Below find several frequently asked questions regarding various facets of education law.
I BELIEVE MY CHILD MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION AND RELATED SERVICES. WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
- Contact an education lawyer for guidance;
- Obtain written reports from your child’s doctors regarding any medical diagnoses;
- Obtain written reports from other professionals assisting your family regarding school concerns; and
- Submit all written reports, along with a letter, to the Director of Special Services at your District, outlining your education concerns and requesting that your child be evaluated for special education.
DOES THE SCHOOL DISTRICT HAVE TO EVALUATE MY CHILD FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION?
No, they do not. If the information available does not suggest that the child may have a disability requiring special education and related services, the District may deny evaluations. If you disagree with the District’s determination not to evaluate, there are next-step options to explore.
IF MY CHILD IS FOUND ELIGIBLE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION AND RELATED SERVICES, WHAT ARE THEY ENTITLED TO?
Your child is entitled to a “free appropriate public education.” To this end, a team of people, including educators, parents and others familiar with your child, will work together to put together a comprehensive Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for your child.
WHAT IS AN IEP?
An IEP or “Individualized Education Program,” is a legal document available to students eligible for special education and related services.
The IEP is prepared by a team, including educators, parents, and other parties with personal knowledge of the student in question.
The IEP is a comprehensive document that sets forth a student’s program, placement, services, supports, modifications, accommodations, goals, and other information necessary for a student’s academic progress in school.
In essence, this is a guide for you and your child’s educators. It may also serve as a guide map for private providers that are supporting your family.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR AN IEP?
A student that has one or more disabilities and said disability affects the student’s school performance and/or ability to learn, that requires an individualized education plan. Eligible students in New Jersey are classified as follows:
- Auditory impairment;
- Intellectual Disability;
- Communication Impairment;
- Emotional Regulation Impairment;
- Multiple Disabilities;
- Orthopedic Impairment;
- Other Health Impairment;
- Preschool Child with a Disability;
- Social Maladjustment;
- Specific Learning Disability;
- Traumatic Brain Injury; and
- Visual Impairment.
While these classifications may seem to restrict a student’s eligibility for special education, that is not necessarily the case. These classifications include wide-ranging student circumstances.
N.J.S.A. § 6A:14-3.5.
WHAT IS FAPE?
FAPE stands for “Free Appropriate Public Education.” State and Federal law requires that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”). FAPE applies to all students with an IEP and/or 504 Plan.
WHAT IS “LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT?”
Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”) is a legal term used in the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).
Essentially, the LRE requires that students who receive special education and related services be exposed to general education students and curriculum as much as possible.
The LRE is determined by a student’s individual needs and is subject to change.
WHAT IS A SECTION 504 PLAN?
A 504 Plan is typically a written document for a student with a physical or mental health disability that affects their daily life activities.
Typically, students who qualify for a 504 Plan do not qualify for special education and related services; although, it is possible to have both an IEP and 504 Plan.
The 504 Plan provides specific accommodations relative to the student’s disability and struggles in school.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMODATIONS CAN A SECTION 504 PLAN PROVIDE TO MY CHILD?
A 504 Plan is a document developed by a school district’s 504 team to provide certain accommodations to students with disabilities, the purpose of which is to provide the disabled student with the same access to education as non-disabled children.
Section 504 accommodations are specific to a child’s disability and symptomatology, and consequently, 504 accommodations vary from child-to-child. Some common 504 accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- Preferential classroom seating;
- Modified assignments;
- Frequent breaks with check-ins;
- Administer standardized testing in a small group or different room;
- Call on student only when hand is raised;
- Provide additional time to complete tasks;
- Short movement breaks as needed;
- Provide a study guide for examinations;
- Provide a practice test with answer key for home study;
- Provide extra set of text books – one for home, one for school;
- Enlarged font on written materials.
Frequently Asked Questions, Special Education:
SHOULD I CONSENT TO AMEND MY CHILD’S IEP WITHOUT A MEETING?
It depends. Amending an IEP without a meeting is generally appropriate where the amendment is minor or limited, i.e., adding an additional session of speech therapy per week, increasing time for certain related services, moving a child from resource pull-out for math to resource in-class support, etc.
Major changes to the IEP should be the subject matter of a formal IEP meeting.
Furthermore, if you have any questions about the proposed amendments, you should consider requesting an IEP meeting instead of amending the IEP without one.
CAN THE DISTRICT AMEND MY CHILD’S IEP WITHOUT MY CONSENT?
In general, no. However, certain edits can be made by the District that do not impact your child’s program or placement.
MY CHILD CURRENTLY HAS AN IEP. THE DISTRICT HAS PROPOSED A NEW IEP, HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO EITHER CONSENT TO IMPLEMENT IT OR REJECT IT?
Generally, 15 Days.