Compliance Corner – August 2023

By Cindy Soo Hoo, TAP Consultant

Organized and Steady:  Make Sure You’re Ready!

Summer has come to an end, and you’re preparing to start a new school year. Perhaps, you’ve already begun. No doubt, you will be busy preparing lesson plans for the students you serve. However, it’s also important to note there are many timelines that must be followed in order to be in compliance. There are also other tasks to be taken that will likely lead to a better working relationship with families and colleagues. Included below are some requirements as well as strategies you may find fruitful to assist you in meeting due dates involving the students on your caseload.

First and foremost, a positive working relationship with families is crucial. Parents are partners in their child’s education. That relationship can be instrumental in how well the student progresses toward their goals. Contacting parents to introduce or reintroduce yourself formulates or strengthens that relationship. Parents will know you are accessible and willing to address whatever concerns they may have. Following any communication with parents, record a synopsis of your conversation in whatever data system you have available.

Regarding timelines, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifies when Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must be implemented. It states:

(34 CFR §300.323(a)) When IEPs must be in effect.

General. At the beginning of each school year, each public agency must have in    effect, for each child with a disability within its jurisdiction, an IEP…

That being said, students are afforded the services as indicated in their IEPs beginning on the first day of school. This would require all service providers and others, as appropriate, to be familiar with the provisions of each student’s IEP. This may include information about the student as stated in the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) section, the goals to be addressed, how the student responded to the interventions (Progress Toward Goals), the services and service hours, any accommodations or modifications that may be necessary for that student as well as any special factors such as a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). IDEA requires IEPs be accessible to those who are responsible for implementing them.

(34 CFR §300.323(d)(1)(2)(i)(ii)) Accessibility of child’s IEP to teachers and others.Each public agency must ensure that—

(1) The child’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation; and

(2) Each teacher and provider… is informed of—

(i) His or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP; and

(ii) The specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP.

This could include providing a paper copy to other providers should they not have access to aspects of the IEP for which they are responsible or it could be ensuring they are able to view it electronically. Regardless, you will want to make sure everyone is informed of his or her responsibilities and answer whatever questions they may have about its implementation.

Monitoring the annual review dates of the students on your caseload can assist you in scheduling their annual IEP meetings. Right from the start, you can secure a spot on the IEP calendar to ensure it is held in a timely manner. For families for whom it may be difficult to make contact or there is difficulty in finding a mutually agreeable time and date to conduct an IEP, you may want to start scheduling the student’s IEP earlier than when it is typically scheduled. IDEA requires reviews of these IEPs to be conducted at the very least on an annual basis. It states:

(34 CFR §300.324(b)(1)) Development, review, and revision of IEP.

General. Each public agency must ensure that,…, the IEP Team—

(i) Reviews the child’s IEP periodically, but not less than annually, to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved; …

In addition to annual reviews, students are afforded a reevaluation to determine continued need for services.

(34 CFR §300.303(b)(1)(2)) Reevaluations.

Limitation. A reevaluation…

(1) May occur not more than once a year, unless the parent and the public agency agree otherwise; and

(2) Must occur at least once every 3 years, unless the parent and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.

This will allow you to gather pertinent information to be considered in the reevaluation process. Data will have been taken as to how the student responded to the special education and related services. This data will be discussed, and decisions will be made based on the progress the student has made.

Finally, you can utilize the start of the school year to administer any assessments consistent with your district. These beginning of the year assessments will allow you to start baseline data regarding where the student is currently functioning. This will then be compared to subsequent data as the school year progresses. This data regarding progress toward goals will provide you with information as to how effective the instruction and services are for the student and whether any changes to the student’s program may be necessary.

With all of the many responsibilities required in providing for the needs of students who are eligible for special education, it is pertinent these requirements are met. Not adhering to these timelines could result in a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Whether you utilize resources that keep you in compliance or you rely on your best judgment, adhering to timelines is crucial. Attached is a chart that may assist you in remaining in compliance. Feel free to tailor it to your needs or not use it at all.

The information included herein is not intended to provide legal advice.  Should you need legal advice or guidance on any issue involving special education, please contact the appropriate person for your district.

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