The mood in the Delaware House Education Committee meeting this week was a great deal lighter than last week. Delaware Senator Nicole Poore’s Senate Bill 33, otherwise known as the IEP Task Force bill, cleared through the House Education Committee with no “nay” votes.
The biggest topic of conversation surrounded teachers or contractors in IEP meetings. Several individuals commented at the IEP Task Force meetings held last fall that they felt intimidated or in some cases, threatened, about advocating for a student during an IEP meeting. Part of the legislation of Senate Bill 33 would put into state law that this practice would not be legal. Opponents of this one section were worried about teachers or contractors speaking out without enough knowledge to help the student, which could lead to many complications according to these individuals. Members of the task force gave public comment explaining why this was included, and that while some districts may not have these issues, others have. Although a representative from the Delaware State Educators Association was present, they had no public comment on this matter.
Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn was concerned about the exact wording for parent or guardian as some people may legally be assigned those rules from the court. He suggested a potential amendment, but Attorney General Matt Denn, who also chaired the IEP Task Force, explained this definition of “parent” is already written into State and Federal law. No amendment was introduced by Lynn upon hearing this.
State Rep. Kim Williams asked when the Procedural Safeguards parents receive when they ask for an IEP or 504 plan was last updated. Maryann Mieczkowski, Director of the Exceptional Childrens Resources group with the Delaware DOE and an IEP Task Force member answered 2009 when the law was last changed, but it would be updated to reflect the new law if Senate Bill 33 becomes law.
A few individuals, including myself, expressed a desire to see the IEP Task Force continue, which Denn hinted may happen during the task force meetings last fall. State Rep. Deb Heffernan wanted this, but she wanted the group to focus more on student outcome going forward. She didn’t clarify what this meant, if it was about standards-based IEPs, or transition issues for students who become adults with disabilities. Many Delaware agencies gave full support of the bill in public comment.