The federal law for the education of students with disabilities is the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  IDEA explains how students with disabilities will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  IDEA recognizes the importance of a parent’s knowledge of their child’s needs to assist in creating an education plan for their child.  Parents and school must work in partnership to determine the child’s needs, develop a written plan to address those needs, and provide services idenfitied in the plan at no cost to the parent.  This document is called an Individualized Education Program.


Someone is inquiring that your child may have a disability that is affecting your child’s education and has made a written referral to explore this possibility.  The district has 15 business days to notify you that a written referral has been made and work with you to identify possible evaluation assessements that would help the team make this determination. 

After this discussion, a notice will be sent to you asking for your written consent to conduct these assessments.  Upon receipt of this notice, granting us permission, the district has 60 days to complete the evaluation and hold a meeting to determine if your child meets the Wisconsin state critieria in at least one area and needs special education to benefit. 

If the team determines that your child does not meet the criteria for special education, the team will brainstorn ideas on how to continue to support your child. 

If the team determines that your child has a disability and needs special education, then the team may either immediately develop a plan (IEP) or hold another meeting within 15 days to complete the plan.  Before the plan is implemented your written consent must be provided. This process could take 3 months.


The determination of eligibility is made by a team of qualified professionals and the parent. You will be provided a copy of all reports and a summary of the meeting explaining the team’s decision following the meeting. 


As a parent, you will need to learn all you can about special education.  The district is here to help you by providing learning opportunities and connecting you to other resources, including reading materials and parents. There are also many good resources available on the internet.

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities- www.NICHCY.org

The Learning Disabilities Association of America- www.Idanatl.org

River Falls School District- http://www.rfsd.k12.wi.us/district/student-services.cfm 


The IEP team is critical to the success of your child’s education.  There are things that only you know about your child.  The team must include the following people. Note: Some people may have more than one role in the IEP meeting.

The special education teacher, the regular education teacher, school district representative who can commit to the school district resources, therapists (if appropriate), the parent, the child (must invite if 14 years of age or older), and other professionals invited by the parents or district who may be helpful in developing an appropriate IEP.         


It’s fine to ask lots of questions, because this is your child.  Here’s what we advise:

Keep calling, and keep asking questions

Ask everyone you talk with for names and telephone numbers of other people you can contact


It’s important to get organized.  When you call the school or agency, write down the date and time of the call, who you talk with and what the conversation is about.  You will need this information at some point and you’ll need to remember the important points.  It’s important to keep good notes and to keep a copy of  all the paperwork in the file folder including: letters, reports, and consent forms. Other information to keep track of: the person’s name, their phone number, dates of IEP meetings and who agrees to what. Using a binder system or other document holder is helpful. 


As a parent, you need to educate yourself.  You need to learn all you can about your child’s disability and interventions that are available to help your child succeed. 


Special education is full of acronyms.  Listen carefully to the words and abbreviations people use in the education system.

Ask about the abbreviations or initials you don’t understandWrite the words or abbreviation downPractice using these words and/or abbreviations in your conversations (FAPE, IEP, LRE). For a full glossary of terminology commonly used in special education, you may view the full version of the "Welcome to Special Education" link on the School District of River Falls website located on the right side of the page.


ID- Intellectual Disability

EBD- Emotional Behavioral Disability

HI- Hearing Impairment

OI- Orthopedic Impairment

OHI- Other Health Impairment

SDD- Significant Developmental Delay

SLD- Specific Learning Disability

SP/L- Speech or Language Impairment

TBI- Traumatic Brain Injury

V- Vision


Your greatest resource is other parents of children with a disability and the team that you’re a part of at school.  Connections with other parents can give you energy.  Parents recommend that you:

Find a support group near youAsk your child’s health care providers, teachers or others if they can connect you with other families


You will become familiar with evaluation, IEPs, PLEPs, Goals and Objectives, Transitions, and other aspects of Special Education.  Others can benefit from your knowledge and the expertise that you will gain about your child’s specific condition.Tell the people you contact how they’ve helped you. Call back if you discover a great resource. Pass on to other parents what’s been successful and what you’ve learned.


Evaluation takes place 60 days from date consent is received by the district to complete testing and hold IEP meeting.

IEP Team decides:

  1. Does the child have an impairment?
  2. Does the child need special education?

IEP team writes IEP together. This includes deciding what services the child needs.

IEP team decides on placement.

LEA implements the IEP and placement.

IEP team reviews the IEP and placement at least annually.

IEP team does a reevaluation at least every three years, unless parents and school agree not to

  • All decisions listed above are connected to one another and centered on the needs of the child. For example, when the IEP team talks about evaluation, they also think about what services the child will need and where the child will get the services.For some children the decision can be made in one meeting. For other children the team may need to meet more than once.


District Office: (715) 425-1800

Jackie Steinhoff, Director of Student Services (x1115)

Mary Bergman, Student Services Secretary (x1121)

Jennifer Mueller, Student Services Secretary (x1116)


River Falls High School: (715) 425-1830                                     Sommer Bowers, School Psychologist

Renaissance School: (715) 425-5380                                          Sommer Bowers, School Psychologist

Meyer Middle School: (715) 425-1821                                         Sommer Bowers, School Psychologist

Greenwood Elementary School: (715) 425-1810                         Kris Gudnason, School Psychologist

Westside Elementary School: (715) 425-1815                             Kali Olson, School Psychologist

Rocky Branch Elementary School: (715) 425-1819                     Lauri Kent, School Psychologist

River Falls Montessori: (715) 425-1800                                       Kali Olson, School Psychologist

Early Childhood (715) 425-1821 or (715) 425-1815                       Lauri Kent, School Psychologist




Assistive Technology (AT): Any item a child needs to increase, maintain or improve how the child does in school. AT includes low-tech, and high-tech items, from a calculator to a computer. AT also can mean services a child needs to help in choosing, getting, or using the item.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP): The IEP Team makes a plan to help prevent problem behaviors. The plan helps a child learn new appropriate behaviors. A positive behavior plan is not a list of punishments. The plan uses information from a functional behavioral assessment.

Consent: The parent tells the school in writing the parent understands and agrees to what the school plans to do. The consent form says the parent understands consent is voluntary, and the parent can take it back at any time before the school does what it plans to do. Parents can revoke the consent, but it does not cancel what the LEA has already done.

Evaluation: When a professional gathers information about a child to decide if the child qualifies for special education or the kind and amount of services the child needs. Evaluation can be testing, observing, or talking to people who work with the child.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Every child who is eligible for special education must receive a FAPE which means the school cannot charge for the child’s education, and that education must enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA): The IEP Team finds out what makes the child keep doing problem behaviors and how to help the child learn how to behave differently.

General education curriculum: What children without disabilities learn in the regular education classroom.

Home-based schooling: Parents choose to teach their child at home instead of sending their child to school to learn basic subjects.

Homebound schooling: When the child’s IEP Team decides it is appropriate, the school teaches a child at home. The IEP Team’s decision must be based on the child’s needs.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): The plan developed by the child’s IEP team which indicates the child’s annual goals, and specifies the special education and related services which the child will receive.

LEA representative: A person on the IEP Team who has knowledge about, and can commit the school’s resources so that the child receives the IEP services. All IEP meetings must have an LEA representative.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): LRE is a concept referring to the extent of removal of a child from education with children who do not have disabilities as little as possible.

Placement: The child’s setting (regular class, resource room, self-contained class), and the school building the child attends for receiving special education.

Related Services: Things a child may need to benefit from special education. They are included in the IEP. Examples of related services are occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Special Education: Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. The services are provided at no cost to the parents. The services can be provided in many different settings.

Supplementary Aids and Services: Services and supports provided in regular education classes and other settings to help a child with a disability be educated with children who do not have disabilities as much as is appropriate.

Transition: Transition is the term for preparing a child for life after high school. Transition planning is a required part of every child’s IEP starting at age 14. Transition planning is also required for every child moving from Birth to Three programs to a school’s Early Childhood special education. Sometimes transition planning happens when a child moves from one grade to the next, or one school to the next. Transition can also mean moving from one class to the next class in school.

Wisconsin Alternate Assessment (WAA): State guidelines for testing children with disabilities who cannot take the regular state tests.




  • School District of River Falls
  • 852 East Division Street, River Falls, WI 54022
  • Phone: (715) 425-1800 | Fax: 715-425-1804
  • Email