- UNDERSTANDING SPECIAL EDUCATION POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
- THE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROCESS
- SITE BASED COMPLIANCE
- PRINCIPAL'S CHECKLIST
UNDERSTANDING SPECIAL EDUCATION POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Federal law governing special education, requires participating states to have policies and procedures to ensure that:
“A free appropriate public education is available to children with disabilities residing in the State between the ages of three and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school”
California law declares that:
“All individuals with disabilities with exceptional needs have a right to participate in free appropriate public education and that special education instruction and services for these persons are needed in order to ensure them of the right to an appropriate educational opportunity to meet their unique needs”
Since it is the commitment and obligation of the LAUSD and its staff to ensure that students with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE), the following questions and answers are designed to help the user understand FAPE and the over-arching logic of special education policies and procedures.
- For special education purposes, who is a child with a disability?
There are three parts to the answer. First, the child must be determined to have a disability. Second, because of the disability, the child needs special education and related services. And third, the child is age three through 21. If a child does not meet all of the above criteria then he/she is not eligible for special education.
- What disabilities are included?
LAUSD uses the following categories of disability:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Established Medical Disability (Ages three through five only)
- Hard of Hearing
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic
- Multiple Disabilities, Hearing
- Multiple Disabilities, Vision
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
- What is special education?
Special education is specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of the child. In order for a child who has one or more of the above disabilities to be eligible for special education, they must have a unique educational need that requires specially designed instruction. A unique educational need is one that stems from the disability of the child and is significantly different from the educational needs of the student’s typical peers. Specially designed instruction is adapting the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique educational needs of the child so that he/she can access the general curriculum and meet State and District educational standards.
- What are related services?
Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. To receive one or more related services a child must have a disability, need special education, and the related service must be determined to be necessary to benefit from the special education. California law uses the term Designated Instructional Services to mean related services. Related services include, but are not limited to:
- Adapted Physical Education Services
- Audiological Services
- Behavior Intervention Services
- Counseling Services
- Language and Speech Therapy (Can be special education or a related )
- Medical Services (For diagnostic purposes )
- Occupational Therapy
- Orientation and Mobility Services
- Parent Counseling and Training
- Physical Therapy
- Psychological Services
- Recreational Therapy Services
- Rehabilitation Counseling Services
- Social Work Services
- Speech and Language Services
- Vision Services
- Where may children with disabilities receive their special education and related services?
Federal and State law require that school districts ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities. The continuum, in descending order from least to most restrictive, includes instruction in:
- General Education Classes
- Special Classes
- Special Schools/Centers
- Nonpublic Schools
- Residential Schools
- Is there a policy for determining the appropriate placement for the child?
Placement decisions are governed by the least restrictive environment (LRE) legal requirement. “To the maximum degree appropriate children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled and that special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” This means that decisions to place a child in a more restrictive environment should only be made after considering and determining that less restrictive environments with special education, related services and other supports cannot meet the student’s needs. Students should not be placed in environments that are more restrictive than necessary to meet their educational needs. Placements for students with disabilities should be in the school they would attend if nondisabled or as close to their home as possible.
- How are all of the above decisions made?
The decisions are made by a team of people, including District personnel, the parents, the child, if appropriate, and others when appropriate who meet to develop a written individualized education program (IEP). The purpose of an IEP meeting is to bring together, in a collaborative and problem-solving manner, those persons with knowledge of and responsibility for the child’s educational needs to determine what is appropriate to meet the student’s needs.
- What happens if the IEP team cannot reach agreement?
Every effort should be made to reach agreement, keeping the child’s needs in mind. It is appropriate for the team to agree to implement those areas where there is agreement and/or to implement the IEP for an agreed upon period of time. Though not required to initiate any form of dispute resolution, the parent(s) may request that the matter be resolved through District informal dispute resolution, State mediation or due process hearing. If the District maintains that the placement, services and supports offered in the IEP to which the Parent disagrees are necessary for the student to access a FAPE, it shall request that the matter be resolved through a due process hearing.
- What is a free appropriate public education (FAPE)?
FAPE means special education and related services that are provided in conformity with a child’s IEP, are provided at public expense and under public supervision and direction, and meet the standards of the State. In simple terms, if a student is receiving what is specified in his/her IEP and the process from referral through development of the IEP was done in a manner consistent with policies and procedures, then the student is receiving FAPE. Ensuring that all LAUSD students with disabilities entitled to FAPE receive such is our legal obligation and our professional responsibility.
- Are there policies and procedures for addressing the educational needs of students with disabilities who do not or no longer require special education and related services?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act are Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Both laws, particularly Section 504, require the District to ensure that students with disabilities have access to all of the programs in the District for which they would be otherwise qualified, and have available appropriate accommodations and modifications in programs and services.
THE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROCESS
Since the needs of each student with a disability are unique, special education policies and procedures set forth a process to determine a child’s FAPE. The following are the key steps in the process:
- Written request for a special education assessment is made by a parent or school staff member.
- Special education assessment plan is developed.
- Parent is provided the special education assessment plan within 15 calendar days of receipt of request.
- Parent approves, signs, and returns the assessment plan.
- Assessments are conducted and reports are prepared.
- IEP meeting is scheduled and team members notified no later than 10 calendar days prior to the scheduled date of the meeting.
- IEP meeting is held within 60 calendar days of receipt of signed special education assessment plan.
- IEP is implemented as soon as possible.
- Parent is provided reports on student’s progress as often as parents of general education peers are provided reports on student progress.
- IEP meeting is held to review its appropriateness within one year of the previous IEP meeting.
SITE BASED COMPLIANCE
While this E-Manual is designed to be consistent with current Federal and State policies, they often change. Also, the District is continually improving the Welligent IEP system, based upon input from users. When changes to District policies and procedures occur, appropriate District personnel will be advised. Unless such advice is provided, this E-Manual represents the District’s policies and procedures for site-based compliance with Federal and State special education policies and procedures.
Site administrators are responsible for ensuring compliance with policies and procedures regarding the education of students with disabilities. This includes ensuring that staff have the appropriate knowledge, support, and resources to practice consistent with District policies and procedures. See Principal’s Checklist in the following section of this page.
To assist school administrators and staff to annually review compliance at their school site and to assess compliance across the District, schools are required to complete the School Self Review Checklist, Students with Disabilities.
- A. SEARCH AND SERVE
- I maintain the following publications and forms in the school office:
- Are You Puzzled by Your Child’s Special Needs? brochure
- Student Enrollment form
- Request for Special Education Assessment form
- A Parent’s Guide to Special Education Services (Including Procedural Rights and Safeguards)
- I have prominently displayed the Complaint Response Unit poster.
- I distribute the brochure Are You Puzzled by Your Child’s Special Needs? at the beginning of the school year, to every student to take home.
- I have implemented the process for identifying and serving students with disabilities who enroll in my school and appropriate staff is knowledgeable about the process.
- I have implemented the process for referring students for a special education assessment and appropriate staff is knowledgeable about the process.
- I maintain the following publications and forms in the school office:
- B. DEVELOPING A SPECIAL EDUCATION ASSESSMENT PLAN
- I have a system in place to ensure that assessment plans are developed and provided to parents within 15 calendar days of receipt of a request for an assessment.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about developing an assessment plan and the steps to take when a signed assessment plan is or is not returned.
- C. INITIAL ASSESSMENT, REASSESSMENT, AND INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION
- I have a system in place to ensure that all assessments in a student’s assessment plan are completed and, when appropriate, translated prior to the scheduled IEP meeting.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about the assessment process, the criteria for conducting an assessment, and the content of an assessment report.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about the procedures to follow if a parent provides an independent educational evaluation or requests an independent educational evaluation at public expense.
- D. DEVELOPING AN INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)
- I have a system in place to ensure that:
- IEP meetings are held within required timelines;
- IEP team members are appropriately selected and notified of IEP meetings;
- IEP team members come prepared for the meeting;
- IEP team members attend the meeting;
- The rights of parents prior to and during the IEP meeting are respected and enforced;
- The meeting is conducted consistent with District policies, guidelines, and procedures;
- The determinations of the IEP team are accurately documented using the Welligent IEP system;
- The determinations of the IEP team are implemented.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about:
- The IEP including its purposes, requirements, and procedures;
- Parental rights;
- Staff responsibilities while preparing for the meeting, during the meeting, and in implementing the IEP following the meeting.
- I have a system in place to ensure that:
- E. DISCIPLINE
- I am aware of my role in developing and implementing a school-wide positive behavior support plan.
- I have a system in place to document behavioral issues and interventions provided.
- I ensure that disciplinary actions taken against students with disabilities are consistent with District policies and procedures.
- I ensure that students, parents, and staff are informed about the policies and procedures for disciplining a student with disabilities.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about appropriate behavior interventions for students with disabilities and when and how a Behavior Support Plan should be developed.
- F. STUDENT RECORDS
- I ensure that all required records of students with disabilities are maintained in the appropriate manner and location.
- I have a system in place for maintaining the confidentiality of school records consistent with District policies and procedures.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about their responsibilities regarding the confidentiality of student records.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about District policies and procedures regarding maintaining, destroying, and protecting access to student records.
- Parents and students are informed of their rights regarding student records and are provided access to the records they seek in a manner consistent with District policies and procedures.
- G. RESOLVING DISAGREEMENTS
- I ensure that parents are informed of their right to pursue the various types of dispute resolution procedures and that there is no retaliation against parents or students who exercise their rights.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about the types of dispute resolution procedures available to a parent, when a procedure is appropriate, and his/her responsibility when a dispute arises.
- I ensure that the appropriate District Offices are notified, promptly, when a parent decides to pursue a District or State dispute resolution process.
- I ensure that determinations from a dispute resolution process are implemented appropriately.
- H. SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
- I ensure that students with disabilities are integral members of the school community.
- I ensure that the school is physically accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- I ensure that students with disabilities have access to all school activities including appropriate accommodations and modifications to facilitate their participation.
- I ensure that the rights of individuals with disabilities are respected and enforced.
- I ensure that the school is a positive environment for students with disabilities and their parents and I take appropriate steps to prevent and correct a hostile environment.
- Staff is knowledgeable about the rights of individuals with disabilities and their responsibilities.
- Appropriate staff is knowledgeable about providing appropriate accommodations and modifications to support students with disabilities in the activities of the school.
- I ensure that IEPs and Section 504 plans are implemented.