The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), commonly referred to as “special education”, is a federal law that mandates that eligible children with disabilities between the ages of three through twenty-one (3-21) receive a free appropriate public education. A free appropriate public education means special education and related services.
The federal law, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), defines special education as specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This means that if your child qualifies for special education services, you as her parent will be involved in developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for her that addresses her unique educational needs. You will work with a school team to identify her strengths and needs and the services necessary to help her reach rigorous, yet realistic annual goals while in school. Your child may also need “related services” or other accommodations, supplementary aids and services (such as speech therapy or a behavior intervention plan) to allow her to benefit from her special education program.
The IDEA is a federal law, so all states must follow the requirements of IDEA, but practices and procedures of how the law is implemented may look different depending on the state in which you reside; therefore, services may be different. Even school districts in the same state may use different terminology or have policies and procedures that differ from another school district in the same state. States may also provide programs and services over and above the IDEA, but never less than what the law dictates. Both federal and state laws can be found in what is called the “Administrative Code” which provides information for parents and schools about the special education process. The State Special Education Regulations (Effective June 11, 2007) are posted on the DE Dept. of Education’s web site at http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/students_family/specialed/default.shtml
All public and charter schools in Delaware must comply with federal and state special education regulations. So if your child is found eligible for special education and related services, then “yes” your child will receive special education services from the Charter School so long as the Charter School has resources to do so.
You can gain valuable information about special education services and programs in a number of ways:
Attend PIC workshops and participate in webinars or audio-conferences
Stay current with both state and national news, events and resources by signing up to receive PIC’s electronic “News and Events” (Add link)
Participate in your child’s IEP and school meetings
Request to have a meeting or phone call conference with your child’s teacher
Attend open houses, PTA meetings and other school events
Join a parent support group (Add link to on-line resource center or wherever located)
Visit the Delaware Dept. of Education’s web site http://www.doe.k12.de.us/ which includes information about: special education regulations, curriculum standards, state testing, complaint procedures and more about Delaware public and charter schools.
Attend PIC workshops and participate in webinars or audio-conferences
Stay current with both state and national workshops, events, news and resources by signing up to receive PIC’s electronic “News and Events”
PIC Tip: Knowledge is empowering and the more you learn about your parental rights under the IDEA, the more empowered you will feel. The more educated you become about your rights and responsibilities, the stronger yur ability will be to advocate for your child as a respected member of your child’s school team.
As a parent, you may request that your child receive an educational evaluation to determine if she is eligible for special education services. A teacher or someone from the school or another public agency who has been working with your child may also mention that your child could benefit from special education services. The school, however, cannot conduct an educational evaluation until you, the parent, have given your permission by providing your informed written consent for the evaluation.
PIC Tip: Your request for an educational evaluation should be made in writing (email is acceptable) to the educational diagnostician, school principal, teacher, special education director or case manager. It is also helpful to copy another team member on your request to ensure that at least two people are aware of your documented request.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 925 2.2; 34 C.F.R. §300.301
A school must get informed written parental consent prior to conducting an education evaluation to determine if a child is eligible for special education and related services. Therefore, a parent (as defined in the next section of Frequently Asked Questions) must sign a permission form before a school can conduct an evaluation. Usually a school will have their own “permission to evaluate” form that describes what the evaluation will include and it will explain the process. This form will also list the date of the evaluation and who from the school will conduct it.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 925 2.3; 34 C.F.R. §300.300
PIC Tip: After providing written parental consent, the meeting to determine your child’s eligibility for special education and related services must occur within 45 school days or 90 calendar days.
Under the IDEA, only a parent(s) can provide written parental consent for an initial educational evaluation. A parent is considered any one of the following:
A biological or adoptive parent of a child;
A guardian (a non-parent authorized by Family Court to act as a child’s parent and is awarded possession of the powers, rights, and duties which are necessary to protect, manage and care for a child. A guardian has the legal authority to take care of the child and make educational decisions as if he/she were the child’s parent until the child turns 18 years of age). Youth in the care of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) are said to be in their “custody”, therefore, a DFS (Division of Family Services) worker is not considered a guardian of a child.
An individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent and with whom the child lives – A Relative Caregiver’s School Authorization will also be requested and kept on file at the school (refer to question #4 below);
An individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare; or a
A surrogate parent who has been appointed by the Dept. of Education
References: 14 DE Admin Code 922 3.0; 34 C.F.R. §300.30
If a child lives with a grandparent (or other relative by blood, marriage or adoption) and that person is acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent, then that grandparent (or other relative) is considered a parent under IDEA and can sign parental consent forms. Additionally, Delaware regulations require that the person complete a Relative Caregiver’s School Authorization form. The Delaware Relative Caregivers' School Authorization Affidavit is required for a relative caregiver who is raising a child without legal custody or guardianship and allows that person to register a child for school and make other education decisions. You can obtain this form through your school district or from the DE Health and Social Services/Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dsaapd/sample.html
An educational evaluation is a way to find out as much information as possible about why your child is struggling in school and whether her school performance is related to a disability. Not all children who are having problems in school have a disability or will qualify for special education services. In order to find out if your child qualifies or is eligible for special education services, school personnel must first conduct an evaluation.
The evaluation includes gathering information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, state assessments, information from response-to- intervention (RTI) processes and input from parents and teachers.
The evaluation is conducted by trained and qualified school personnel.
You will join a team from the school, that is knowledgeable about your child, and review the evaluation information to determine if your child is a “child with a disability” for educational purposes.
In determining whether you child is a “child with a disability” for educational purposes, the team will review and discuss the evaluation results. The team will then use eligibility criteria as described in the IDEA and DE Special Education Regulations to make their determination of whether the child is eligible for special education and related services.
PIC Tip: As a parent, you have valuable information to share about your child. It is important that you share information with the school team about your child’s disability, previous evaluations, past school history and medical issues. Be sure to ask questions and share your concerns and expectations.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 925 4.0; 34 C.F.R. §300.301
The process of using categories or “labels” in Delaware is taken from the federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Categories in Delaware used to define a “child with a disability” for special education purposes are: Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Learning Disability, Intellectual Disability, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment; Speech and/or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visual Impairment and Preschool Speech Delay (3 and 4 year olds only). These categories closely mirror the federal law and can be found in Delaware’s Special Education Regulations http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/students_family/specialed/default.shtml.
PIC Tip: The “label” is used for eligibility purposes only and should not be used to drive services for your child.
Yes,a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) can be included in the evaluation process if your child exhibits behaviors that are interfering with her education. An FBA looks at why a childbehaves as he or she does, given the nature of the child and what is happening in the environment. An FBA includes observations and input from all team members (including parents) and is usually conducted by a school psychologist, behavior specialist or educational diagnostician. Data collected from the FBA can be used to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) that focuses on using positive strategies and interventions with your child to change or eliminate inappropriate behaviors.
If you do not agree with your child’s educational evaluation, inform the school in writing of your disagreement and request to have an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified person who is not employed by the school district responsible for your child’s education. The IEE is conducted at no cost to the parent. A parent is entitled to only one IEE at the school district’s expense each time the school conducts an evaluation to which the parent disagrees.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 926 2.0; 34 C.F.R. §300.502
The IEP is a document or “roadmap” to help guide the team in developing your child’s individualized education program. It helps you and the school team to address your child’s unique educational needs. The IEP document is used throughout the IEP process to guide the team in providing services and supports to help your child benefit from her education. At the IEP meeting, you and the team will review and discuss many aspects of your child and her educational planning. You will review formal and informal pieces of data (e.g. state tests, homework, assessments) and determine your child’s academic and functional needs. You will work closely with your school team to determine how best to meet your child’s needs through instruction, services and additional supports. As a team you will also develop annual goals, benchmarks, and objectives so that you and her teachers can measure her progress at regular intervals throughout the year.
Once your child has been determined eligible for special education services, an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting will take place within 30 days to develop the IEP document.
PIC Tip: Your child’s IEP must be reviewed at least once a year, however, you or the school may request to have an IEP meeting at any time to review your child’s progress, discuss problems, share strategies or make revisions as needed to your child’s educational program.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 925 20.1; 34 C.F.R. §300.323
If you are unable to attend your child’s IEP meeting as scheduled, notify the school and request that the team meeting be rescheduled. You should see an area on your “invitation to meeting” letter that allows you to indicate that you are not able to attend. It is helpful to offer several dates and times to the school when trying to schedule or re-schedule a meeting. Aside from rescheduling the meeting, you may also participate in your child’s IEP meeting in person, by phone or webinar.
Team members who must be invited and participate in your child’s IEP meeting are:
You – the Parent(s);
Your child – Your child may attend any meeting you feel is appropriate. In Delaware, your child must be invited to her IEP meeting starting at the age of 14 or when she enters the eighth grade (whichever comes first). If your child does not attend, the school must take steps to ensure that your child’s strengths, preferences and interests were considered;
A General Education Teacher;
A Special Education Teacher;
A District representative (e.g. principal, special education director) who is: knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; qualified to provide/supervise special education services; and who can commit district resources and be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided;
An Individual (e.g. school psychologist, educational diagnostician) who can interpret your child’s evaluation results as they relate to her instruction; and
Others who have knowledge or special expertise may be invited by the parent or school.
References: 14 DE Admin Code 925 21.0; 34 C.F.R. §300.321
Sometimes a draft IEP is presented to the parent as a way to move through the IEP meeting more efficiently. The school may create a draft IEP for use at the IEP meeting with the understanding that as a draft it is open to changes, additions and revisions as determined by the team.
Yes, you may invite individuals to your child’s IEP meeting who you believe have expertise or knowledge about your child. The school may do the same. If you plan to have someone attend the meeting who is not on the invitation letter sent out by the school, it is courteous to notify the school of your intention.
Each school district has a student code of conduct that describes policies and procedures around the rules or code of conduct in their schools. If your child violates the code of conduct, she is subject to the same disciplinary actions that apply to a student who does not receive special education services. However, for students receiving special education services, there are additional safeguards to ensure that they are not being punished for their disability. As a general rule, a child receiving special education services can be suspended up to ten days before the IEP team needs to take measures to address the child’s behavior related to their disability and the appropriateness of the IEP. School discipline procedures are described in detail in PIC’s booklet Parents Are The Key.
PIC Tip: Become familiar with the child’s school code of conduct. It is common to receive this booklet at the beginning of the school year; however, codes of conduct are also posted on individual school websites.
There are a number of options available to parents under the IDEA when it comes to resolving conflicts. If you have tried avenues to resolve your conflict such as discussing your concerns with your IEP team or speaking directly with your child’s teacher, you may find it helpful to use a more formal method. Other methods are briefly described below, but are described in detail (together with all of your procedural safeguards) in Parents Are The Key.
Facilitated IEP Meeting - This is where a neutral person, who is a trained facilitator, runs or facilitates an IEP meeting for the team.
Mediation Session – This is a more formal meeting where a trained mediator assists parents and some IEP team members to resolve their conflict.
State Complaint – This is a written complaint to the Delaware Department of Education to report that a school district is out of compliance.
Due Process Hearing – This is a legal proceeding where a panel comprised of trained hearing officers and an attorney decide whether a school/district has violated an eligible student’s rights to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
Resolution Session – If a due process hearing is requested, the school will schedule this meeting within 15 days of the request to see if resolution can occur prior to proceeding with a due process hearing.
PIC Tip: The first thought for any conflict is to step back and consider not only the options, but whether the school is clearly aware of your disagreement with them and whether avenues have been tried so far to resolve the problem. If you feel that your IEP meetings are not moving forward in a positive way to resolve the conflict, learn about and exercise your rights or procedural safeguards as described above.
In Delaware, transition planning begins for students at the age of 14 or when the child enters the eighth grade (whichever comes first). Transition planning can begin even younger if agreed upon by the team. This means that your IEP meetings will include discussions and planning around post-secondary goals. Post-secondary goals are goals for your child to strive for after they leave the high school setting. In particular, goals in the areas of employment, education or training and independent living are developed.
In Delaware, your child must be invited to her IEP meeting starting at the age of 14 or by the 8th grade. If your child does not attend, the school must take steps to ensure that your child’s strengths, preferences and interests were considered.
PIC Tip: Your child’s participation in planning for her future is very important and participating in her IEP meeting is one of the first steps toward advocacy and independence. You have the opportunity to model for your child all of the skills and knowledge that you have been using on their behalf that will benefit them as they assume the IDEA parental rights at the age of 18 (age of majority) as well as when they enter the real world as young adults.
In Delaware, there is a “transition” IEP that is used for students ages 14-21. It is a tool to help guide you and the team to focus on developing goals based on data and age-appropriate assessments for your child once she leaves school. Emphasis is placed on planning for employment, education or training and independent living and providing support and coordinating activities and services to help your child learn skills while in school to be successful when she exits school. Courses of study directly related to your child’s goals will be coordinated and the assistance of outside agencies such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Delaware Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) may be included. In the beginning, the transition planning will most likely be a broad picture of your child’s future. Your child’s transition plan should become more specific as your child progresses through school and has more opportunities to learn job skills and experience planning for a life beyond high school.
PIC Tip: Transition planning is not an “event”. Rather, it is an ongoing process and is subject to change as your child’s needs, experiences and preferences change. Because your child is the center of transition planning, she should be encouraged to participate in every phase of the process.