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Education for Highly Mobile Children

Back in 2022, The U.S. Department of Education issued a communication to State Directors of Special Education regarding Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Highly Mobile Children. This update revises and expands upon guidance and resources initially outlined in the Department’s July 19, 2013 Dear Colleague Letter. The primary goal of this communication is to offer a comprehensive set of resources and reminders to States aimed at improving the educational continuity and outcomes for highly mobile children with disabilities under the IDEA. These children, defined as those who frequently change school districts due to factors such as military relocation, migration, homelessness, or involvement in foster care, often face significant challenges in adapting to new environments and expressing their educational needs.

Evaluations and Eligibility

The Letter initially discusses the issue of prompt and efficient evaluations and eligibility determinations. According to the IDEA, initial evaluations should generally be completed within 60 days of receiving parental consent, unless specific state laws impose shorter timelines. (34 C.F.R. § 300.301(c)(1)). In Connecticut, there is a timeline of forty-five school days from referral to the implementation of the IEP. (Conn. Agencies Regs. §10-76d-13).

Given this timeline, even if a highly mobile student transfers schools during the evaluation process, it is recommended that school districts complete any evaluations initiated by the previous district promptly, ideally within 30 days. Furthermore, evaluations already underway when the student transfers should not be delayed by the new school’s implementation of their own multi-tiered systems of support or SRBIs. The Department advises that such delays could be considered unnecessary.

Implementation of Services

The Letter then discusses the implementation of comparable services, including Extended School Year (ESY) services. According to 34 C.F.R. § 300.323(e)-(f), receiving districts are mandated to provide services that are comparable to those detailed in the IEP from the previous school. These comparable services must continue until the district either conducts its own evaluation, if needed, and develops its own IEP, or adopts the existing IEP from the previous school, depending on whether the student is transferring within the same state or between states. Providing comparable services is crucial to ensuring a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for highly mobile students with disabilities.

FAPE may also necessitate the provision of ESY services if determined necessary by the IEP Team. In cases where a highly mobile student receiving ESY services as part of their IEP transfers shortly before or during the summer, the receiving district is obligated to provide any ESY services required to implement the student’s IEP. The district cannot argue that the student has not yet shown regression in the new district.

Similarly, under Section 504, the district is responsible for meeting a student’s disability-related needs. The letter advises receiving districts to gather information from various sources, such as past evaluations, previous Section 504 plans, and IEPs. If a review indicates that a previous 504 plan provided FAPE, the receiving district is permitted to adopt that plan without modification.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.