with in-class intervention, the school-based team will schedule a meeting to review data and information. Each school has a dedicated team of educators who meet regularly to guide these decisions. This is the first step in considering whether a student qualifies for special education services.

    The district uses a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to ensure schools meet the varied needs of every student, and streamlines the process for a Special Education referral when needed.


    Referral period

    The student's parent/guardian will be contacted when a referral is received. The school-based team must make a decision within 25 school days about whether or not to evaluate the student for eligibility.

    During the referral period, existing records are gathered for review. Materials that may be used to determine whether to evaluate a student include:

    • Medical, therapy, or school records
    • Report cards or other progress reports
    • Teacher, parent, or provider information
    • Other assessments

    Parents/guardians must give consent before any records not internal to Seattle Public Schools are shared with the district.



    An evaluation will be scheduled if the district finds sufficient evidence to support the decision to evaluate the student, and if the student’s parent/guardian gives written consent. The results from the evaluation are used to determine eligibility for special education services.

    Make a Referral