OSEP Dear Colleague Letters

Parents, here is another great tool for your advocacy toolkit. And yes, another issue that was brought to my attention in our Facebook group. Sometimes I forget what it is like to be an IEP newbie. So when a parent asked, “What’s an OSEP guidance letter?” I knew I had to do this!

OSEP letters

OSEP vs. OSERS Letters

When working with school personnel, you may hear these referred to by different names. First there is:

  • OSEP-Office of Special Education Programs
  • OSERS-Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
  • OCR-Office of Civil Rights

Each of these Federal departments publish things, all the time. These publications address trends that they are noticing, or to address an inquiry that they receive.

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Guidance and Dear Colleague Letters

To address an issue, they publish what is called a “Guidance Letter.” When responding to an individual, it is a “Dear Colleague Letter.” What they do is answer the inquiry to the person, however they publish it on their website for all to see. There also are Q&A Documents if a SCOTUS case or something else new comes up.

In any event, if you hear one of these terms, that is what it is referring to–a document from the Federal Agency explaining an issue. There are literally thousands of them online from different agencies. Keep in mind that IDEA was revised in 2004, so any letter dated before that may not be applicable.

Again, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of these. I find it easiest to do a Google search of “OSEP letter topic” to find what I need. The search bars on the individual websites aren’t that great.

How to Use These Resources

Dear Colleague and Guidance letters are great to know about. Unfortunately, none is a slam dunk if you are having IEP troubles. Most of them just reiterate or explain what is best practice, but schools can (and do!) still say no.

When I am having an issue with a client, we dig up a Dear Colleague letter if appropriate. At a certain point in the process, Mom will send an email to her IEP team lead outlining the issue. Then we will include relevant portions of the letter. Such as, “According to the OSEP Letter to Clinton, ……”

Sometimes a reminder like this is all it takes to get the team to change their minds. Other times, they are not fazed at all and dig their heels is. However, if you are gaslighted at an IEP meeting, sometimes there is a Guidance or Dear Colleague letter to support and validate you. Like when schools say, “We can’t say ‘dyslexia!’ ” See below, they actually can!

So, here are some common and interesting Dear Colleague and Guidance letters you should know about.

Issue: Attorneys at IEP Meetings

I’m including two letters here. First is the infamous “Letter to Clinton” which is a response to Hilary Clinton, when she was a Senator.

It outlines best practices regarding having attorneys at IEP meetings.

The second letter is about the same issue. However, it addresses whether or not schools or parents have to notify each other if they are bringing an attorney.

Issue: Can schools say “dyslexia?”

Short answer, yes. Schools can say dyslexia.

Issue: RTI being used to delay IEPs.

I have further explained this issue in the link above. But here is the letter: RTI should not delay evaluations.

Issue: Overview on ADHD expectations.

The letter is in that link.

Issue: IEE and exiting an IEP.

Synopsis: This letter explains the circumstances surrounding exiting a child from an IEP. And, how requesting an IEE does not delay that.

Issue: Do Charter Schools have to follow IDEA?

Short answer, yes. But with Betsy at the helm, don’t expect any help with this. OSEP letter about Charter Schools.

Issue: What does the Endrew case mean for FAPE?

Endrew and FAPE OSEP letter

Issue: Restraint and Seclusion

Federal Guidance on Restraint and Seclusion

Issue: School prohibiting therapists from attending IEP meetings.

Letter: Related Service Providers attending IEP meetings.

Issue: Does LRE apply to preschool?

Read that link to see the guidance.

Using FMLA to attend IEP Meetings

FMLA to attend IEP Meetings

IEP Issue: Receiving Evaluations before IEP meeting.

Take a look at the answers to questions 2 and 3.

IEP Evaluations before IEP Meeting

If you have a favorite OSEP letter, or one that you refer to often, let me know. I can always add more! Happy Reading!

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