Posts tagged with "Disciplinary Procedures"

What Parents Need to Know About Special Education Law

The state and federal governments enacted various regulations to protect a student with disabilities and to ensure that he or she obtains a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Parents play a key role in the success of any special education program implemented for their children. Given the complexity of special education law, it is important to understand the significant responsibility a parent has in the special education system.

Referral to Special Education and Related Services

This is the first step in the process to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services. Parents should be aware that you have the right to request such a referral.  The referral must be in writing.  School officials also have the ability to make a referral.  However, a parent is often in a better position to suspect any disabilities, and can make an early referral to special education services through Connecticut’s Birth to Three program, prior to enrollment in school.

Planning and Placement Team (PPT)

The PPT reviews all referrals to special education. As a parent of a child, you have the right to be actively involved in the PPT, and are, in fact, a valued asset of the PPT.   A PPT generally consists of the parent(s), one of the child’s educators, a special education teacher, a representative of the school district, a pupil services personnel, and the child (depending on age).

As a parent, you have the right to include other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child.  As a valued member of the PPT, the school district must try to schedule meetings at a mutually agreeable time and place for you and must notify you, in writing, at least five (5) school days prior to holding the meeting.

Evaluations, Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE), and Reevaluations

The evaluation is the study used to determine a child’s specific learning strengths and needs, and ultimately determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. As an active participant, a parent can assist the PPT in designing the evaluation.  That is why sharing with the PPT all important information concerning your child’s skills, abilities, observations, and needs can be extremely beneficial to the process.

If you disagree with the evaluation conducted by the school district, you have a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE).  Such an IEE can be obtained at the school district’s expense, unless the school district can prove its evaluation is appropriate or that the IEE does not meet the school district’s criteria. If the school district believes that its evaluation was appropriate, it must initiate a due process hearing (or pay for the IEE).  In either event, you have a right to an IEE.

However, if the school district’s evaluation is found appropriate, the parent will have to bear the cost of the IEE.  Reevaluation must be performed at least once every three (3) years, or sooner if conditions warrant. At the reevaluation, the educational needs of your child will be assessed, along with present levels of academic and related development needs of your child to determine whether your child continues to need special education and related services and whether your child’s IEP needs to be modified.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP is a written plan that describes in detail your child’s special education program created by the PPT. Given the IEP is designed specifically for your child, it is vital that as a parent you exercise your right to be actively involved in the PPT meetings.  The IEP is designed to identify your child’s current levels of education and functional performance and any modifications or accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum. A

child with a disability must, to the maximum extent possible, be educated with his/her non-disabled peers.  This is called the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). By law, you are entitled to receive a copy of your child’s IEP within five (5) school days after the PPT meeting was held to develop or revise the same.

Informed Consent

Prior to evaluating a child for the first time, a school district must obtain the parent’s written informed consent.  Informed consent means that a parent has been given all the information needed to make a knowledgeable decision. Written informed consent must also be obtained prior to the initial placement into special education, before a child is placed into private placement, and before a child is reevaluated.

As a parent, you can refuse to give your consent and you can withdraw consent once it has been given.  Giving consent for an initial evaluation does not mean that consent was given to place a child into special education or for any other purposes.  A school district must obtain separate written informed consent for each.

Placement

To the maximum extent possible, your child must be educated with his/her non-disabled peers in a general education classroom.  Removal from the school that your child would attend had he/she not had a disability, should only occur when the nature or the severity of the disability is such that educating your child in that setting cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

If this is the case with your child, the PPT must find an appropriate educational placement as close as possible to your home, at the cost of the school district.  While you can place your child in private placement on your own, there is no guarantee of full or partial reimbursement from the school district and that will ultimately depend on the findings by a hearing officer.

Disciplinary Procedures

The school district’s code of conduct applies to all children, with or without a disability. Prior to any suspension or removal, your child has the right to an informal hearing conducted by a school administrator. If it is determined by the PPT that the behavior was caused or related to your child’s disability, then your child may not be removed from the current education placement (except in the case of weapons, drugs, or infliction of serious bodily harm).  It is the PPT’s obligation to conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan.

Access to Records

If your child has not reached the age of majority, as a parent you have a right to inspect and review his/her school records. The request must be in writing. The school district must allow you to review the records within ten (10) school days from your request or within three (3) school days if you need the information for a PPT meeting.  Connecticut law provides that you are entitled one free copy of your child’s records, and the school district has up to five (5) school days to provide you with that copy.

Due Process

A parent has the right to ask for a due process hearing as a result of the school district’s refusal to consider or find that your child has a disability, to evaluate your child, to place your child in a school program that meets his/her needs, or to provide your child with a FAPE.   A parent may bring an advocate or attorney with them to aid throughout the hearing.  A hearing officer will make a final decision within 45 days from the start of the timeline.  Generally, while a due process hearing is pending, a child’s classification, program or placement cannot be changed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are three ways, other than a full due process hearing, to settle disputes between parents and the school district. The first is the Complaint Resolution Process, wherein a parent files a written complaint with the Bureau of Special Education, alleging the local school district has violated a state or federal requirement.  Within sixty (60) days, a written report which includes the Bureau’s findings, conclusions, corrective actions and recommendations, will be mailed to the Complainant.

The second alternative is mediation. Both parties (the parents and the school district) must agree to mediate the dispute.  At mediation, if an agreement is reached, it is placed in writing and is legally binding.  All discussions during mediation are confidential.  The last alternative is an advisory opinion. This is a non-binding opinion, issued by a hearing officer, after a brief presentation of information by both parties.  After receiving the advisory opinion, the parties can decide to settle the dispute or proceed to a full due process hearing.

By: Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding special education law, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

 

Special Education Discipline and Interim Educational Settings

Children that require special education and related services must comply with a school district’s student code of conduct. That being said, the disciplinary procedures that apply are somewhat distinct from those used with non-special education students. In an article posted yesterday, I described the expulsion process for special education students in more general terms – today, let’s narrow that focus.

Special Education Discipline Process

If your special education child faces disciplinary action, his or her planning and placement team (PPT), of which you may be a member, will schedule a meeting to conduct a “manifestation determination.” In other words, the PPT will figure out whether “your child’s behavior was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to his or her disability.”[1] The PPT will also figure out whether the school district failed to implement your child’s individualized education program (IEP), thus prompting the misbehavior. The manifest determination must be conducted no later than ten (10) days after a decision to change your child’s placement.[2]

If the PPT concludes that your child’s behavior did not result from his or her disability, he or she will be disciplined consistent with that received by any other student who behaved in the same way. However, if the PPT establishes either that the behavior “was a manifestation of his or her disability or was due to a failure to implement his or her IEP,”[3] the PPT must perform a functional behavioral assessment (assessment) as well as create and implement a behavioral intervention plan (plan).[4]

The assessment is used to gather information that may shed light on why your child acted the way he or she did, as well as “identify strategies to address your child’s behavior.”[5] In turn, the plan should be designed in a way so as to teach your child how to properly behave, as well as deter and eliminate negative behaviors.

Long-Term Placement in an IES

It is important to keep in mind, however, that your child could be removed from his or her current placement and into an interim educational setting (IES). In most instances, this alternative placement must not exceed ten (10) days and is determined by your child’s IEP. In limited situations, however, your school district may decide to place your child in an IES for upwards of forty-five (45) days. This is without regard to the results of the PPT’s manifestation determination. The three circumstances where this may occur are as follows:

  • Your child carried or possessed a weapon to school or to a school-sponsored activity.
  • Your child knowingly possessed or used an illegal drug, or sold or solicited the sale of a controlled substance on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.
  • Your child inflicted serious bodily injury upon a fellow student, staff member, or any other person while on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.
What if I disagree with my child’s placement?

If you, as a parent, disagree with any decision relating to the above, you have the right to file for a due process hearing.[6] Unless you and the school district agree to otherwise, your child will remain in the IES until either the placement expires or a post-hearing decision is rendered.[7] Your local education agency must hold the hearing within twenty (20) days of the filing, and the hearing officer must render a decision within ten (10) days after the hearing.[8] Furthermore, the hearing officer has authority to your child’s regular placement if he or she “determines that removal was not valid or your child’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability.”[9]

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline, special education, or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq.,, pp.31.

[2] 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(e).

[3] See Footnote 1.

[4] 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(1)(i)-(ii).

[5] See Footnote 1.

[6] 34 C.F.R. § 300.532(a).

[7] 34 C.F.R. § 300.533.

[8] 34 C.F.R. § 300.532(c)(2).

[9] See Footnote 1.