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Special Education

Topics on this page:  Fequently Asked QuestionsSpecial Educations Rights & ResponsibilitiesChild Find

Special Education Overview

Special Education services are provided to students who have been identified as having disabilities and needing special education and related services within the Milwaukee Public School district. Students identified as having special education needs are offered a variety of options for which they may be eligible to receive until service delivery graduation from high school or until the end of the year turning age 21 if appropriate. It is the goal of MPS to provide full educational opportunity to all children with disabilities in the district. MPS provides nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities that afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation.

Students with hearing impairments, emotional behavioral disabilities, learning disabilities, orthopedic impairments, cognitive disabilities, speech and language disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments and other health impairments may qualify for these special services.


If you suspect your child has special education needs, you should request an evaluation by contacting your child’s teacher or the principal of your child’s school. If your child does not attend a Milwaukee Public School, you can contact the principal of a nearby public school or contact the MPS Child Find Office at (414) 475-8593.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I recognize an emotional/academic problem?

As a parent, there are several behaviors you may notice. These include:
  • Extreme difficulty adjusting to school routine and structure
  • Frequent need for disciplinary action
  • Problems with peer interaction
  • Problems with academics

I think my child may need special services, what should I do?

• Begin by communicating with your child’s school.
Explain what your concerns are. Find out if your child is having difficulties at school. Communicate any information you have received from your family doctor.

• Request an Individual Education Program (IEP) Team evaluation, or Collaborative Support Team (CST) or Problem Solving Team (PST) meeting.

These are resources available within the school to help determine what course of action to take and what possible services may be required. You will be asked to provide information about your child and to participate in meetings with staff. Plan to attend this meeting. Your input is essential.

• Monitor your child’s progress.

Pay attention to patterns at home and in the community, as well as academic progress. Remember, you can request an IEP Team evaluation or IEP review to amend services at any time.

• Continuously Communicate.

Build relationships with teachers and support staff. Frequent communication is the key to ensuring your child’s needs are met.
When the family and school work as a team, we can best serve your child’s needs and enhance their academic development.

How is it determined what services my child will receive?

MPS, with your assistance, determines what services will be provided by having a CST, PST, or IEP meeting.

Collaborative Support Team (CST) and Problem Solving Team (PST) meetings can be requested to help deal with less severe behavioral and academic problems. The CST and PST meetings generally determine school or classroom strategies to help your child learn better. These strategies may include meeting with a school psychologist, social workers, or others staff members once a week or participation in violence prevention programs, social skill programs, or other types of supports available at the school. A CST or PST meeting usually does not mandate a school or classroom transfer.

Your child’s school may use either CST or PST meetings.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings are held for students who someone suspects may have a disability and be in need special education services. These meetings are attended by support staff, teachers, administrators and parents. The child may or may not be present. Once it is determined an IEP team meeting is appropriate, MPS will conduct evaluation of the student. At the IEP team meeting, results of the evaluation will be used to determine if the child has a disability and a need for special education. If the child qualifies for services, an IEP (individualized plan) is prepared.

What is an IEP?

A: An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is the most important document used in MPS Special Education Services. This document lays out what services your child will receive. It details everything about your child’s education from classroom goals, to the name of the school your child will attend to transportation services.

The IEP is a living document. It moves with your child from grade to grade and school to school. The IEP is reviewed and revised at least annually to ensure the child’s needs are being met. Every three years, the entire IEP team will meet to review your child's eligibility and make any needed changes in the IEP. A parent or teacher can request an IEP review at any time.

My child has been diagnosed with problems related to learning by an outside clinic. Who do I need to inform?

Legally, the decision to inform MPS of an outside diagnosis is your choice. Most times it is in the child’s best interest to inform their school of the issue. The first person to inform is the child’s teacher or the school’s building coordinator. They will help you to determine the next step. When the family and school work as a team, we can best serve your child’s needs and enhance their academic development.

MPS will consider the results of an outside diagnosis in determining needed services, but it is important to understand that an outside diagnosis does not necessarily mean a child will qualify for special education services from MPS.

A physician, nurse, psychologist, social worker or administrator of a social agency who reasonably believes a child brought to him or her for services is a child with a disability has a legal duty to report the child to the school district in which the child resides. If the child attends a private school in another school district, the child should be reported to the school district where the child attends school. Before referring the child, the person making the referral must inform the child's parent that the referral will be made. The referral must be in writing and include the reason why the person believes the child is a child with a disability. Others, including parents and private school representatives, who reasonably believe a child is a child with a disability may also refer the child.

Who is available on a day to day basis to help my child?

MPS schools have several levels of support for children. In addition to your child’s teachers and IEP service providers, students may receive help from:

• School Psychologists
• School Guidance Counselors
• School Social Workers
• School Administrators


Each of these people is on board to help children. Meetings with them may occur regularly if mandated by a student’s IEP, CST, or PST, or if requested by teacher, student, or parent.

I am a student in need of help. Can I get it confidentially?

School support staff members are obligated to inform parents and the Bureau of Child Welfare in certain cases. You should ask the person you would like to speak to explain what level of confidentiality they can provide.

If you are in need of help that is absolutely confidential you can call:

211 - The 211 HELP line is designed to aid in social crisis
(414) 219-5555- Sexual Assault and Treatment center
(414) 220-SAFE- The Bureau of Child Welfare, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Hotline
 

Who will administer my child's medication?

Whenever possible, medication should be administered by parents before or after school. When necessary, the school principal and other persons designated in writing by the school principal, may administer oral medications to students. Before any prescription medication may be administered to a student in the Milwaukee Public Schools, school personnel must receive written parental /legal guardianship consent and specific written instructions from the child’s physician. 

See complete the Medication Policy.

I have a foster child with special needs. What do I do?

Handling the special needs of foster children is usually initiated by the child’s caseworker. In many cases, the student already has an IEP in place. If they do not, or if you feel it needs to be adjusted, work with your caseworker and the school. The professionals at your school will inform you of specific steps you should take.

Special Education Rights & Responsibilities

Rights Of Students With Disabilities Involved In The Disciplinary Process

Students with disabilities (i.e., special education eligible or subsection 504/ADA qualified students) are subject to disciplinary procedures. Discipline of these students is governed by procedural due process requirements in order to guarantee access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Schools are obligated to accurately record the number of days of removal for disciplinary reasons, including suspensions, bus suspensions (without alternate transportation), half-days and early releases. Schools are not allowed to implement "informal" suspensions- with or without parental consent. Each school is required to establish a communication system between administrators responsible for suspending students and means of counting days of disciplinary removal. The system must ensure current and accurate information is available. The system shall be designed by each school. For example, the school should consider establishing a binder of Disciplinary Removal Calendars for tracking these days.

Functional Behavioral Assessment & Behavior Intervention Plan

All students with disabilities are entitled to positive behavioral supports. When a child with a disability exhibits severe behavioral difficulties, schools have a responsibility to focus on positive and proactive approaches (e.g., functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention plan) rather than relying solely on exclusionary practices (e.g., suspensions or removals). A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) refers to a school-based team that meets in an attempt to examine the child's problem behaviors to figure out when, where and why they are occurring. A behavior intervention plan (BIP) provides the school with an action plan so that when the problem behavior occurs, teachers and others will know how to respond. An FBA/BIP is legally required when there is a finding that the behavior subject to discipline is a manifestation of the child's disability.

Manifestation Determination

If the district is considering an expulsion; or a removal to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for weapons, drugs or egregious physical assault; or suspension that would constitute a change in placement, the school must schedule an IEP team meeting or subsection 504/ADA meeting to conduct a manifestation determination. A manifestation determination establishes whether the behavior that prompted the disciplinary action is linked to the child's disability. Because the manifestation determination is conducted in a context of an IEP team meeting or Section 504 meeting parents have the right to request a due process hearing if they disagree.

Download the Request Due Process Hearing PDF.

School Suspensions or Disciplinary Removals

If a student with a disability is suspended or removed for disciplinary reasons, school administrators should follow the same due process procedures that are established for all students. Though there is no statutory limit on the number of days that a child with a disability may be removed for disciplinary reasons or suspended over the course of a year, students with disabilities have specific additional rights at the time of the eleventh day. For example, the school is obligated to provide educational services to children who are suspended more than ten (10) days, while the student is out of school. The IEP team or subsection 504/ADA team should meet to discuss the need for changes in the IEP or subsection 504/ADA plan. The provision of education services to students with IEP's beyond the tenth day of disciplinary removal must be documented.View the Students the Rights and Responsibilities page.

Child Find

What is Child Find?

Child Find is a federal mandate designed to identify children with disabilities as early as possible. MPS will locate, identify and evaluate all children residing in the district’s attendance area, including those who attend private schools within the City of Milwaukee with the exception of students attending non MPS Charter schools. Any child, from birth to age 21 who has not graduated from high school can be referred to MPS for evaluation information if special education needs are suspected. Enrollment in MPS is not a requirement to submit a referral.

A physician, nurse, psychologist, social worker or administrator of a social agency who reasonably believes a child brought to him or her for services is a child with a disability has a legal duty to report the child to the school district in which the child resides. If the child attends a private school in another school district, the child should be reported to the school district where the child attends school. Before referring the child, the person making the referral must inform the child's parent that the referral will be made. The referral must be in writing and include the reason why the person believes the child is a child with a disability. Others, including parents and private school representatives, who reasonably believe a child is a child with a disability may also refer the child.

Referrals
Anyone can ask the school to evaluate a child to determine a need for special education. A parent, a teacher, a nurse, doctor, or any other interested party can ask. This is called a referral. A referral letter can be sent to the MPS School your child attends, or any area MPS school. A referral can also be made by contacting the MPS Child Find Office at (414) 475-8593.

A referral letter should:

State the date

Say, “This is a referral for special education”

Tell the child’s first and last name, date of birth and school

Tell why you think the child might need special education

Your school has 15 calendar days from the date they get a referral to secure your consent for the evaluation and 60 days from the date they receive parental consentto:

Evaluate your child

Convene an IEP Team to determine eligibility for services.

Write an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

The district may take an additional 30 days. (if needed)

Determine where your child will go to school and tell you in writing

The school will send you paperwork. You need to understand the papers so you can help the others on the IEP team. If you don’t understand something, call the school. They will explain it. They will also tell you where you can go to get more help understanding it.


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About

Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, is expanding college and career readiness efforts and continuing to implement innovative reforms that give every student the opportunity to succeed. MPS’ high-quality school options for 3-year-olds to high school seniors feature school climates in which positive behavior is reinforced; certified, highly-trained teachers; 21st-century learning technology for students; and curriculum aligned to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, which set a clear, high bar for the topics students must master at each grade level. MPS’ graduation rate is 14 points higher than the rate for the Class of 2000, its The Class of 2013 earned $24 million in scholarships and the district is home to some of the state’s best high schools according to the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report. Visit mpsmke.com/news to learn more about MPS.


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