1) If Parents can add a written report to their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); or
2) Whether placement decisions in an IEP can be made based on the category of disability; or
3) How do you protect the rights of a child who is a ward of the State in an IEP; or
4) Does the School need to have highly qualified staff to teach Extended School Year (ESY); or
5) Whether Children with a Disability should be included in State Assessments.
All of the above questions and many, many more can be answered by reviewing the Federal Register. Section 607 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the Secretary of Education, on a quarterly basis, publish in the Federal Register a list of correspondence. This is correspondence from the Department of Education received by individuals that describes the interpretations of IDEA or the regulations that implement IDEA. You can find a list by topic or date of these letters on the US Department of Education’s website.
I review these letters regularly as it gives me guidance on how to communicate with School Districts. Especially, when I need answers to questions like the one’s presented above. For instance:
1) Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 156 Page 46678 states that, “Parents are free to provide input into their child’s IEP through a written report if they so choose.” This is important information to know when the School District’s IEP notes are skewed or missing information the Parent’s feel is important to get on the record; or
2) In a Letter to Tom Trigg dated November 30, 2007, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) answered a question regarding Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) where they stated, “The public agency should exercise caution in making such a determination [location of services] so that the placement of the child with a disability is not based on factors such as the category of disability, configuration of the service delivery system and the availability of staff and instead is based on the factors stated in §300.552;” or
3) In a letter to Dr. Mary J. Ford dated July 10, 2003, OSEP answered a question regarding protecting the rights of a child who is a ward of the State where they stated, “The first part of your question, regarding the appointment of a surrogate parent for a child who is a ward of the State, involves 34 CFR §300.515(a). This regulation requires the public agency to ensure that the rights of a child are protected if 1) no parents (as defined in §300.20) can be identified, 2) the public agency, after reasonable efforts, cannot discover the whereabouts of a parent; or 3) the child is a ward of the State under the laws of the State. The duty of the public agency under §300.515(a) includes the assignment of an individual to act as a surrogate for the parents. The public agency must have a method for determining whether the child needs a surrogate parent and for assigning a surrogate parent for the child. (34 CFR §300.515(b));” or
4) In a letter to Dr. John Copenhaver dated November 7, 2007, OSEP answered a question about the qualifications of school staff during ESY where they stated, “Under Part B regulations, no distinction is made between the personnel qualifications for special education and related services provided pursuant to a child’s IEP as part of the regular school program and those provided pursuant to an IEP as ESY services. Personnel providing ESY services should meet the same requirements that apply to personnel providing the same types of services as a part of a regular school program;” or
5) In a letter to Congressman Weldon dated October 10, 2001, OSEP answered a question about state assessments where they stated, “The requirements for including children with disabilities in assessments are based on a number of federal laws, including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and most notably the IDEA and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. These laws recognize that an assessment is often connected to student benefits such as moving to the next grade or graduating. Assessment is also an important factor in school accountability as well as individual benefits provided to children. Excluding children with disabilities from assessments may violate these Federal laws.”
Knowledge and information are two of the most important tools that Parents have to ensure their child receives a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Answers to these and other questions like them can be the difference between a child with a disability receiving FAPE or that child receiving a failing education. Stay informed by reviewing new letters as they become available quarterly on the Department of Education website.