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    Special Education Frequently Asked Questions

    What do I do if I believe a child in my classroom or within my care may have a disability?

    As school staff or parents suspect a disability that may be a barrier to a child’s ability to access the general education curriculum, he or she should contact the school principal to initiate a referral for special education services. The principal will direct the parent through the initial stages of the referral process.

    What is the role of the special education ombudsperson and how do I initiate contact?

    Margo Siegenthaler is the district’s special education ombudsperson. This position provides impartial consultation for families who have concerns about special education services, serves as a conduit of information and supports relationships between families and staff.

    You are welcome to call the special education ombudsperson for any question, at any point of a problem solving process and when other strategies to resolve concerns have not been successful.

    The special education ombudsperson develops communication tools including a monthly family newsletter and organizes trainings for families around special education issues to strengthen school and family partnerships in order to ensure the best possible outcome for students. Margo can be reached at 206-252-0794 or

    What is the difference between a supervisor and a program specialist?

    The regional supervisor oversees all schools within one of the district’s five regions, leads the early childhood programs and coordinates and leads the private school services. These centrally based leaders work to support schools through the training and support of two program specialists assigned to each region or area of service.

    Supervisors monitor school practices for compliance with district policy and state law, review compliance data, provide training and support to program specialists, establish policy and procedure in collaboration with the special education leadership team and assist in central level decision making.

    Program specialists consult, coach, offer guidance, help problem solve and support schools in the IEP process as needed. The majority of their week is spent in the schools talking with and working alongside school staff, meeting with principals, providing support for unique needs and helping to determine program and service models for the schools. Program specialists offer insight and knowledge toward decisions around programs, budget and departmental procedures.

    Who do I contact with questions regarding related services such as speech, occupational therapy, or deaf and hard of hearing services?

    Regional supervisors are assigned an area of specialty in addition to the region they serve.

    For questions regarding:

    Deaf and hard of hearing, vision services, assistive technology

    Occupational and physical therapy services

    Speech and audiology services 

    Who can I speak with to learn the protocols and procedures around the discipline of a child with special needs?

    School-based discipline for a child is highly unique and decisions are dictated by the factors present within each situation. The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) discipline website provides an overview of the policies and procedures around discipline for all children, and offers a special section devoted to children served in special education. Links are provided, below.

    With further questions about SPS discipline practice and policies; contact Erin Romanuk, attendance and discipline program manager at 206-252-0624.

    For questions or concerns regarding a disciplinary issue occurring within a specific school, contact your school principal. For further assistance, contact your regional supervisor.

    Who should I go to if I have a concern about my child who is receiving special education services?

    The first person to resolve any concerns that you might have is your child’s case manager. This will usually be his/her special education teacher. Parents/guardians can always request a parent-teacher conference. If a resolution is not reached there, the next person with whom to discuss your concerns is your school assistant principal/principal.

    If your concern is around a special education issue and you are not able to resolve it at the school level, you may talk to the special education program specialist or the regional supervisor assigned to your school. To find out who your program specialist or the supervisor is for your school, you may call the special education office.

    If you feel that your issue is not being resolved, you may call the special education ombudsperson. You are welcome to call the special education ombudsperson for any question, at any point of a problem solving process, and when other strategies to resolve concerns have not been successful.