Students with Disabilities and the Public School Lottery


The My School DC lottery process is available to all DC residents. Students with disabilities use the same lottery application process, can apply to any DC Public School (DCPS) and DC public charter school, and are treated the same as all students who enter the lottery. No student shall be denied admission into a DC public school because of disabilities or suspected disabilities.


All families of students with disabilities are invited to learn about their public school options and participate in the common lottery. My School DC school profiles have contact information for a staff member that the school has identified specifically to speak about special education services. The My School DC Parent Advisory Council has created a set of questions by parents for parents that includes a section written by parents of students with disabilities – feel free to use these if applicable when connecting with schools. Each school’s profile also links out to their School Report Card, which contains school-specific data on students with disabilities. 


The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) also created a Special Education Resource Hub with information and helpful resources that provide answers to common questions such as, what are the rights of you and your child, who to reach out to for support, and what to do if you think your child’s needs have changed.  In addition, the DC Special Education Hub launched in 2022 to connect families with tools, information, and 1:1 support so families can make informed decisions to guide their child’s learning.


For families with students transitioning  to high school and beyond, use your student’s secondary transition plan as a way to start your search, think of what you will need in a school, and then use My School DC school profiles and contact schools to find programming that fits your student’s goals.


The Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program serves as the single point of entry for infants and toddlers in Washington, DC whose families have concerns about their development. Specifically, Strong Start provides early intervention, therapeutic and other services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. Learn more here. For children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months families can reach out to Early Stages, a DCPS assessment center. Any District resident can seek their free services to identify any developmental delays their child may have and arrange services to address them. Learn more here




Learn what you need to apply and apply by the deadlines.


There is a lottery preference for an applicant that has been identified as having a high level of need in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as measured on March 1, 2022. Identification for this preference means OSSE has a record that the applicant has an eligible IEP for the high level special education classrooms where the preference is offered. Currently, this preference is offered at one public charter school, Bridges PCS. Bridges PCS designates seats each year for students who have an eligible IEP.




If a student receives a lottery match or waitlist offer, the next step is to enroll in that public school. The Local Education Agency (LEA) must enroll that student regardless of the student’s special education status. However, the LEA may serve the student at a different campus within their LEA than where the student was matched in order to appropriately serve the student’s IEP. Learn more about DCPS' special education policies here. If you have a student with disabilities, we encourage you to reach out to individual LEAs to learn more about their special education policies.


There are two enrollment processes outside of the common lottery for students with disabilities:

  1. DCPS Early Stages
    Siblings of students accepting placement through the DCPS Early Stages program are eligible for a sibling preference. 
  1. Non-Public Placement
    Once a student with disabilities is enrolled in a public school in DC, the student’s IEP team may decide to place the student at a nonpublic special education school or program. A non-public special education school is a privately owned or operated school that maintains or conducts classes for the purposes of offering instruction to students with disabilities. The child must still be enrolled in a public LEA every school year during the nonpublic school placement. Learn more here.




My School DC is a part of the Office of State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). Learn more about OSSE's Roadmap for Accelerating Academic Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. Click here for helpful links to community resources, transportation information for students with disabilities, family rights/procedural safeguards, and early childhood transition guidelines. Click here for the DC Special Education Hub.


To see a list of terms and definitions that may be helpful as you learn more to support your child, visit this resource from DC’s Office of the Student Advocate.


Questions? Call 202-888-6336 for assistance in your language or send an e-mail to [email protected].