A recent due process hearing in Delaware, filed by the parents of a child with a mood disorder, gave an example of the first thing parents should not do with special education. The due process hearing was against the Cape Henlopen School District. The parents claimed the district did not fulfill their obligation under IDEA with manifestation determination. The case also showed a glaring flaw with special education law in the Delaware code, one I hope a legislator picks up on in the 149th General Assembly beginning in January. Or if a very brave soul with a great deal of tenacity picks up the baton and literally runs for their life during the last two days of the 148th General Assembly and miraculously gets a law like this passed in the next two days, that would be a true miracle. What did the parents do that ultimately caused a dismissal of the case? Continue reading
Regulation 926 is up for a vote on Thursday at the State Board of Education meeting. Dealing with IEPs and the Procedural Safeguards pamphlet parents or guardians receive prior to an IEP meeting, Regulation 926 actually attempts to water down the Procedural Safeguards. Attorney General Matt Denn is NOT happy about this.
Under state and federal law, it is mandatory for parents to get the Procedural Safeguards prior to an IEP meeting. The language in the pamphlet is very specific in defining the rights for a parent or guardian of a student with disabilities. Instead, the DOE wants to make sure it is “available” and gives a summary instead of parents actually receiving the legal document when a notice of an IEP meeting goes out.
Denn cites the concern that some parents or guardians may not have access to the internet or email. This isn’t the first time Denn has challenged the State Board of Education over IEP concerns. As the Chair of the IEP Task Force a couple years ago, Denn was adamant about making sure parents’ rights with IEP meetings were the central focus. This was one of the central tenants of the legislation that came out of the task force, Senate Bill 33.
I can’t understand why the State Board, as directed by the Delaware Department of Education continues to change what doesn’t need to be changed. When it comes to special education, they are silent over the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. Special Education has very strict laws in Delaware State Code and federal law under IDEA. But it almost seems like they purposely try to change the law any chance they get because they think they can. Last week, the State Board of Education was put on Sunset Review by the Delaware General Assembly members of the Joint Sunset Committee.
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.
The IEP Task Force finished their work in December, but now it will be up to the General Assembly to make the recommended changes into law. I’m hearing this will be submitted to the General Assembly tomorrow, but with the snow forecast, I’m guessing it will be later in the week. I have to say, I really like these changes. It is by no means the end, and this group needs to continue, but it’s a great start.