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- What if a parent believes the school district is not doing its job (i.e. failing to implement a valid Individualized Education Plan (IEP))?
If a parent believes the district has failed to implement a valid IEP or has failed to follow special education law, or is discriminating against a student or a group of students, the parent may file a complaint directly with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). The ODE will investigate and will issue a decision regarding non-compliance within sixty days. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2023 (2011).
- What happens when a student with an IEP moves from one district to another?
If a child with an IEP moves to a new school district within Oregon, the new district must immediately provide FAPE. The services must be similar to those included in the child’s existing IEP, until it either adopts the existing IEP or develops a new IEP. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2230(1) (2011).
- What is special education?
Special education programs in Oregon are governed by both federal and state law. In most instances, state law and federal law are the same. Sometimes state law may provide greater or more specific protections than federal law, but state law can never limit the protections offered by federal law. Under both federal and state law, school districts must provide each student with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
- Who is eligible for special education?
Children with a qualifying disability who need special educational services to benefit from their education are entitled to receive special education and related services. Eligible disabilities include:
- mental retardation;
- hearing impairments (including deafness);
- speech or language impairments;
- visual impairments (including blindness);
- emotional disturbance;
- orthopedic impairment;
- traumatic brain injury;
- other health impairments;
- specific learning disabilities;
- deaf blindness
- communication disorder
- What factors are taken into consideration when determining a student’s eligibility for special education?
When determining eligibility, many districts may determine if a child’s condition affects his or her educational performance. Districts are required to consider a variety of factors when determining eligibility, including:
- aptitude and achievement tests
- teacher recommendations
- physical condition
- social or cultural background
- adaptive behavior
What are some special education services my child may be eligible for before they turn 5?
In Oregon, children born with disabilities until the age of three may be eligible for Early Intervention (EI) services. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2700(9) (2011). Children with disabilities from the age of three until 5 years old may be eligible for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE). Or. Admin R. 581-015-2700(6) (2011).
What is “Child Find”?
Child Find is an Oregon policy requiring school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children from birth to age 21 that have disabilities and need special education services. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2080(1) (2011). School districts’ Child Find efforts must include:
- promoting public awareness,
- publishing notice of confidentiality of Child Find activities
- ensuring staff members are knowledgeable about the characteristics of disabilities and referral procedures,
- informing parents about the availability of special education services.
A child is NOT eligible for special education if the factor in the child’s special needs is:
- a lack of appropriate instruction in reading
- a lack of instruction in math
- or limited English proficiency
- What type of education are children with a qualifying disability entitled to? What is a “free appropriate public education”?
Under both federal and state law, school districts must provide each student with a disability a FAPE. FAPE means:
- Special education and related services that are provided at public expense free of charge
- Meet appropriate standards
- Include preschool through secondary education
- Conform to an Individual Education Program (IEP).
- What is a specialized education?
Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities.
- “Specially-designed instruction” means adapting the content, method or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of a child that result from their disability. This instruction also ensures that child have access to the general curriculum so educational standards are met 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.38(b)(3).
- In addition to a free appropriate public education, are there other services a child with a disability is entitled to? What are “related services”?
In addition to providing a free appropriate public education, school districts are required to provide “related services.” In Oregon, related services may include any of the following:
- orientation and mobility services;
- speech language pathology and audiology services;
- interpreting services;
- psychological services;
- physical and occupational therapy;
- recreation including therapeutic recreation;
- school health services and school nurse services;
- counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling;
- social work services in schools;
- parent counseling and training;
- school health services and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes; and
- early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children.
Also, a student’s individual education plan may specify that extended school year services be available to the child. Extended school year services are provided at no cost to the parent to maintain the student’s skills and behaviors, but not to teach new skills. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2065 (2011).
- Who provides special education?
The state education agency and the local school district are responsible for ensuring that appropriate special education services are administered.
Oregon’s Regional Program provides services for children with low frequency, high needs disabilities. These disabilities include:
- autism spectrum disorder
- deaf blindness,
- hearing impairment
- severe orthopedic impairment
- traumatic brain injury
- vision impairment
Services administered through the Regional Program are administered through eight regional contractors throughout the state. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2540 (2011). The school district or the EI/ECSE refers children to the Regional Program, where appropriate. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2555 (2011).
- Where should a child receive his or her special education and related services? What is a “least restrictive environment”?
Special education must be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
A least restrictive environment means that students with disabilities should be educated alongside non-disabled students as much as possible. 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.114.
Students with disabilities may be removed from the regular educational environment only when disability is so severe that modifications, supplementary aids and services are not enough in the general education environment. 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412 (a)(5)(A); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.114; Or. Admin R. 581-015-2240 (2011).
Specialized education can also be offered in the mainstream classroom, in a resource room, at home, or in hospitals or residential programs. Special education also includes the related services mentioned before.
- How is a child determined to be eligible for special education? Is there an assessment or evaluation?
A parent or public agency may request that the school district conduct an evaluation to determine if a child has a disability. When a parent requests an assessment, referrals are not optional. Or. Rev. Stat. Sec. 343.165(1)(a) (2011). The school district is required to obtain the informed written consent of the parent. An evaluation for special education cannot occur without parental consent. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2110(2)(b) (2011). After receiving consent, the district has 60 school days to complete the assessment.
Evaluations or assessments are conducted by a team that represents all areas of suspected disability. Depending on a child’s needs, an evaluation may include:
- an assessment of health
- motor ability
- speech and language
- academic performance
- cognitive ability
- career or vocational interest,
- communication and social or emotional status.
No one assessment completely determines whether or not your child is eligible or what type of educational needs they require. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2110(3)(b),(4)(d) and (e) (2011). Assessment tools must be valid and given by trained and qualified professionals. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2110(4)(a)(D) (2011). Tests must also be administered in the child’s primary language. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2110(4)(a)(B) (2011).
- What if the parent disagrees with the proposed evaluation?
Parents are entitled to a copy of the assessments. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2120(6) (2011). If the parent disagrees with the findings or recommendations, the parent may request an independent education evaluation (IEE), which must be considered at the child’s IEP. The district must provide an IEE to the parent at no cost unless it chooses to seek a due process hearing to determine whether its own assessment was adequate. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2305 (2011).
Upon a parent’s request to determine their child’s eligibility, the school district is required to provide a Procedural Safeguards Notice published by the Oregon Department of Education. The notice tells parents of the procedural protections available for special education students. The school district must provide the Procedural Safeguards Notice in the parent’s native language unless it is “clearly not feasible,” or easy, to do so. Additionally, the school district must provide a copy of the notice every year to all parents of special education students. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2305 (2011).
- Once a child is identified as being eligible for special education, what are the next steps?
The IEP must include:
- the student’s present levels of educational performance;
- measurable annual goals;
- a description of how the child’s progress toward goals will be measured and reported;
- specific special education services;
- anticipated initiation, duration, frequency, and location of services and modifications;
- extent to which the child will not participate with nondisabled child in regular education classes as well as extracurricular and nonacademic activities;
- modifications necessary for state or district-wide assessments; and
- transition services needed for students 16 years or older.
- Who develops the IEP?
A team meets and develops the IEP. The team includes the parent, a special education teacher, a regular education teacher, and a district representative. A parent may invite additional participants who have special knowledge or expertise regarding the child. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2210 (2011).
- What is an “IEP” (Individualized Education Program)? Do parents have any say so in the IEP?
The school district must conduct an IEP meeting within thirty days of determining that a student is eligible for special education and related services Or. Admin R. 581-015-2220 (2011).
- What happens when a student with an IEP moves from one state to another?
If a child moves into Oregon with an IEP from another state, the receiving school must provide that child with FAPE, including services that are similar to those included in his or her existing IEP until the receiving district conducts necessary assessments and, if it is necessary, a new IEP. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2230(2) (2011).
- What options does a parent have if he or she disagrees with the proposed IEP placement or services? What are the procedures for due process?
If a parent disagrees with the proposed IEP placement or services, or if the parent believes the district has failed to fulfill the child’s IEP, the parent is entitled to file for due process.
Where can a parent file for a due process hearing?
To file for due process, the parent must send a written request for a hearing to the school district and the ODE. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2345 (2011). The Office of Administrative Hearings will appoint an administrative law judge to conduct the hearing. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2340(1) (2011).
What needs to be included in the petition for a due process hearing?
The petition should include:
- Identifying information and detailed facts to notify the district of the nature and legal basis for the dispute and the facts supporting the parent’s position.
- It should also include a proposed resolution or outcome.
If the Petition doesn’t include these things:
- The district may file a notice of insufficiency within fifteen days of receiving the complaint. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2350(1) (2011). Within another five days, the administrative hearing officer may dismiss the complaint all together if this problem is not adequately addressed by the parent’s corrected complaint. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2350(2) (2011).
What happens after the parent’s complaint?
If the district did not send prior written notice about the issue the parent alleges in the due process request, it must answer the parent’s complaint within ten days of receiving it by describing why it refused the parent’s request, the basis for such a refusal, other options, and reasons for the district’s action or inaction. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2345(2)(a) (2011).
What is a resolution meeting?
In Oregon, the parent and district must participate in an informal meeting to resolve the issue, unless both parties agree to waive it or pursue mediation. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2355(1)(d) (2011). This meeting must occur within fifteen days of the parent’s complaint, and must be completed within thirty days. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2355(1)(a), (2)(a) (2011). This resolution session includes the parents and the district. The parent is allowed to bring a lawyer to the resolution meeting but the district cannot Or. Admin R. 581-015-2355(1)(b) (2011).
If the parties reach an agreement at the resolution meeting, the agreement must be put in writing. Both parties have three days to revoke their agreement but in the event they do not, the agreement is binding and enforceable in state or federal court. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2355(3) (2011).
What is mediation?
Parents who waive the resolution session may still participate in mediation. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a trained, objective facilitator works with both parties to reach an agreement. Mediation is available at any time up until the hearing. The time span between when a due process hearing must be held and a decision made is not stopped during mediation as it is during the resolution session. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2335 (2011).
What are the parent’s rights at a hearing?
- The parent must be notified of free or low-cost legal assistance. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(1)(d) (2011).
- The hearing must be held at a time and place convenient for the parent. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2370(7) (2011).
- A parent may make a request to the administrative law judge for a continuance. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2370(4) (2011).
- A child may attend the hearing, and the parent may request that the hearing be closed to the public. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(5)(c) (2011).
- The hearing must be fair. This means that the hearing officer must be impartial and that the parent may bring an attorney or advocate. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(5)(b)(A) (2011).
- Parents may present witnesses and evidence and may cross-examine witnesses and evidence presented by the district. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2365, 2360(5)(b)(B) (2011).
- The parent is entitled to a written decision within forty-five days of filing the complaint, and may appeal within ninety days of the final order. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2355(1) (2011).
- The decision will be mailed to the parent, along with a description of the method for appeal within the forty-five day timeline. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2375(3) (2011).
What happens to the student once the petition has been filed?
Once a complaint has been filed, the student is entitled to “stay put.” This means that the placement and services of the child’s most recent IEP remain in effect until the complaint has been resolved. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(5)(a) (2011). Both the parent and the district may agree to a change in placement or services depending on the outcome of the hearing. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(5)(a)(A) (2011). In addition, a child who is awaiting expulsion for certain discipline violations may be moved to an interim alternative educational setting pending the outcome of a hearing. Or. Admin R. 581-015-2360(5)(a)(C) (2011).
- Can a special education student be disciplined?
Students with disabilities may be suspended for any one of the misbehaviors in the student conduct handbook that applies to all students, even if the misbehavior is a manifestation, or due to the child’s disability. Students with disabilities are subject to the same suspension rules as nondisabled students, except that students with disabilities cannot be suspended for more than ten consecutive days without a manifestation determination review.
- Can parents see the school records of their special education child?
Parents are entitled to inspect, review, get a copy of, and request amendment to all of a child’s school records. Or. Admin R. 581-021-0260(1), (2)(a) and (b) (2011). The parent request to review the child’s records to the child’s teacher, principal, or the special education administrator for their school district. In Oregon, the school district must arrange for the parent to inspect and review education records without unnecessary delay, before an IEP meeting or due process hearing, and, in any case, within forty-five days of the request.
A parent also has a right to request a timely and appropriate explanation of any information in an education record upon request to the school district. Or. Admin R. 581-021-0270 (2011). The school district may charge a fee for copies of a child’s education records, unless that fee prevents the parent from exercising the right to review the records. Or. Admin R. 581-021-0280 (2011). Parents have the right to request correction or removal of information the parent believes to be inaccurate, misleading, or a violation of privacy by filing a request with the school district. If the request is denied, the parent is entitled to a hearing, and if the appeal is denied the parent may still submit an objection in writing to the child’s file. Or. Admin R. 581-021-0300 and 0310 (2011).