New Legislation Related to Special Education

Effective July 1, 2012, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act (P.A.) 12-173, An Act Concerning the Individualized Education Program and Other Issues Related to Special Education.  The legislation identified four important changes that will affect the work of school districts that include:

  1. Section 1B of P.A. 12-173 adds subsection (B) to subdivision (8) of subsection (a) of section 10-76d of the 2012 supplement to the Connecticut General Statutes and provides that upon the request of a parent, guardian, student or surrogate parent, the school district must provide an opportunity for that individual to meet with a member of the planning and placement team (PPT) prior to the referral (e.g., first) PPT.  The purpose of having a meeting prior to the first PPT is to discuss the PPT process and the parent(s) concerns about the student.  Such meeting shall be for the sole purpose of discussing the planning and placement team process and any concerns such parent, guardian, pupil or surrogate parent has regarding the child or pupil who requires or may require special education.

Department guidance on this section of the legislation includes:

(a). Upon a school district’s receipt of a referral, whether made by the parent, the school district or other; parents should be notified in writing of their right to request a meeting prior to the first PPT.  The school district could choose to send the parent a letter or notice that goes out with the PPT meeting notice/invitation.  This or some other form of notification of this right should be in writing to the parent.  At the current time, the Department is not providing a letter or other template for use by a school district.

(b). At the referral PPT, the individualized education program (IEP) meeting summary page (e.g., page 2 of the IEP) should document that: (1) the parent was informed of their right to a meeting prior to the first PPT; (2) that the parent either did – or did not – request the meeting, (3) whether the meeting was held and if so, who attended and (4) the issues discussed.

(c). In holding these meetings with a parent prior to the PPT, a school district should ensure that the PPT member designated the task of meeting with the parent, understands the PPT process and has the skills, knowledge and ability to explain the PPT process to a parent in a user-friendly manner.

(e). For students transitioning from the Birth to Three System and for whom a written referral to special education has been made, the Birth to Three transition conference could be used to meet the district’s obligation only IF: (1) the parent has received written notice of their right to such a meeting prior to the transition conference and the parent has requested the meeting; and (2) if the purpose of the Birth to Three transition planning conference is not a PPT and the PPT is planned for another date in the future.

2. Section 1D of P.A. 12-173 amends subdivision (8) of subsection (a) of section 10-76d of the 2012 supplement to the Connecticut General Statutes to add new language that states that immediately upon the formal identification of a student as eligible for special education, school districts must provide relevant information and resources that have been created by the State Department of Education relating to IEPs.

Department guidance on this section of the legislation includes:

(a). The Department recommends providing two publications, the Parents’ Guide to Special Education in Connecticut and the IEP Manual, as user-friendly resources that will be most helpful to parents.  For students of transition age, the publication, Building a Bridge is also recommended.

(b). The above referenced publications may be provided to parents at the PPT when the student’s eligibility for special education will be determined.  If a parent is offered and so agrees, the school district may direct parents to the Department’s website and the links to the recommended publications or the publications can be sent to the parents electronically.

(c). School district should document, in writing, the fact that these publication were provided to the parent in hard copy, or through links, or through electronic transmission.  Documentation can be made on the IEP meeting summary page (e.g., page 2 of the IEP document) as a way to document a school district’s compliance with this requirement.

(d). It is recommended that if a school district opts to send one or more of these publications electronically, districts should request a return email confirming receipt.

3. Section 1 of P.A. 12-173 adds section G to subdivision (8) of subsection (a) of section 10-76d of the 2012 supplement to the Connecticut General Statutes by adding that upon the request of the parent, the school district shall provide the results of the assessments and evaluations of the student that will be used to determine the student’s eligibility for special education at least three (3) school days before the PPT meeting at which the results of the assessments will be discussed for the first time.  The legislative intent is that this requirement applies only to those students who are going through the initial
referral and special education identification process.

Department guidance on this section of the legislation includes:

(a). School districts will need to sufficiently prepare and plan for this legislative requirement to provide the student’s assessment and evaluation reports at least three days prior to the PPT meeting in which they will be discussed in order to still comply with Connecticut’s 45 school day requirement for implementation of the individualized education program.

(b). Parents need to be notified of their right to request their child’s assessment and evaluation reports.  School districts could include this information in the letter or notice used to let parents know about their right to a meeting before the referral PPT meeting or could use a separate letter or notice to accompany the invitation to the 2nd PPT.  Regardless of the mechanism of communicating this right to parents, documentation is important.  The Department recommends using the IEP meeting summary page (e.g., page 2 of the IEP document) to record this information.

(c). Providing evaluation results means providing the entire evaluation report or reports.  A page of raw scores and grade equivalents is not going to be helpful to most parents.  The purpose of providing the student’s written assessment/evaluation information prior to the PPT meeting in which it will be discussed is to inform families so that they can participate in an informed manner in the PPT discussion and decision-making process for their child.

4. Section 11 of P.A. 12-173 requires that the IEP of a student identified as deaf or hard of hearing include a Language and Communication Plan that has been developed by the PPT.  Further information on the Language and Communication Plan can be found in a separate Bureau Bulletin article at the following web address: https://ctspecialednews.org/?s=language+and+communication+plan

Additional guidance regarding additional aspects of P.A. 12-88 will be forthcoming.

A full copy of P.A. 12-173 can be accessed through the following link:

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/ACT/PA/2012PA-00173-R00HB-05353-PA.htm

Questions regarding P.A. 12-173 can be addressed to the Bureau of Special Education at 860.713.6910.

NEW – IMPORTANT INFORMATION regarding RESTRAINT and SECLUSION Data Collection

The Connecticut Legislature recently passed Public Act No. 12-88 which amends section 46a-153 of the Connecticut General Statutes and requires that the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) collect data from each individual school district regarding the use of restraint and seclusion with those children receiving special education or being evaluated to determine their eligibility for special education.  Information regarding the “Restraint and Seclusion Data Collection” has been shared with district data managers as part of the Bureau of Data Collection, Research and Evaluation (BDCRE) Data Collection Trainings in August and September 2012.  Information has also been made available to directors of special education and other participants at the 2012 Bureau of Special Education’s Annual Back to School Meeting.

The statutory language states that each local and regional board of education, institution and facility that provides special education for a child shall record each instance of the use of physical restraint or seclusion on a child, specify whether the use of seclusion was in accordance with an individualized education program or whether the use of physical restraint or seclusion was an emergency, including the nature of the emergency that necessitated its use, and  include such information in an annual compilation on its use of such restraint and seclusion on children.

Under this section, local and regional boards of education, institutions and facilities that provide special education for children shall not be required to report instances of in-school suspensions, as defined in subsection (c) of section 10-233a.

The State Board of Education shall review the annual compilation of each local and regional board of education, institution and facility that provides special education for children and shall produce an annual summary report identifying the frequency of use of physical restraint or seclusion on such children and specifying whether the use of such seclusion was in accordance with an individualized education program or whether the use of such physical restraint or such seclusion was an emergency. Such report shall be submitted on an annual basis not later than February 15, 2013, and December fifteenth of each year thereafter to the select committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children for inclusion in the annual report card prepared pursuant to section 2-53m.

If the use of such restraint or seclusion results in physical injury to the person, the local or regional board of education, institution or facility that provides special education for a child shall report the incident to the State Board of Education, which shall include such incident in the report required pursuant to subsection of this section, and the institution or facility shall report the incident to the commissioner of the state agency that has jurisdiction or supervisory control over the institution or facility. The State Board of Education and the commissioner receiving a report of such an incident shall report any incidence of serious injury or death to the director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities and, if appropriate, to the Child Advocate of the Office of Child Advocate.

An outline of the data to be collected for the 2011-2012 school year, as well as the collection of future real-time data to be initiated moving forward, is attached.  Please note the information provided regarding the data definitions and specific data fields.  The data definitions and specific fields may require closer attention to ensure clarity regarding the data being maintained by schools/ districts versus the specific data to be reported through the new Restraint and Seclusion Data Collection System.  All fields required for the data collection are reflected in the Incident Report of Seclusion and Incident Report of Restraint on the CSDE website: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/FEBSeclusion.pdf; http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/FEBRestraint.pdf

Please review the attached document below (Notes Regarding Restraint and Seclusion Data Collection) with special attention to the notes to make certain that the data reported accurately reflects CSDE definitions of restraint and seclusion and the requirements set forth in the legislation.

Notes Regarding Restraint and Seclusion Data Collection

New Legislation – Language and Communication Plan for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Effective July 1, 2012, Section 11 of Public Act (P.A.) 12-173, entitled an Act Concerning Individualized Education Programs and Other Issues Relating to Special Education, requires that the individualized education program (IEP) of any child identified as deaf or hard of hearing must include a language and communication plan (LCP) developed by the child’s planning and placement team (PPT).  Any child with an identified hearing loss, regardless of whether deafness or hard of hearing is the primary disability category, must have a LCP which documents the considerations and/or actions discussed and identified by the child’s PPT.

The LCP must address:

  • The primary language or mode of communication chosen for the child;
  • Opportunities for direct communication with peers and professional personnel in the primary language or mode of communication for the child;
  • Educational options available to the child;
  • The qualifications of teachers and other professional personnel administering the child’s LCP, including the teachers’ or professionals’ proficiency in the primary language or other mode of communication for the child;
  • The accessibility of academic instruction, school services and extra-curricular activities for the child; and
  • Communication and accommodations in the physical environment for the child.

Section 300.324(a)(2)(iv) of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) requires that the child’s PPT consider the following areas regarding the communication needs of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing:

The child’s language and communication needs;

  • Opportunities for direct communication with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode;
  • The child’s academic level;
  • The child’s full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and mode of communication; and
  • Whether the child’s needs a technology device and/or service(s).

Section 11 of P.A. 12-173 requires documentation of the special considerations outlined in the IDEA and P.A. 12-173 through a LCP developed by the child’s PPT and included in the IEP of each child who is deaf or hard of hearing.  This requirement is reflected on page 10 of the IEP.  The LCP is available on the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) web site at http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/word_docs/deps/special/language_and_communication_plan.doc

The CSDE has made available the LCP since 2009 as a tool recommended for use as a best practice document for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  The passage of P.A. 12-173 now makes the LCP a required part of the IEP for each child who is deaf or hard of hearing.  The CSDE will post the LCP as part of the IEP form on the CSDE web site.  To assure that each child’s unique needs are identified and considered in the development of a child’s IEP, the LCP must be developed at the initial IEP for each child who is deaf or hard or hearing and must be reviewed at least annually and revised as appropriate.

Should there be a situation where the special considerations for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing have not been discussed at an IEP and/or are not reflected in the child’s current IEP, the child’s PPT should reconvene as soon as possible to develop the child’s LCP.  If the child’s special considerations are reflected in the child’s current IEP, these should be reviewed and revised as appropriate at the child’s next PPT or annual review, whichever occurs first.  The LCP as developed and/or revised must be included in the IEP.

Questions regarding the LCP can be directed to Colleen Hayles at 860-713-6922 or via email at colleen.hayles@ct.gov.

Are Virtual Schools and Online Education Effective for Students with Disabilities?

Information Release: National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Inc. (NASDSE), September 24, 2012 – Bill East, Executive Director

Across the country, virtual schools and online education are gaining popularity at a rapid rate, yet little research exists on whether such methods are effective for students with disabilities.  To learn more about this, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education funded the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities in January of 2012.  The five-year grant project is a partnership involving the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning (KUCRL), the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE).  Together, these organizations will conduct research on how K-12 online learning impacts the access, participation, and progress of students with disabilities.  Research outcomes are expected to inform the design, selection, and implementation of online digital curriculum materials, the systems that deliver and support them, and the instructional practices associated with their use, in order to increase their efficacy for students with disabilities and other elementary and secondary learners.  Updates on the Center’s progress along with original research can be found at centerononlinelearning.org.  For daily updates, follow the Center on Twitter @onlinecenter1

NEW Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

The new IDEA Part C regulations also resulted in a new Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) form.  For children who may be transitioning to the school district, districts will note a very different IFSP form over the coming months.  The changes are related to the new Part C regulations along with current best practice in early intervention to produce a more functional plan that focuses on the family’s priorities developed to address the family’s daily routines and activities with their child.  The new form can be found on the Birth to Three System website at http://www.birth23.org/providers/Forms.html and the IFSP Handbook  is at http://www.birth23.org/providers/IFSPhandbook.pdf.

Update: Birth to Three Notification Reports and IFSP

In July 2012, new regulations went into effect for Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA).  One of the changes in the revised Part C regulations requires notification to the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agency (LEA) of those children potentially eligible for special education who are exiting the Birth to Three System (34 CFR Section 303.209(b)).To meet the new federal notification requirement, beginning July 1st, 2012, the Birth to Three System has been populating the Birth to Three Notification Reports on a daily basis.  This means the child specific information contained in the Birth to Three Notification Reports is now ‘live data’ rather than ‘point in time data’.

The State Department of Education is using the Special Education Data Application and Collection (SEDAC) website to host the Birth to Three Notification Reports.  The Birth to Three Notification Reports will continue to contain four different types of status reports.  It should be noted that any of the four reports will only appear when there are children to populate a particular report or reports.  Three of the four Birth to Three Notification Reports will contain identified information including: the child’s name and SASID number; parent(s) name; address; telephone; the name and contact information for the child’s Birth to Three service coordinator; nexus district; whether the child is residing with a foster family; and the primary language spoken in the home.  The fourth report will reflect de-identified information because of the age of the child and absence of consent to release information and/or refer the child to the school district.  The reports included are:

1. Children who have been referred to the school district – This report includes children enrolled in Birth to Three and whose parents have signed a written referral to the school district (Birth to Three Form 3-8) requesting that their child be evaluated to determine the child’s eligibility for special      education and related services.  A  school district planning and placement team (PPT) meeting should be convened for the children listed in this report.

2. Notification of children over age 2 ½ who have not been referred and whose parents have not signed a release of information to the school district – This report includes children enrolled in Birth to Three who are over 2½ years of age and whose parents have not referred nor signed a release of information.  This list also includes data of children who are over 2½ years of age whose parents have revoked consent for their child’s special education referral.  A school district would be required to conduct child find activities to outreach to parents for the children listed in this report.

3. Children with a release of information to the school district – This report includes children enrolled in Birth to Three services whose parents have signed a release of information form but who have not referred their child for evaluation to      determine their child’s eligibility for special education and related services.  Children listed in this report require no immediate action on the part of the school district until the child nears the age of three.

4. Children under age 2 ½ with no signed release of information nor a referral to the school district – This report represents de-identified information of children who are under 2½ years of age and whose parents have not referred their child for an evaluation nor signed a release of information to the school district. Children listed in this report require no immediate action on the part of the school district.

Please note that the information in the Birth to Three Notification Reports is intended to assist school districts with their child find obligations under the IDEA Part B.  The provision of information in these reports does not replace a district’s responsibility to identify and know where all the children are in the special education process once referred or known to a school district.  A school district should not solely rely or over-rely on the information presented in the Birth to Three Notification Reports.

Access to the Birth to Three Notification Reports is through the Department of Education’s secured website, SEDAC, under REPORTING: Statewide Reports.  Districts, particularly administrators and coordinators of early childhood special education must work through their SEDAC data person to access this information.  Questions specific to a school district’s responsibilities as it relates to the information in the Birth to Three Notification Reports, can be directed to Maria Synodi at maria.synodi@ct.gov.

Because the Birth to Three Notification Reports are provided by the Birth to Three System, the State Department of Education does not attest to the accuracy of data contained in these reports.  Simply said, the data in the reports is another agency’s data.  For questions that are specific to the data in the Birth to Three Notification Reports please contact the child’s Birth to Three Program as identified on the report or Lynn Johnson, Assistant Director of the Birth to Three System at lynn.s.johnson@ct.gov.

Picture of Young Children Learning

LRE Requirements and Transition Work Placements

Recently, the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, in response to a letter of inquiry, issued informal guidance related to the applicability of LRE requirements under IDEA to transition work placements.

This informal guidance addressed six questions:

  1. Is the IEP Team required to include work placement in a transition-aged student’s IEP?
  2. Is the IEP Team required to provide parents with “notice of placement” when determining a student’s work placement?
  3. Can segregated work be considered an appropriate outcome, particularly with appropriate assessment in a LRE before such a placement occurs?
  4. Is the LEA required to provide supplemental aids and services to allow the student to participate in the least restrictive work placement possible?
  5. How must LRE work placements be monitored?
  6. Are states required to consider a student’s work placement when they report the number of students participating in regular education?

You may review the entire document by viewing the attachment below.

OSEP LRE Transition Work Placement Informal Guidance

U.S. Department of Education Issues a Resource Document that Discourages Restraint and Seclusion

On May 15, 2012, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Assistant Secretary Carmel Martin and White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, Kareem Dale, announced the release of a resource document on Restraint and Seclusion.

The U.S. Department of Education issued a publication that outlines principles for educators, parents and other stakeholders to consider when developing or refining policies and procedures to support positive behavioral interventions and avoid the use of restraint and seclusion.

The goal of this resource document is to help ensure that schools are safe and healthy environments where all students can learn, develop and participate in instructional programs that promote high levels of academic achievement.

We strongly encourage all constituents to review the full resource document. Please follow the link below to access the document. If you have any questions as to how this relates to Connecticut law regarding seclusion and restraint, please contact Colleen Hayles at 860-713-6922 or colleen.hayles@ct.gov.

Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document – US Department of Education

Common Core State Standards: Implications for Students Receiving Special Education Services

In February 2011, the International Center for Leadership in Education published a document discussing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Special Education. This publication offers a national perspective as well as guidance related to the implications of the CCSS for students receiving special education services. For an opportunity to review this publication, please follow the link below.

CCSS and Special Education