Posts tagged with "IEP"

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 nondisabled 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 nondisabled 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 Needs Trusts in Connecticut

A special needs trust is set up for a person with special needs to supplement any benefits the person with special needs may receive from government programs. A properly drafted special needs trust will allow the beneficiary to receive government benefits while still receiving funds from the trust. There are three main types of special needs trusts, but first it is important to understand how a typical trust works.

What is a trust?

A trust is really a relationship between three parties — a donor, who supplies the funds for the trust; a trustee, who agrees to hold and administer the funds according to the donor’s wishes; and a beneficiary or beneficiaries who receive the benefit of the funds. Often, but not always, the donor’s wishes are spelled out in a document that gives the trustee instructions about how she should use the trust assets. Trusts have been used for estate planning for a long time, and are highly useful tools for ensuring that a donor’s property is administered as he sees fit. One of the reasons trusts are so popular is that they usually survive the death of the donor, providing a low-cost way to manage the donor’s assets for others when the donor is gone.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust is a trust tailored to a person with special needs that is designed to manage assets for that person’s benefit while not compromising access to important government benefits. There are three main types of special needs trusts: the first-party trust, the third-party trust, and the pooled trust. All three name the person with special needs as the beneficiary. A “first-party” special needs trust holds assets that belong to the person with special needs, such as an inheritance or an accident settlement. A “third-party” special needs trust holds funds belonging to other people who want to help the person with special needs. A pooled trust holds funds from many different beneficiaries with special needs.

What kinds of Special Needs Trusts are there?

The reason there are several different types of trusts has to do with regulations regarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a government program that assists people with low incomes who have special needs. In order to qualify for SSI, an applicant or beneficiary can have only $2,000 in his own name. If the person has more than $2,000 in his own name, (typically because of excess savings, an inheritance or an accident settlement), the government allows him to qualify for SSI so long as he places his assets into a first-party special needs trust.

The trust must be created by the beneficiary’s parent or grandparent, or by a court, but it cannot be created by the beneficiary, even though his assets are going to fund the trust. While the beneficiary is living, the funds in the trust are used for his benefit, and when he dies, any assets remaining in the trust are used to reimburse the government for the cost of his medical care. These trusts are especially useful for beneficiaries who are receiving SSI and come into large amounts of money, because the trust allows the beneficiary to retain his benefits while still being able to use his own funds when necessary.

Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

The third-party special needs trust is most often used by parents and other family members to assist a person with special needs. These trusts can hold any kind of asset imaginable belonging to the family member or other individual, including a house, stocks and bonds, and other types of investments.

The third-party trust functions like a first-party special needs trust in that the assets held in the trust do not affect an SSI beneficiary’s access to benefits and the funds can be used to pay for the beneficiary’s supplemental needs beyond those covered by government benefits. But a third-party special needs trust does not contain the “payback” provision found in first-party trusts. This means that when the beneficiary with special needs dies, any funds remaining in her trust can pass to other family members, or to charity, without having to be used to reimburse the government.

Pooled Special Needs Trust

A pooled trust is an alternative to the first-party special needs trust. Essentially, a charity sets up these trusts that allow beneficiaries to pool their resources for investment purposes, while still maintaining separate accounts for each beneficiary’s needs. When the beneficiary dies, the funds remaining in her account reimburse the government for her care, but a portion also goes towards the non-profit organization responsible for managing the trust.

Anyone can establish a special needs trust and, if the trust is properly drafted to account for tax planning, in certain situations gifts into the trust could very well reduce the size of the donor’s taxable estate. As if these are not enough reasons to create a trust, elderly people who are attempting to qualify for long-term care coverage through Medicaid can transfer their assets into a properly drafted third-party special needs trust for the sole benefit of a person with disabilities without incurring a transfer-of-assets penalty, allowing the elder to qualify for Medicaid and making sure that the person with disabilities is taken care of in the future.

Of course, every person with special needs is different, which means that every special needs trust is going to be different as well. The only way to determine which special needs trust is right for your family is to meet with a qualified special needs planner to discuss your needs. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any special education law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

What are Special Education Related Services?

Your child’s need of related services will be determined by your child’s Planning and Placement Team (PPT) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Services shall be implemented as part of his or her IEP. Your child’s school district is responsible for the costs of implementing related services pertaining to your child’s needs. This is part of the school’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE, by definition, includes related services.

The following are examples of related services:

  • speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • interpreting services
  • psychological services
  • physical and occupational therapy
  • recreation, including therapeutic recreation
  • social work services
  • counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
  • orientation, mobility and medical services (except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only)

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

Special Education and COVID-19: Impact on your Child’s Section 504 Plan or IEP

In March of 2020, many Governors across the country closed their schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) published guidance for local school agencies on how to appropriately handle special education and services to children with disabilities during the ongoing public health crisis. The DOE has emphasized that school districts’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) school districts should not prevent distance instruction.  Accordingly, special education services should continue during the period of remote learning from home as much as feasible.

During school closures due to the virus, if local education agencies (“LEAs”) continue to provide educational opportunities to general student populations, children with disabilities are entitled to receive the same educational opportunities that are being afforded to general student populations.  Specifically, children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”), pursuant to Section 504 and the ADA.   LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan.  In the event of school closures, an IEP Team or PPT may, but is not required to, consider remote or distance learning plans in your child’s IEP, as long as the instruction is meaningful.

During the COVID-19 national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner that are typically provided to students.  While it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some school districts, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or sign language educational services, some disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online.  For example, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and speech or language services by way of video conferencing may all be successfully instituted remotely for students with disabilities.  Teachers providing special education plans may have to create more specific daily or weekly plans for a special needs child who is now at home for the rest of the school year.

Additionally, the DOE guidance includes IDEA timelines for state complaints, IEPs, reevaluations, and due process hearings and encourages school teams and parents to work collaboratively and creatively to meet IEP timeline requirements. If a child has been found eligible to receive special education and related services under the IDEA, the IEP Team must meet and develop an initial IEP within 30 days of that determination and IEPs must be reviewed on an annual basis.  However, due to COVID-19, parents and school districts may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including video conferences or telephonic conference calls.  Of note, due to the pandemic, when making changes to a child’s IEP, the parent of a child with a disability and the school district may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making changes and can develop a written amendment or modification to the child’s IEP.

A reevaluation of a child with a disability must occur at least every three years, unless both the parents and school district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. However, a reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing evaluation data when appropriate, without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined that additional assessments are needed.

In regard to state special education complaints, absent agreement by the parties, a state may be able to extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution, if exceptional circumstances exist.  The DOE has now stated that exceptional circumstances include a large number of state workers unavailable or absent from work for an extended period of time due to the pandemic.  In regard to due process hearings, the parties can come to a mutual agreement to extend the 30-day resolution deadline due to COVID-19.  Additionally, a due process hearing officer may grant a specific extension of time at the request of either party to the hearing.

Moreover, when a child with a disability is classified as needing homebound instruction because of a medical problem, as ordered by a physician, and is home for an extended period of time, generally more than ten (10) consecutive school days, an individualized education program (IEP) meeting could be necessary to change the child’s placement and the contents of the child’s IEP.  If a child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and has to be absent from school for an extended period of time while school is open, parents or guardians may be able to make arrangements with the LEA to provide homebound instruction special education and related services.

If you have any questions about special education and related services during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Attorney Joseph Maya at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@mayalaw.com for a complimentary consultation regarding your matter.

Special Education Discipline and Interim Educational Settings

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

If your special education child faces a 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.

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.

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]

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., and Robert L. Keepnews, 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.

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What is the Process for Expelling a Special Education Student?

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In my previous post, I discussed the requirements of alternative educational programs, or AEPs, that must be followed in the wake of a student expulsion. However, if you are the parent of a child that qualifies for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is imperative that you understand that an entirely different set of rules applies.

“Connecticut school districts are obligated to provide special education and related services to children five years of age or older until the earlier of either high school graduation or the end of the school year in which your child turns twenty-one years of age.”[1] A special education child’s misconduct does not obviate the school district’s statutory duty. Therefore, before an expulsion hearing occurs, the child’s planning and placement team (PPT), which includes the parent(s), will schedule a meeting to determine whether or not the child’s misbehavior was caused by his or her disability. How the question is answered will impact the PPT’s course of action.

If the answer is “yes,” expulsion will not be pursued. Rather, the PPT will reevaulate the child and potentially modify his individualized education program (IEP) “to address the misconduct and to ensure the safety of other children and staff in the school.”[2] If, instead, the answer is “no,” the standard expulsion procedures[3] are followed. However, an AEP that is consistent with the child’s special educational needs must be provided by the school for the duration of the expulsion.[4]

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 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., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., at pp.8-9.

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(i).

[3] See Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a).

[4] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(i).

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Developing Your Special Education Child’s Individualized Education Program

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

A recent series of articles on this website provides an overview of the special education process so you, as a parent, know what to expect. You have the right to make sure your child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and oftentimes that means a standard classroom environment does not meet your child’s special needs due to a disability. If your child is between 3 and 21 years of age, suffers from an enumerated disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the disability interferes with his or her classroom performance, you have the opportunity to seek special education and related services. More importantly, you can play a critical role on the planning and placement team (PPT) to evaluate your child’s special education referral to determine eligibility.

So, you’ve made it this far: your child is deemed eligible for special education and related services, but… what happens now? The PPT will hold meetings to establish an individualized education program (IEP), which is “a written plan detailing your child’s special education program,”[1] including the following key elements:

Present levels of educational and functional performance;
Measurable educational goals linked to present levels of academic and functional performance for the coming year and short-term instructional objectives derived from those goals;
Evaluation procedures and performance criteria;
An explanation of the extent, if any, to which your child will not participate in the regular education class, the general education curriculum or extracurricular activities;
Modifications and accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum including nonacademic and extracurricular activities;
Special education and related services required by your child including transportation and physical and vocational education programs;
Recommended instructional settings and a list of people who will work with your child to implement the IEP;
The date services will begin and end, and the frequency of the identified services;
The length of the school day and year;
Statement of accommodations and modifications needed to facilitate CMT/CAPT, or district-wide testing;
Recommendations for participation in alternate assessments (if needed); and
Transition service needs.[2]

Within five days after the PPT meets and develops your child’s IEP, you must receive a copy of the plan. The same goes for any future revisions.

Keep in mind that you have the right to participate in the PPT meetings, and your school district must work with you to select a time and place that works for both sides. You must receive five days written notice of any meeting to make sure you will be able to attend. This notice includes:

A list of who will be attending the meeting;
Affirmation of your right to bring with you other individuals who are able to provide support or who have knowledge and/or expertise with respect to your child’s needs.
An invitation to your child to attend if he or she is 16 years of age or older (or even if the child is younger, if participation is deemed appropriate), and “the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals and transition services for the child”[3]

If the school schedules the meeting at a time or location you cannot make, alternative methods of participation, such as a telephonic or video conference call, must be explored. However, if the school district repeatedly attempts to schedule a meeting and each time you are unable to attend, they may hold the PPT meeting without you; the school must maintain a results log documenting these attempts.

If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. 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., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., pp.20.

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.4. Accessed October 9, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] Id. at 5.

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Special Education Referrals, and the Planning and Placement Team

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In a previous article, I discussed Connecticut’s laws defining “special education” (hereinafter SPED) as well as explaining the process by which a child’s eligibility is determined. In this next segment, the focus will be on referrals to SPED, as well as the composition and role of the planning and placement team, or PPT.

If you’re a parent and determined that your child meets the requirements for SPED, what happens next? Rather than immediate referral and placement, your school district will first attempt to keep the child in a regular classroom and incorporate an alternative general education program. It is within your authority to approach the school district on implementing an alternative program for your child, but should he or she continues having problems in a non-SPED classroom, a referral is the next course of action.

A referral is “a written request for an evaluation of a child who is suspected of having a disability and who may be in need of special education and related services.”[1] Various parties may submit the referral:

The student, if 18 years of age or older.
The parent, guardian, or surrogate parent of the student.
A member of the school’s personnel.
Other qualified individuals, such as the student’s physician or social worker, provided parental permission to make the referral was previously granted.

The student need not actually be attending school yet to qualify for a referral: remember, one of the qualifications for SPED under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers an age range of 3 to 21 years. Your school district is obligated to “identify children in need of special education from birth on, [a duty called] ‘child find.’”[2]

If you are not the individual who made the referral, you will receive a written notification (or notice) of it. In addition, you will have the right to participate on your child’s PPT, which is tasked with “review[ing] existing evaluation information that the school district has about your child to determine whether there is a need for any additional data or information.”[3] In other words, this is the group of individuals that determines whether the information they have on hand supports SPED placement, and you have the ability to directly impact that decision through your own participation.

The following is a list of those who typically comprise the PPT:

The child’s parents
One or more of the child’s regular education teachers (if any)
One or more of the child’s special education teachers/providers
A school district representative “who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities and is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and about the availability of resources of the school district”
A member of student services, such as a guidance counselor or school psychologist
An individual “who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results” (possible dual-role with previously listed individuals, except for the parent)
The student him- or herself, when warranted
“[O]ther individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding children.”[4]

As a parent, you have the right to refuse consent of an evaluation. Informed consent means “you must be given full and complete disclosure of all relevant facts and information pertaining to your child regarding certain proposed activities by your local educational agency.”[5] It is required in the referral process when:

(a) [Y]our child undergoes an initial evaluation to determine his or her eligibility for special education and related services, (b) before your child is placed in special education services, (c) before your child is placed in private placement, and (d) before your child is reevaulated.

Consent to an initial evaluation does not automatically extend to the additional steps listed above: rather, new consent is required before the school district may take action. However, “a parent’s failure to give consent to a reevaulation may be overridden if the school district can show that a good-faith effort was made to obtain consent and the child’s parent failed to respond.”[6] Regardless, if you reject a proposed course of action, the school district must still provide your child with a free appropriate public education, or FAPE.

The upcoming articles will focus on the initial evaluation process, as well as the product of the PPT if the parent agrees to go forward with a SPED program and the child’s eligibility is upheld: the individualized education program, or IEP. If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. 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] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.2. Accessed October 8, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[2] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., pp.10-11.

[3] See Footnote 1.

[4] See Footnote 1.

[5] See Footnote 2 at 11.

[6] Id at 11-12, citing 34 C.F.R. § 300.300.

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What is Special Education, and Is My Child Eligible For Such Services?

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The State Board of Education believes each student is unique and needs an educational environment that provides for, and accommodates, his or her strengths and areas of needed improvement. The Board also believes that a unified and coordinated continuum of educational opportunities and supports serves and benefits all students. – Excerpted from the State Board of Education’s “Position Statement on the Education of Students with Disabilities”

Every parent who has the best interests of their child at heart would most likely agree with the above statement. Making sure your child receives the best K-12 education they can is certainly the goal. However, this may appear less attainable to parents who are uncertain about the future of their disabled child, or who don’t even realize that their child has special needs.

Under Connecticut law, which mirrors federal statutes, “special education” is specifically designed instruction tailored to meet the individualized needs of a child identified as having a disability.[1] “A child who is eligible for special education services is entitled by federal law to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE)… [which] ensures that all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education at no cost to the family.”[2] FAPE is an “unqualified right” that a school district cannot thwart or undermine due to the accompanying expenses.

However, determining whether your child is eligible may seem intimidating, but the process is more straightforward than you would expect. As a baseline, your child must be between ages 3 and 21, and “Connecticut school districts are obligated to provide special education and related services to children five years of age or older until the earlier of either high school graduation or the end of the school year in which your child turns twenty-one years of age.”[3] Related services include “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” (except for surgically implanted medical devices).[4]

Next, you must establish that your child has one or more of the enumerated classes of disabilities, as found directly in the Individuals with Disabilities Act:[5]

Autism
Hearing impairments (including deafness)
Mental retardation
Orthopedic impairments
Serious emotional disturbance
Specific learning disabilities
Speech or language impairments
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairments (including blindness)
Other health impairments – this includes “limited strength, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, a heart condition, hemophilia, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome”[6]

If your child is of the proper age and has one of these disabilities, you must next determine whether or not his or her educational performance is adversely affected. If the answer is yes, “a special education program must be developed to meet their unique educational needs.”[7] This is known as an Individual Education Program, or IEP, which will be the subject of an upcoming post.

If you are a parent with a child that has a disability, it is important that you meet with school officials to create an IEP that maximizes your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. 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] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76a(4).

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education. 2007. Accessed October 5, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., and Robert L. Keepnews, Esq., at pp.8-9.

[4] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, § 602(26).

[5] Id. at § 602(3)(A)(i).

[6] See Footnote 2.

[7] See Footnote 3.

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