Students With Disabilities

General Information

The mission of the Program for Exceptional Students and Psychological Services is to provide a quality educational program that prepares all students for success. We believe that through meaningful access to a quality education, all children can be challenged to achieve their best in school, and all children can be lifelong learners.

At MCSD, students with disabilities are provided a free, appropriate education in schools where placement and service decisions are made based on the individual needs of the student, in the least restrictive environment and in accordance with the guiding principles of the applicable laws.

Documents and Resources

MCSD Parents Rights
Special Education Services and Supports Georgia Department of Education
Parent Survey Georgia Department of Education
Special Needs Scholarship Georgia Department of Education
Special Education Rules Georgia Department of Education
Implementation Manual Georgia Department of Education
Special Education Dispute Processes Georgia Department of Education
Understanding Parent Rights Georgia Department of Education
Parent to Parent of Georgia
Babies Can't Wait Georgia
Georgia Advocacy Office

Frequently Asked Questions

How I get help for a child who may have a disability?

"Child find" refers to the process of locating, identifying, and evaluating children with disabilities to ensure that they receive services to which they are entitled. Children and youth, age birth to 21, living in the Muscogee County School District attendance zone, who are suspected of having a disability, may be referred for a possible evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education services.

Preschool children: If you are aware of a preschooler, from 3 through 5 years old, who has or may have a developmental disability, please call the Program for Exceptional Students at (706) 748-2230.

School age children and youth: If you have a child who is already enrolled in a Muscogee County school and may be in need of special education services, please contact the school and express your concern to your child's teacher or to the school administrator. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact the Program for Exceptional Students at (706) 748-2230.

Transfer students: If a child is transferring into the Muscogee County School District and has received special education services in another district, please visit the Program for Exceptional Students in the Muscogee County Public Education Center at 2960 Macon Road, Columbus, GA 31906 or call the Program for Exceptional Students at (706) 748-2230 for additional information.

Who should I contact to get help for a child who is not enrolled in school and I believe may have special needs?

Please either email the Parenthelp email at parenthelp@muscogee.k12.ga.us or call 706-748-2000 and request to be directed to Karyn Leggett who is the Program Manager for School Psychologists.

How does Muscogee County work with Students with Disabilities enrolled by Parents in Private Schools?

“Parentally placed private school students (PPPSS)” are those students with identified disabilities placed by their parents in private schools when a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) is not an issue. Home School students with disabilities are considered private school students for the purpose of special education services in Georgia. [34 C.F.R.§300.130]

FAPE is not an issue when the parent does not dispute the individualized education program (IEP) developed by the public school system. The federal regulations state that “no private school child with a disability has an individual right to receive some or all of the special and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school”.

Complaints and procedural safeguards apply if the district fails to meet the requirements of Child Find to include eligibility determination and criteria or has failed to meet the requirements of equitable and timely consultation.

A services plan shall be developed and implemented for each private school child or home school with a disability who has been designated to receive special education and related services when the private school is located within Muscogee County.
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  • Like an IEP, the Service Plan must be developed by a team and reviewed at least annually.
  • Parentally-placed students with a disability do not have an individual right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school. [34 C.F.R.§300.137(a)] However, services must be provided by equitable personnel.

What are my rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Act?

Parents and children have many rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law provides that eligible students should receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The term “appropriate” is based on the educational needs of the individual child. The Individuals with Disabilities Act provides that each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP. The IEP outlines the needs and strengths of the individual student, and guides the delivery of special education supports and services for that student. Parent Rights Georgia Department of Education.

If you have questions regarding your child’s IEP, or whether your child is eligible for special education, and those questions are not answered at the school level, please reach out to one of the District’s Program Managers. Contact information is available at the school or at the district website. All Program Managers are certified by the State Department of Education, and they have a minimum of a Master’s Degree in his/her field of service.

It is the responsibility of the District to provide parents with notice of their rights under the IDEA. The MCSD’s Parent Rights form is available at the Resources Tab

Muscogee County School District Program for Exceptional Students recognizes and values parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of a student with a disability as they are necessary participants in the development of the IEP. It is important that the parents provide information about their views of the student’s progress or lack of progress, as well as express any concerns about the overall educational development of the child. Parents provide important knowledge about how the student behaves and performs outside the school setting. [34 C.F.R§300.501]

Each school within the Muscogee County School District will make every effort to ensure parent(s) and/or guardian(s) are:

  • involved in every aspect of the development of an initial IEP
  • involved in every aspect of the development of the annual IEP
  • involved in amendments if placement and/or services will be discussed
  • given the opportunity to participate by telephone conference call if unable to physically attend

Muscogee County provides written guidelines for disciplinary procedures and appeals with the parent rights presented to parents when they enter the district, annually and at each disciplinary removal that may constitute a change in placement, Manifestation Meeting, Initial and Redetermination Eligibility Meetings. They are also available on the Muscogee County Website and at each school. [34 C.F.R§300.504(a)(1)-(4) 504 (b)] [34 C.F.R§300.505] Frequently Asked Questions Georgia Department of Education.

What is the Evaluation Process?

Muscogee County ensures that evaluations are completed using a variety of evaluation tools and strategies to gather relevant academic, functional and developmental information about the student. These assessments must be selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis and must be provided in the form most likely to yield accurate information on what the student knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is not feasible to do so. The instruments must be used in a manner to support the instruments validity and reliability and in accordance with publisher instructions and provided in the native language or other mode of communication. If the evaluation is not conducted under standard conditions, this must be explained in the evaluation report. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .304(c)]

All evaluations must be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel. This includes school psychologists with a valid S-5 certification, psychologists licensed in the state of Georgia and with experience in either school psychology or child clinical psychology, approved graduate students in supervised internships or practicums, and a Georgia Merit System employee with the classification rating of psychologist, senior psychologist, or psychology program specialist. All evaluators are held to the state of GA requirements to include SLPs, OT, PTs, etc.

As part of an evaluation (initial or re-evaluation), the committee must review existing data on the student, including: evaluations and information provided by the parent, current classroom-based data, local, and state assessment, classroom observations, and teacher and service providers’ observations. On the basis of this information, the committee can determine what additional data, if any, are necessary to determine if the student demonstrates a disability and the student’s educational needs. The child must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .304(c)(4)]

What is an Initial Evaluation?

INITIAL EVALUATIONS A student is typically referred for an evaluation by a Student Support Team (SST) when it has documented sufficient evidence to suspect that a disability may be the primary cause of the student’s learning or behavior problem(s). This usually occurs after appropriate interventions in the general education classroom have failed to find a satisfactory solution.

A parent may also request an evaluation. Prior to referral for evaluation, students are provided a wide range of intensive, research-based interventions. School level data review teams/ Student Support Teams meet regularly to review the progress of students who are referred for interventions. When a student does not make the progress required to meet age or grade level standards, the student’s Response to Interventions (RtI) referral packet is submitted to the Program for Exceptional Students Department (PES) in the Muscogee County Public Education Building (MCPEC).

MCSD will obtain informed consent from the parents before the evaluation is conducted. Reasonable effort will be made to obtain the consent to include but not limited to detailed records of phone conversations, copies of correspondence, home and place of employment visits. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .300(a)(d)]

If a parent refuses to respond or consent to the evaluation request, MCSD may pursue the initial evaluation through the mediation and impartial due process hearing procedures if the child is enrolled in public school.

[34 C.F.R. § 300.300(a)(3)] [34 C.F.R. § 300 .300(d)(4)] The School Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist, and/or School Administrator should contact the Director of the Program for Exceptional students if there are significant concerns with a parent refusal to evaluate.

If a child is a ward of the state and is not residing with the parents, MCSD is not required to obtain consent from the parent if despite reasonable efforts the parent cannot be located, the rights have been terminated or subrogated by a judge. [[34 C.F.R. § 300 .300(a)(2)] The School Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist, and/or School Administrator should contact the Director of the Program for Exceptional students if there are significant concerns obtaining parental consent.

The initial evaluation must be completed before the initial provision of special education and related services are provided to a child with a disability. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .301(a)]

Parental consent is not required for:

  • Reviewing existing data as part of an evaluation or reevaluation.
  • Giving a test or evaluation that is given to all students unless consent is required for all students. (State assessments, benchmarks, etc)
  • A screening to determine appropriate instructional strategies for curriculum implementation that shall not be considered to be an evaluation for eligibility. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .300(d)] [34 C.F.R. § 300 .302]

Timelines for Initial Evaluations: The district has 60 calendar days to complete the initial evaluation process, completion being defined as when the eligibility meeting is held. [34 C.F.R .§ 300 .301(c)(1)] Exceptions include:

  • When students are not required to be in attendance for five consecutive days, (e.g., during holidays, vacation, or special circumstances), an extension to the timeline equaling those days out will be applied.
  • If the permission is received less than 30 days before the end of the school year, the days can be split between the current and next school year.
  • When the parent repeatedly fails or refuses to produce the child for evaluation.

What is a redetermination?

The purpose of a reevaluation consideration meeting is to review current evaluation information and to consider what additional information might be needed to decide whether the child continues to have a disability and to determine the needs of the child. MCSD requires that parental consent is obtained before conducting a reevaluation unless determined otherwise by the Director. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .300(c)] Parents shall be provided written notice and procedural safeguards before all evaluations. [34 C.F.R. § 300 .304(a)]

  • A reevaluation of the child must be conducted at least once every three years unless the parent and the district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.
  • An evaluation must be completed before determining that a child is no longer a child with a disability. [34 C.F.R .§ 300 .305(e)]
  • unless the student receives a regular education diploma, or ages out.
  • MCSD will provide the child with a summary of the child’s academic achievement and functional performance and include recommendations on assisting the child in post-secondary goals.
  • The evaluation must use technically sound instructions and include a variety of tools and strategies to address academic, functional and development information including information from the parent.
  • The evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the child has been classified. [34 C.F.R.§ 300 .304(c)(6)]
  • The evaluation for learning and/or behavior problems is completed by a multidisciplinary evaluation team. Referrals for psychological and clinical evaluations must be conducted by a qualified psychological examiner.
  • This information is used to assist with determining:
    • if the child continues to be a child with a disability and
    • what information should be included in the individualized educational planning to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.
  • Within 3 years of the current eligibility date, the student must be reevaluated or have a redetermination completed.

What is an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)?

If a parent disagrees with the results of a completed evaluation done by the district, the parent may request an outside independent educational evaluation (IEE) paid for by the district. The district must agree to pay for the independent evaluation or begin due process procedures to show that the district’s evaluation is adequate. If there is a due process hearing and the district’s evaluation is judged to be sufficient, then it will not have to pay for an IEE. (See 34 C.F.R.§300.502 of the Federal Rules and Regulations for a complete explanation of IEEs.)

A parent is entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees. (Public expense means that the district either pays for the full cost of the evaluation or ensures that the evaluation is provided at no cost to the parent.) [34 C.F.R.§300.502(b)(5)]

The qualifications of the independent evaluator must be the same as those required of the district evaluators and the district may set a reasonable limit on the cost of the independent evaluation.

Parents are not entitled to an independent educational evaluation at public expense before they allow the district to conduct its own evaluation. Once the district evaluation occurs, and the parents disagree with the results of the evaluation, they can request one at public expense. If granted by the district, the district will provide the parents with a list of qualified examiners from which to choose for the independent educational evaluation.

If a parent obtains an independent educational evaluation at his or her expense, the results of the evaluation that meet state and district criteria shall be considered by the district in any decision made with respect to the provision of FAPE for the child.

What are special education eligibilities?

Each special education area of disability has specific eligibility requirements. To qualify for special education placement, each student must meet eligibility requirements for at least one area. Qualified professionals and parents create an eligibility team which will review assessment data and other information to determine the student’s program eligibility [34 C.F.R§300.306(a)(1)] The parents must be invited to participate in the process and with documentation of multiple attempts of parental notification created. Although the local school system has the responsibility of determining the student’s program eligibility, the IEP team will determine placement based upon IEP programming requirements. Eligibilities Categories Georgia Department of Education.

An eligibility report must be completed or updated anytime Parental Consent for Evaluation has been signed and an evaluation has been completed. This includes initials, reevaluations and referrals to a new program. A copy of the eligibility and determination report must be provided to the parents. [34 C.F.R§300.306(a)(2)]

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

The purpose of the individualized education program (IEP) is to provide a plan designed to meet the educational needs of an eligible individual and to commit the resources necessary to meet those needs.

The IEP is based on the following guiding principles:

  • The IEP is a process and a product that documents that students age 3 to 21 are receiving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) (160-4-7-.02) consistent with all federal and state requirements including children who have been suspended or expelled from school. (See Discipline)
  • To the maximum extent appropriate, students are educated and participate with other students with disabilities and nondisabled children in the general education environment.
  • IEP development is a collaborative process.
  • The IEP team develops a program that is designed so that the student can progress toward meeting annual goals of the IEP, be involved in and progress in the general curriculum (including the LEA’s implementation of the Georgia Common Core Standards) participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities, and be educated with nondisabled peers, and
  • The IEP process involves on-going progress monitoring and decision-making. Decision-making is based on the student’s needs and is used to improve student results.

Who is required to participate in the IEP Team Meeting?

  • Parent(s) and/or guardian(s)
  • Local Education Agency (LEA) as determined by the school or district administration
  • Not less than one of the student’s general education teachers.
  • Not less than one of the student’s special education teachers that serves the student. Aired side.
  • IEP case-manager ( May be the special education teacher)
  • School Psychologist (as appropriate)
  • Service Providers (as appropriate)
  • Related Service Provider(s) (as appropriate)
  • Representative of any participating agency responsible for providing or paying for services, as appropriate with consent.
  • The child, as appropriate
  • Babies Can’t Wait coordinator or other representative if appropriate

What does it mean to excuse an IEP Team member?

A parent or guardian and the district may excuse a required IEP team member in writing for two circumstances.

  • When an IEP team member’s area of curriculum or related services is NOT being changed or discussed at the IEP meeting, the parent and the district may agree to excuse an IEP team member from all or part of a meeting with the parent consents, in writing, to this excusal.
  • When the IEP team member’s area of curriculum or related services is being discussed at the meeting, the parent and the district may excuse an IEP team member from all or part of a meeting if the parent consents, in writing, to the excusal.

When can the district hold a meeting without the parent?

While MCSD discourages meetings without parent attendance, if the parent cannot attend the meeting or refuses to schedule a meeting that is needed to meet timeline or compliance requirements, the district may determine through following the appropriate procedures and guidelines that the meeting should continue. In this case, the school will schedule to meet with the parent after the IEP meeting to provide parental rights, review the IEP and discuss any parental concerns or questions.

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

The systematic application of technology, engineering methodologies, or scientific principles to meet the needs of, and address the barriers confronted by, persons with developmental disabilities in areas including education, employment, supported employment, transportation, independent living, and other community living arrangements. Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device. Examples of commonly used devices are a pencil grip, Boardmaker, specialized software, or low or high voice output devices.

What is Extended School Year (ESY)?

Additional special education and related services for students with disabilities to supplement the normal school year which are provided as part of a free and appropriate public education as defined in PL 94-192. The intent of ESY is to prevent significant regression which compromises the student’s ability to make meaningful progress on the IEP, therefore, not providing the student with FAPE. ESY is not provided to guarantee mastery of goals/objectives.

When does a parent consent for services?

Written consent is required for the following actions

  • To conduct an initial evaluation [34 C.F.R.§300.300(a)(1)(i)]
  • To conduct a reevaluation[34 C.F.R.§300.300(c)(1)(i)]
  • For the initial provision of special education and related services on the IEP. [34 C.F.R.§300.300(b)(1)]
  • To make a substantial change in special education and related services; and before disclosure of personally identifiable information that is subject to confidentiality.[34 C.F.R.§300.622(a)]
  • Accessing a child’s or parent’s public benefits or insurance for the first time. [34 C.F.R.§300.154(d)(iv]
  • Muscogee County will ensure written Consent to Place for students entering from other systems with an IEP
  • Whenever guardianship changes

How can I revoke service consent?

If, at any time following the initial provision of special education services, the parent of the child may revoke consent in writing for continuing the special education services. The LEA will meet with the parent to review IEP services, provide Parental Rights and discuss the revocation process.

What are Parent Mentors?

The Department for Exceptional Children employs two part-time Parent Mentors who are available to work with individual parents or to provide training to groups of parents, administrators and/or teachers on topics of interest and concern. Parents may request contact information or schools may refer parents to the Parent Mentors by informing them to contact the Program for Exceptional Students, 706-748-2214. Schools may request Parent Training opportunities by contacting one of the Parent Mentors or the schools assigned Region Program Manager. [34 C.F.R.§300.34(c)(8]

The Program for Exceptional Children employs parents of children receiving special education services to advise, educate and support other families navigating through the special education process. They are skilled at working with and developing collaborative partnerships among parents, school staff, agencies, and the community. Liaisons are professional staff members of the school system who know first-hand the triumphs and disappointments of raising a child with learning, emotional and /or physical challenges.
Role of a Parent Mentor:

  • Provide training and information to parents regarding:
    • The special education process of referral, evaluation, and placement.
    • Parent rights and responsibilities under the IDEIA
    • Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings
    • Resources available within and outside the school system
  • Services provided through:
    • Parent Training Workshops (individual ,schools, or community)
    • One-on-one meetings
    • Informational parent publications (newsletter, brochures, resource guide)
    • Community forums and events
    • Network of supportive parents

Who are the MCSD Parent Mentors and how do I contact them?

Vernita Harris - Parent Mentor
Harris.Vernita.T@muscogee.k12.ga.us
Muscogee County School district
2960 Macon Rd, Columbus, GA 31906
Office: 706-748-2205
Fax: 706-748-2270

Lakisha Smith - Parent Mentor
Smith.Lakisha.S@muscogee.k12.ga.us
Muscogee County School district
2960 Macon Rd, Columbus, GA 31906
Office: 706-748-3230
Fax: 706-748-2270

How do I request records for my child?

Muscogee County permit parents or representative of the parents [34 C.F.R§300.613] to inspect and review any education records relating to their children that are collected, maintained, or used by the district. (160-4-7-.09)The district complies with any request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, any due process hearing, or resolution session, and in no case more than 45 days after the request has been made. The rights of parents regarding education records are transferred to the adult student at age 18. Please contact the LEA at the school level or email the parenthelp email at parenthelp@muscogee.k12.ga.us or call 7067482000 and request to speak with the Program Specialist for assistance.

How does discipline work for a student with a disability?

Students with disabilities will be disciplined in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations. At times, discipline procedures for students with disabilities will be the same as the procedures implemented for students without disabilities, and, at times, the procedures implemented for students with disabilities will not be the same. A comprehensive discussion of those procedures and their legal underpinnings is outside the scope of this handbook. However, if you have questions about the disciplinary process related to a student with disabilities, and those questions cannot be answered at the school level, please contact the Regional Program Manager for the school provided in the District Phone Numbers chart on Page 8.

The information provided below is general, and is included here only to give parents and students general information.

What is a manifestation determination?

Manifestation Determination Meetings: Within ten (10) school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct, the MCSD will notice and hold a Manifestation Determination Meeting (MDM). An MDM will include relevant members of the child’s IEP Team. Parents will be given notice of the meeting and are encouraged to attend.

The purpose of this meeting is to consider whether the behavior was a manifestation of the student’s disability; whether the behavior has a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability; and to determine whether the behavior was a direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP. The meeting participants will consider relevant information from the student’s IEP or other records, teacher observations, and information provided by parents.

A decision will be made at the Manifestation Determination Meeting. After that meeting and decision, the parent can ask for a “decision review” by the Senior Regulatory Compliance Director, which will be a review of the relevant documents only - no new facts will be presented - or he or she may appeal by requesting a due process hearing. If a due process hearing request is filed, an expedited hearing must occur within twenty (20) school days.

What is a Functional Behavioral Assessment(FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan(BIP)?

FBAs and BIPs will likely also be part of the process where a student with a disability has violated the Code of Conduct and a change of placement is contemplated.

An FBA focuses on identifying the behaviors that are problematic, and the function or purpose behind a behavior. Typically, the process involves looking closely at a wide range of child-specific factors (e.g., social, affective, environmental). Knowing why a child misbehaves is directly helpful to the IEP Team in developing a BIP that will reduce or eliminate the misbehavior.

A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is a Plan that guides school district personnel in the handling of behaviors.

FBAs and BIPs are required when the LEA, the parent, and the relevant members of the child’s IEP Team determine that a student’s conduct was a manifestation of his or her disability. If a child’s misconduct has been found to have a direct and substantial relationship to his or her disability, the IEP Team will need to conduct an FBA of the child, unless one has already been conducted. Similarly, the IEP Team must write a BIP for this child, unless one already exists. If a BIP already exists, then the IEP Team will need to review the plan and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior.

What are the medication rules for students with disabilities?

MCSD may not require medication as a condition of attending school, receiving an evaluation, or receiving services. [34 C.F.R. 300.174(a)]

  • Parents make the decisions regarding their children and any medication they administer or do not administer.
  • MCSD staff should not make medical decisions that require medication. Nothing prohibits MCSD, however, from sharing classroom observations regarding the academic, behavioral, or functional performance of a child with the parents in order to better inform the parents of the student’s behavior and academic performance when taking or not taking medication.
  • Please contact the LEA Facilitator at your middle or high school or the Region Program Manager to discuss extreme situations regarding medication.

What is a change of placement?

A change of placement in the context of a discipline event occurs if the removal from school is for more than (10) consecutive school days, or the child has been subjected to a series of removals from school that constitute a pattern.

What is Seclusion and Restraint?

MCSD prohibits the use of seclusion, which is defined as "a procedure that isolates and confines a student in a separate area until he/she is no longer an immediate danger to him/herself or others."

Seclusion does not include situations in which a staff member trained in the use of de-escalation techniques or restraint is physically present in the same unlocked room as the student, time-out (a behavioral intervention in which the student is temporarily removed from the learning activity but in which the student is not confined), in-school suspension, detention, or a student-requested break in a different location in the room or in a separate room.

The use of physical restraint is prohibited except in those situations in which the student is an immediate danger to himself or others, and the student is not responsive to less intensive behavioral interventions. Physical restraint will be terminated when the student is no longer an immediate danger or if the student is observed to be in severe distress.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, physical restraint is prohibited:

  1. as a form of discipline or punishment;
  2. when a student cannot be safely restrained, or
  3. when the use of intervention would be contraindicated due to the student's psychiatric, medical, or physical conditions as described in the student's educational records.

This policy should not be construed to eliminate or restrict the ability of any school district employee to use his or her discretion in the use of physical restraint to protect students or others from imminent harm or bodily injury. Nothing in this policy shall be construed to prohibit an employee of the school district from taking appropriate action to diffuse a student fight or altercation. Nothing in this policy shall be construed to interfere with the duties of law enforcement or emergency medical personnel.

Contact Information

Mary C Lewis Executive Director Program for Exceptional Students



Robin B Barber Program Specialist