Skip to main content

Bellingham Public Schools proudly serves students with disabilities birth through age 21. We strive to give all our students love, care and great teaching. We build skills that allow each student to discover and develop a passion, contribute to our community and live a fulfilling, productive life.

What is Special Education?

Special Education is specialized instruction for students age Birth to 21 who qualify according to the laws and regulations outlined by state and federal government. A student may qualify for services in one of the areas as identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The following definitions are from the U.S. Department of Education website.

Getting Started

The district participates in “child find” – awareness and screening activities for the purpose of locating, identifying and evaluating children who are suspected of having disabilities and who may be in need of special education services. A student may also be referred for a special education evaluation by any source, including parents. The referral is to be made in writing and submitted to the building principal or designee. 

The Special Education Process

  1. Referral and Identification
  2. Assessment
  3. Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  4. IEP Review

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Special Education Programs

Our district has a variety of programs to support families of students with special needs:

  • Birth to 2: Bellingham schools partners with community agencies to provide early intervention services through the Department of Early Learning (DEL) Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program. Children ages Birth to Two who have delays in their development or have a physical or mental condition that is known to cause a delay in development may be eligible for early intervention services. These services are provided in a child’s natural environment which may include in  their home or childcare program.
  • Preschool: Early childhood preschool programs provide a language-based curriculum to students ages 3-4 with developmental delays. Preschool programs are based in the following locations:
    • Alderwood Elementary
    • Birchwood Elementary
    • Cordata Elementary
    • Geneva Elementary
    • Happy Valley Elementary
    • Northern Heights Elementary
    • Sunnyland Elementary
    • Sehome High School
  • Resource: programs provide direct, integrated, and/or consultative services to students with mild to moderate disabilities in general education. Resource programs are based in every elementary, middle and high school. 
  • Life Skills: Life Skills programs provide a functional academic and skill domain curriculum, with supported integration in general education and opportunities for community-based instruction to students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities. Life Skills programs are based in the following locations:
    • Carl Cozier Elementary
    • Columbia Elementary
    • Cordata Elementary
    • Wade King Elementary
    • Fairhaven Middle
    • Kulshan Middle
    • Shuksan Middle
    • Bellingham High
    • Sehome High
    • Squalicum HIgh
  • EBD (Emotionally/Behaviorally Disabled) BRIDGES: The “BRIDGES” programs provide an academic curriculum within a structured behavior management system, with integration or mainstreaming in general education, to students with moderate to severe behavioral disabilities. EBD programs are based in the following locations:
    • Parkview Elementary
    • Lowell Elementary
    • Whatcom Middle
    • Squalicum High
  • Community Transitions: The Community Transitions post-high school program provides transition classes, supported and independent vocational experiences, and linkages to adult services for students ages 18-21 with mild, moderate, or severe disabilities.
  • Itinerant Services: Itinerant services provide instruction and support to students who need:
    • Physical Therapy
    • Assistive Technology
    • Occupational Therapy
    • Speech Language Therapy
    • Sign Language
    • Aural Rehab Management
    • Braille
    • Diagnostic-Psychological intervention
    • Autism Consultation
  • Out of District Placements: For students who need intensive services, the Bellingham Public Schools contracts with other providers including:
    • Northwest ESD 189 – Whatcom Discovery

State and Federal Resources

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – Special Education (OSPI)
Washington State Resources for Parents of Children and Youth with Disabilities


Continuing Education Opportunities


Special Education Office Staff

Director: Mike Haberman, (360) 676-6458

     Secretary: Deanna Bannerman (360) 676-6458

Assistant Director: Bethany Verner (360) 676-6458

     Secretary: Joy Rawls (360) 676-6470 ext. 2042

Program Secretaries:
Coleen Aylen: (360) 676-6470 ext. 4408
Vickie Tapparo:  (360) 676-6470 ext. 6833
Julie Webster:  (360) 676-6517

Special Education Records Requests

Please fax requests to 360-676-2692 or email