Updated Special Ed Information for Shutdown
I’m telling you. Every week, I think “Ok, that’s it. Now the IEP issues should be quiet for a while.” And then, something else comes up. Now that I’ve answered this question three times, felt I should address it. Here’s the issue: Some schools are sending PWNs to parents, and considering this extended shutdown as a placement change.
So, what to do? First, I know we’ve heard this a zillion times since March, but this really is unprecedented. And actually, this time, that phrase is literally 100% accurate. There is no legal precedent for this. It’s not mentioned in IDEA nor is there any case law that has dealt with it.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Because the answer is, “It depends.” It depends on your situation, your school and what your specific PWN says. Keep in mind that here in PA, we call them a NOREP for Notice of Recommended Educational Placement.
PA Dept of Education Guidance
Was your child in the middle of evaluations?
Then here you go. Here is the official guidance from PA Dept of Ed. Yes, officially it only applies to PA. However, I think it’s good guidance and can give you content ideas if you are composing an email to your school, if you are in this situation. If the document does not show up in the viewer (happens with some browsers) then scroll past it and you’ll see a button to download it.PDE-Evaluation-Guidance-4-22-20
Here is the official document from the state of PA on PWNs and NOREPs.
PA Bureau of Special Education Guidance
I asked specific questions to my contact at the PDE Bureau of Special Ed. I am copying and pasting his responses.
What if a parent disagrees with what is being offered? What are their options, isn’t ODR closed?
Obviously it is the hope the district and the parent can come to an agreement of an interim program that is reasonable and appropriate. However, if the parent is not happy with the program, they can ask to reconvene with the LEA for resolution. If this is not an option of consideration, they may follow the process via complaint, mediation or Due Process. While ODRs structure building is closed they are working from home as many of us are.
Does this new NOREP then become the child’s stay-put placement?
This NOREP should reflect an interim program until the state gets back to normalcy and many LEAs are stating this within their PWN / NOREP.
What is BSE recommendation regarding comp ed if a parent wishes to pursue that option?
Compensatory Education is a process to acquire services that the LEA failed to provide. In this situation of the pandemic, the LEA is following guidance from the Federal and State government in providing a rational and appropriate program within this pandemic time. The parent can seek compensatory education if the system of the interim program is not followed by design. They can also seek compensatory education from the previous IEP design, yet my guess is that this will be vetted differently now as the district did not fail in providing the IEP design, yet the pandemic outbreak created this country-wide.
Many schools are taking attendance–what is the BSE guidance regarding grades?
I have not seen any guidance from PDE / nor BSE except general guidance for which LEAs are to take attendance and grade. I will throw this up to my Chief to see if I missed something coming down the line of guidance.
What about students who were in the process of IEP evaluations or re-evals? What is a reasonable timelines?
IEP evaluations using classroom school based assessment can be provided to gain insight on student’s ability skill set in a certain subject domain – i.e. DIBELS, Math Facts, etc…
In addressing the re-evaluations- these can be done with review of past assessments, grades and current school based assessment. If additional formal assessments need to be done with the reevaluation, the reevaluation may need to be put on hold as most (if not all) psychological assessments have to be administered with fidelity and the appropriate standardized setting allowing for reliable results. Additionally, initial evaluation fall under the same scrutiny. Providing a formal psychological assessment via a zoom link would not provide the appropriate setting to acquire reliable results.
I asked an attorney friend his thoughts on this. This is just general guidance to assist you in making your personal decisions for your child. This should not be considered legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the internet.
Anyway, yes I have seen a number of districts issue new NOREPs, but it’s a bit inconsistent across the board.
My feeling overall is that issuing a new NOREP is largely an unnecessary step, as online programming, etc. is obviously not the “recommended placement”, it is just what everyone is stuck with at the moment. In other words, everyone is well aware of the situation, so no district is going to be expected to fully implement FAPE – a good faith reasonable effort, yes – but not a complete FAPE.
That said, I suppose I can understand if the IEP team is actually meeting – virtually obviously – and discussing specifically how various aspects of a child’s IEP can be implemented under the circumstances, that some districts are being advised to offer a new IEP/NOREP afterwards. In general I can live with that scenario provided that the NOREP is clear that such modified IEP implementation is temporary pending a return to school (and assuming that the parent is agreeable to whatever is being proposed).
I have a much bigger problem with districts that are a just issuing these unilateral NOREPs (ie no meeting/discussion whatsoever) just trying to CYA whatever it is they’re going to be providing. Even worse, some districts are trying to get parents to sign off on them having no FAPE responsibility at all until school starts up again – which I had earlier this week with a past client (obviously told parent no way she could sign such a NOREP, fortunately, the district backed down pretty quickly).
So long story short, as you said, we are in uncharted territory. While I don’t really think that a NOREP is necessary if it is only to account for the current educational situation, there are certainly degrees of acceptability to it, and the language used by the district definitely matters.
Hope this helps – stay safe!
So there you go. A reminder that here in PA and a few other states, not signing a PWN means that you agree with the PWN/NOREP. If you are presented with one, dig up and read your Procedural Safeguards and respond accordingly. And, yes, you can write on them! Do not be afraid to write on a PWN/NOREP. I do it all the time. Even a simple “I’m in agreement with this only until we return to normal school attendance” might ease your mind instead of just signing in agreement.
Arc of Philadelphia Guidance
The Arc of Philadelphia has sent this out. Keep in mind this is their guidance, not mine.
Dear Arc of Philadelphia families and supporters:
We hope you are all doing well.
While schools are closed as a result of the pandemic, we also realize that things are constantly changing, sometimes from one day to the next. Our goal is to make sure that your child’s rights are not lost in the process.
We wanted to reach out to let you know that you may receive a NOREP (Notice of Recommended Educational Placement) regarding your child’s education from your child’s educational institution.
As a result, we are suggesting that you consider signing the NOREP, to accept the services being offered however, below is suggested language you could include in your email response when sending back your signed NOREP:
“Attached is the signed NOREP addressing the provision of IEP services to my child during the emergency closure. I understand that this is an unprecedented situation and appreciate your efforts. Please note that, by signing the attached NOREP, it is not my intention to waive any rights that my child may have in regard to compensatory education services, nor to waive any remedy that may be created by future legislation or administration education action by Pennsylvania Department of Education or the US Department of Education.”
There may be other factors that may make tele services difficult for you or your child to receive and that is understandable during this time. The health and welfare of you and your family is what is most important at this time.
Please know that we are here to assist you any way we can should you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s education.
Feel free to contact our advocacy intake coordinator, Lisa Johnson, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, for assistance.
The Arc of Philadelphia
Good Luck with your decision.