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 and can apply to any DCPS or DC public charter school. No student shall be denied admission into a DC public school because of disabilities or suspected disabilities. 

If a student receives a lottery match or waitlist offer, 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.  
For example, your child currently attends School A where their IEP is being served. After applying in the lottery, your child receives a match to School B, where it is determined by the LEA that School B cannot serve your child's IEP appropriately. Your child may be redirected by the LEA to enroll in a different school than School B.  
If you have a student with disabilities, we encourage you to reach out to individual LEAs to learn more about their special education policies. Learn more about school-level special education services by contacting their special education contact (located on each school profile). Learn more about the DCPS special education process here.  
See the “Enroll” section below for more information about enrollment outside of the My School DC process.  


All families of students with disabilities are invited to learn about their public school options and participate in the common lottery.  

School Profiles 

My School DC school profiles have contact information for a staff member that the school has identified specifically to speak about special education services. Each school’s profile also links to their School Report Card, which contains school-specific data on students with disabilities. 

Questions for Parents by Parents 

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 questions if applicable when connecting with schools.  


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 IEPas measured on or after March 1, 2023. 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.  

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. 


If a student receives a lottery match or waitlist offer, the next step is to enroll.  

Of note, there are a few enrollment processes outside of the common lottery for students with disabilities: 

  1. DCPS Early Stages  
    After evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education services and development of an IEP, Early Stages provides you with a school where you can enroll and begin IEP services. You will be offered a seat at your neighborhood school if the school can implement your child’s IEP and has an available seat. If not, you will be offered a seat at the next closest school. 

    Early Stages can only offer enrollment at DCPS schools. They cannot place children into charter schools. However, any IEP developed at Early Stages is valid at any public school in DC, including charters 
    If you prefer to enroll your child in a private school or child care center, or home-school your child, you may receive a Services Plan. Services Plans do not offer the full range of services available on an IEP and may not fully meet your child’s educational needs. However, they do provide some level of support for children who will not be enrolled in a DCPS school. If you are eligible for a Services Plan, it will be developed at the same time as the IEP. 
    Siblings of children who enroll based on a DCPS Early Stages location offer are eligible for a sibling preference.  

  1. DCPS Self Contained Classrooms 
    DCPS reserves the right to serve students with 20 or more hours of specialized instruction outside of general education at a different campus within the LEA than where the student was matched to appropriately serve and implement the student’s IEP. Schools with self contained programs and feeder patterns for the 2023-24 school year can be found here. DCPS has not named any of its self-contained academic program classrooms for participation in the My School DC lottery special education preference. 


The DC Special Education Hub launched in 2022 to connect families with tools, information and one-on-one support so families can make informed decisions to guide their child’s learning. Click here to see a list of terms and definitions that may be helpful as you learn more to support your child.