Future Reflections Summer/Fall 1999, Vol. 18 No. 2
By Sue Abderholden
Reprinted from Pacesetter, Summer, 1999, a publication of PACER Center, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Final regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which Congress reauthorized in 1997, were published by the U.S. Department of Education in March. The final regulations were released later than originally expected because Department staff considered nearly 6,000 comments on the proposed regulations.
The reauthorized IDEA seeks to improve the education results for children with disabilities. It goes beyond simply assuring access to public education to focusing on high academic expectation for children with disabilities.
Parents of children with disabilities are finding it important to learn about the changes in the law and regulations and to understand how they affect their children. For example, parents should know that new Individualized Education Program (IEP) requirements in IDEA 97 were in effect for all IEPs reviewed or developed on or after July 1, 1998.
While it is difficult to summarize all the changes in IDEA 97 and the final regulations, a sampling of issues, which may be of particular importance to parents, follows:
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been added to the list of conditions that could make a child eligible for special education services under the "other health impaired" category.
ÖChildren may be eligible for special education, even if they are progressing from grade to grade. Previously, some schools considered children not to be eligible for services because they passed to the next grade.
ÖChildren cannot be determined eligible for services based solely on limited English proficiency or lack of instruction in reading or math.
ÖEvaluations must identify all of the childs needs for special education and related services, even if those needs are not commonly linked to the disability under which a child has been found eligible for services (services must be based on need, not disability category).
For example, schools cannot exclude a child who has learning disabilities from instruction in behavior management or support if he or she needs assistance in those areas.
Parent input is a source of information to use in determining a childs eligibility for services.
IEPs must include how a child will be involved in the general curriculum and must state the goals for meeting the childs needs, so that the child can progress in the general curriculum.
ÖA childs IEP must be accessible to each teacher and service provider who is responsible for implementing parts of the IEP. The teachers and service providers must be informed about the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports listed in the childs IEP.
ÖAt least one of the childs regular education teachers must be on the IEP team if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular classroom or other school activities. Parents and the school can invite others of their choosing who have knowledge about the child or special expertise about the childs needs. The party who invites the "expert" to join the team determines the expertise.
ÖThe IEP team must consider a number of "special factors" when developing a childs IEP strategies. They include 1. positive interventions for behavior that interferes with learning; 2. limited English proficiency, as language needs relate to the IEP; 3. assistive technology needs; 4. communication needs; and 5. communication in their language and communication methods for deaf or hearing impaired children. For children who are blind or visually impaired, the team must include the use of Braille, unless, after an evaluation, the team considers that it is not needed.
ÖSchools must inform parents of special education students of their childs progress at least as often as they inform parents of children who do not have disabilities. Reports must focus on whether a child is making appropriate progress in meeting IEP goals.
ÖMore information about IDEA and the regulations is available through PACERs Web site, <www.pacer.org>.
Extended School Year services cannot be unilaterally limited to particular categories of disability or automatically be limited in the type, amount, or duration of services.
Children with disabilities must participate, with appropriate accommodations and modifications, in general statewide and district-wide assessment programs. For those who cannot participate, alternative assessments must be developed and used by July 1, 2000.
ÖAssessments must be done in the language used by the child in the home or learning environment, unless clearly not feasible to do so.
Parents should be aware that Minnesota law differs from the federal law.
The regulations say that schools need not provide services during the first 10 school days of removal from school, in a school year. Subsequent removals require services to the extent needed for the child to make appropriate progress in the general curriculum and in achieving IEP goals.
ÖFor removals of more than 10 days in the same school year, the IEP team must meet to develop a functional behavioral assessment plan (if one has not been done) or to review an existing behavior intervention plan. A manifestation review is required if the removal is a change of placement. A change of placement occurs if the removal is for more than 10 consecutive school days or a series of removals that constitute a pattern and equal more than 10 school days in one school year.
ÖSchools may remove a child for up to 45 days for bringing weapons or drugs to schools. A hearing officer may remove a child for up to 45 days if it is believed the child is dangerous to himself or others.
If a child graduates with a regular high school diploma, it is considered a "change of placement" and requires written prior notice.
ÖIf a "certificate of attendance" is awarded instead of a regular diploma, the child remains eligible for special education services until the child receives a regular diploma or no longer meets the age requirements (ages out).