A "Nickerson Letter," also called a "P-1 Letter," is a voucher or authorization provided by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to the parent of a student with special needs whose rights have been violated in the manner described below. It entitles the parent to funding for a State-approved non-public school that accepts his or her child. Because Nickerson Letters have short expiration periods, parents who receive Nickerson Letters are advised to apply to schools immediately upon receiving the letter. For a list of approved private schools in New York State, visit the http://www.acces.nysed.gov/vr.

A parent is entitled to a Nickerson Letter when the DOE has violated one of three specific timelines regarding placement of a student with special needs. Two of the timelines focus on referral of a student for evaluations. Such referrals are the first step in the process of obtaining special education services and placement.

The first timeline relates to initial referrals for evaluations. In the event of an initial referral, the DOE must offer a student with special needs an appropriate placement within 65 school days of parental consent to evaluation. If the DOE fails to offer appropriate placement within 65 school days, it must issue a Nickerson Letter.

The second timeline relates to students who are already within the special education system. The parent of a student who is already in the special education system necessarily gave consent some time ago. Therefore, the 65 day timeline begins to run either upon referral for re-evaluation or upon a request for review of services. In this case, a parent is entitled to a Nickerson Letter if his or her child has not received an appropriate placement within 65 school days of referral for a re-evaluation or request for a review of services.

The third timeline relates to the DOE's obligation to offer an appropriate placement for the coming school year and to provide notice of that placement by August 15th. Parents who do not receive such notice are entitled to a Nickerson Letter.

A Nickerson Letter is only available in the five boroughs of New York City.

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