Latest Articles

Is your school threat assessment team in place and ready to act in order to meet upcoming legal deadlines? Does it understand the interaction between threat assessments and special education evaluations? Is it adequately prepared so that your school will not be the next one in the media spotlight for a threat assessment gone wrong? In this post, we highlight three key issues involving threat assessment and describe upcoming opportunities to learn what you need to know to properly conduct threat assessments going forward.  The School Safety Drill Act requires school districts in Illinois to have threat assessment teams in…
After pushback from Illinois school districts, an amendment to the Illinois School Code’s special education provisions will alleviate some, but not all, frustrations related to a recent law that added significant procedural requirements for special education teams. Senate Bill 460 (Public Act 101-0598) amended the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code to delay the requirement that special education teams provide a child’s parent or guardian with copies of all written materials to be considered by the student’s IEP team three school days prior to the IEP meeting. Special education teams should be aware of what changes…
In response to outcry from educators in and outside of Illinois about the legitimate need to use prone and supine restraint for certain diverse learners and the lack of notice to allow teams to identify alternative techniques, the Illinois State Board of Education amended its recent emergency rules to allow the practices on a limited basis if certain conditions are met. What are our initial insights from the amended rules? Under the amendment, prone and supine restraint can only be used if the following requirements are met: Consider Contraindicating Factors. The school district or school has determined that no medical…
Our Partner Jennifer Smith asked an important question during the Legislative Update session yesterday at IAASE’s 2019 Fall Conference: What can Illinois special education teachers and administrators do to help ensure that the legislature makes necessary fixes to Public Act 101-0515—or as IAASE aptly calls it, “That Pesky RTI and Special Education Bill”—during the upcoming veto session. We gave you the lowdown on the demanding new law in a blog post earlier this year. As might be expected, the pending proposal to amend the law and remove requirements that were intended to apply only to…
We all know that out-of-state residential placements are a big deal in special education, because we work in schools every day and support these challenging decisions made by school personnel. Now, the issue is garnering attention outside of the schoolhouse. A recent article by NPR Illinois highlighted the significant numbers of such placements, the potential causes of the placements, and the costs to schools and the government. NPR called on Franczek education partner Jennifer Smith to provide insight on this issue of importance to all members of the special education community, including schools. The article states: Jennifer Smith, an attorney…
In a July 2019 briefing report, the United States Commission on Civil Rights warned that students of color with disabilities face exclusionary discipline, like suspensions and expulsions, at much higher rates than their peers without disabilities. What is the Commission, what were its findings and recommendations, and what do they mean for your school or school district? What is the Commission on Civil Rights? The Commission describes itself as an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency that aims to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Commission studies alleged deprivations…
It’s a nightmare scenario: You come back to school rested after a well-deserved summer break to find a parent complaining that their child should have been evaluated over the summer and had an IEP in place on the first day of school. You received the request for an evaluation, either near the end of the school year or during the summer, but those pesky timelines can be so hard to keep up with when the sun is shining and vacation is on the horizon. What rules can help you avoid the timing trap for special education eligibility requests during the…
Summer is upon us and so it’s the season for Extended School Year (ESY) services. What better time than now to brush up on the law in this area? Most special education school leaders are familiar with the regression/recoupment test, but many are less aware of the critical life skills test. What is it, and when does it apply? Extended school year (ESY) services are special education and related services offered by public school districts beyond the normal school year. Extended school year services include traditional classroom experiences but may also include the continued provision of related services or enrollment…
A recent decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals (the highest federal court in the jurisdictions of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island) rebuffed attempts by a student’s parents to heighten the “[f]ree appropriate public education” (FAPE) standard under Endrew F. The court also applied the same standard used by the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Illinois, to analyze a claim that a school district failed to provide a student a FAPE in the “[l]east restrictive environment” (LRE). The decision is therefore a useful read for school leaders in Illinois and beyond. Don’t miss the…
We all know by now that some modifications and accommodations are required to provide students with disabilities equal access to extracurricular activities. But the details can be tricky for even the most well-seasoned special education professionals. Our own John Swinney will be tackling this and other exciting student activities topics tomorrow, April 12, 2019, at the Illinois Directors of Student Activities State Convention in Rosemont. He hopes to see many familiar faces there! For those who want a taste of what he will discuss on this hot topic, read on for the four key questions to ask (and insight on how to…
Most of the cases the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles involve disability discrimination, including claims that a school failed to implement an IEP or Section 504 plan. In our experience, however, OCR is often an afterthought for school employees who work in the field, and when OCR comes knocking school leaders often feel unprepared. Read on for five tips to help you feel more confident the next time you receive notice of an OCR complaint. Request a copy of the complaint. This should be your first step when you receive a notification letter from OCR saying…
If you’ve ever been confused by the use of the terms “accommodations” and “modifications” in the realm of disability student rights, you’re not alone. Our friends over at LRP Publications, the makers of the Special Ed Connection website, asked our own Jackie Wernz to host an upcoming webinar on the topic because of the prevalence of confusion over the terms and how they come into play under both the IDEA and Section 504. The webinar, “Is This an Accommodation or a Modification? Understanding the Difference to Ensure Compliance,” will be held this Thursday, March 14, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. Central. More…
A District of Columbia trial court issued a ruling today requiring the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to implement a 2016 Obama-era regulation addressing “significant disproportionality” based on race and national origin in special education. What does this mean for schools? The regulation may bring changes to the data that school districts must report to state boards of education for purposes of the significant disproportionality analysis. There will also be changes to the remedial actions schools must take if a significant disproportionality is found. More on this interesting and important decision is after the jump. Background of the Equity in…