Special Education

Special Education

San José Unified provides programs and services for students with special needs that interfere with their ability to access the grade level curriculum. Our special education services create inclusive educational climates where individuality and diversity are respected, honored, and celebrated.

We strive to partner with students and parents to develop the most exciting learning environments for the academic, social, and emotional success of each student – where curriculum is universally accessible and aligned with strategic plan.



Special Education is specialized academic instruction provided for children from birth to age 22 who qualify according to the laws and regulations outlined by the California Education Code and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A student may qualify for special education services as an individual with special needs if they meet the criteria for one or more of the disabilities noted below and require specialized instruction to access the curriculum:

  • Intellectual Disability
  • Emotional Disturbance (ED)
  • Deafness (DEAF)
  • Speech or Language Impairment (SLI)
  • Visual Impairment (VI)
  • Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
  • Hard of Hearing (HH)
  • Orthopedic Impairment (OI)
  • Autism (AUT)
  • Deaf-Blindness (DB)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Multiple Disability (MD)
  • Other Health Impairment (OHI)
  • Established Medical Disability (EMD)

Eligibility is determined by the IEP team. Working as a team, the student, parent, teachers, and school administrator identify a student’s strengths and assets to design an Individualized Educational Plan plan. Follow-up meetings provide continuous casework management to maximize the student’s achievement and school experience.



Referrals for special education can be made by any individual concerned about a student’s ability to access their education – such as speech therapists, psychologists, teachers, parents, physicians, caregivers, public service agencies, or other interested persons.

The district is required to document that the student’s educational needs cannot be successfully met through a multi-tiered system of supports and adjustment of the general education program before they make a referral for Special Education.

How long does the referral process take?

Once a referral for review has been received, an Assessment Plan or Prior Written Notice (denying assessment) must be developed within fifteen (15) days of the referral date. Before any assessment can take place, the district must have the parent’s informed consent.

New to San José Unified?

When registering with our Enrollment Center, please provide a copy of your student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).


Preschool Assessment

San José Unified provides special education assessments for preschool-age children who are residents within the district boundaries. The assessment process is in place to help determine a student’s potential eligibility for district-provided special education services.

We have a preschool assessment center staffed by a team dedicated to serving the needs of children ages 3-5 with disabilities. The team will guide your family through the district assessment, Individualized Education Program (IEP) process, and the programs and services we provide if your student qualifies.


Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding contract of services provided by the district for children who meet the eligibility criteria. Essentially, the IEP is a document that outlines a student’s progress, strengths and weaknesses, and related goals. Although a student’s IEP must be kept confidential, general education teachers who have contact with a special education student must have access to it.

An IEP meeting must be scheduled and held within sixty (60) days of the district’s receipt of a signed Assessment Plan. Depending on the complexity of the assessment, one or more meetings may be held for a child with a variety of assessment personnel.

When is an IEP reviewed?

An IEP is reviewed annually to determine progress and plan for the upcoming year. In addition, a reevaluation of the student’s eligibility must be conducted every three years. However, a parent or teacher may call for a reevaluation at any time during the year, if concerns are noted.

Who is on the IEP Team?

The members of the multidisciplinary team who write and review your child’s Individualized Education Program may include:

  • You, the parents, who have valuable insights and information about your child’s strengths and needs and ideas for enhancing their education;
  • General education teacher(s) who can share information about classroom expectations and your child’s performance;
  • A special education teacher who has training and experience in educating children with disabilities and in working with other educators to plan accommodations;
  • A specialist or other individual who can interpret the results of your child’s evaluation and use results to help plan an appropriate instructional program;
  • A representative of the district who knows about special education services and has the authority to commit resources
  • Individuals with knowledge or special expertise about your child who are invited by you and/or the school district;
  • Your child, when appropriate, and whenever transition is discussed.

Parent Rights & Resources

Educational law recognizes the value of parental input when decisions are made about the educational needs of a child. Decisions are to be made cooperatively with parents, school personnel, and other persons with special knowledge of a child with the development of an educational plan appropriate to a child’s unique needs. To ensure that your child receives the education to which they are entitled, your involvement is imperative.

Notice of Rights

You can review your rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and review these procedural safeguards from California Education Code:

Parent Handbook

Click here to download a handbook for parents in the Northwest Santa Clara County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).

Preparing for reviews and reevaluations

It is important for parents to maintain regular contact with the educational professionals who work with their child. Also, in preparation for an annual review or reevaluation, parents should prepare by reviewing past IEPs and student records. The case manager should send home any assessment results as well as a draft IEP for you to review prior to the meeting.

As the parent is typically the only team member who sees the child at home, your input is critical in assessing student progress and achievement.


Community Advisory Committee

The Community Advisory Committee for Special Education is a state-mandated committee responsible for: parent education and advocacy training; review and development of the special education local control plan; participation in district committees directly affecting the special education program; and addressing concerns regarding special education programs that support students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). The CAC-SE is dedicated to ensuring that every special education student in San José Unified is getting the highest quality education.

Members of the CAC-SE include parents of individuals with exceptional needs enrolled in public or private schools, parents of other pupils enrolled in school, pupils and adults with disabilities, regular education teachers, special education teachers and other school personnel, representatives of other public and private agencies and persons concerned with the needs of individuals with exceptional needs.

The CAC-SE is currently seeking new members. Click here to download an application, and visit the CAC-SE Facebook page or send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.



Wondering what all these abbreviations and terms mean? It can get pretty confusing. That’s why we put together this list of common acronyms.

You can also review these frequently asked questions.

What is “free appropriate public education (FAPE)”?

Free, appropriate, public education (or FAPE) is the standard outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By law, FAPE refers to special education and related services that:

  • Have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
  • Meet the standards of the California Department of Education;
  • Include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education; and
  • Are provided in conformity with the student’s IEP.
What is the “least restrictive environment (LRE)”?

Special education programs must address eligible students’ educational needs in the least restrictive environment. The term “least restrictive environment” refers to the placement of special education students in an educational placement suitable for their needs. This standard is mandated by IDEA.

The continuum of educational placements ranges from the least to the most restrictive:

  • General Education Classroom Placement – This is the least restrictive placement for all students.
  • General Education Classroom Placement with Special Education Consultation – In this placement, the student remains in the general education setting. A resource teacher provides support as decided by the IEP team.
  • General Education Classroom Placement with Resource Room Replacement/Support – In this placement, the student spends the majority of the day in the general education setting. They are pulled out of the classroom at scheduled times for remediation and/or support in specific subjects, this service may also be provided on a push in basis, again dependent upon the unique needs of the learner.
  • Special Day with Mainstreaming – In this placement, the student spends the majority of the day in a special class that is typically grouped by age-level and exceptionality. However, the student is mainstreamed into a general education classroom for part of the school day. This mainstreaming typically occurs in special subjects, including: art, music, physical education, etc.
  • Special Day Class – In this placement, the student remains with a special class for the entire day. These classes provide a highly structured and closely monitored setting.
What are Related Services?

Related Services, are supportive services provided to help a student benefit from a special education program and are based on assessed need. The educational need is determined through an assessment during the IEP process. Students may be in general education classes and receive a DIS service (i.e., speech therapy only).

Related Services may be provided by a specialist credentialed to provide the service. The district must provide related services as deemed appropriate by the IEP team. Related services may be provided by district personnel or through contracted services.

Federal law is broader than the state law in some instances; therefore, a child’s entitlement to special education and related services is a right established under federal law. Students who are found eligible by the IEP team may receive other services based on need. Designated instruction and services may include:

  • Speech and language development and remediation
  • Orientation and mobility instruction
  • Vision services
  • Adapted physical education
  • Occupational therapy
  • Transportation services
  • Specialized services for low-incidence disabilities
  • Extended school year
  • Health & nursing services
  • Mental health services
  • Transitional services
Where can I learn more?

Download the Santa Clara County Office of Education Special Education Local Planning Area Handbook.


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