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Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year! As we begin, special education leaders should take note of several new laws recently signed by the Governor. We have been talking a lot about HB 40 and HB 2748, which extend transition services for students who turn 22. But several others also deserve our attention, including new laws that limit the use of time out and physical restraint, require districts to ensure their websites and remote learning platforms are accessible to people with disabilities, require IEP teams to provide PUNS information to families at annual reviews, require the consideration of in-State residential programs,
Continue Reading New Year, New Laws

On July 26, 2021, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued a Factsheet explaining the potential for students who have been infected with COVID-19 to experience new, returning, or ongoing post-COVID health problems that may qualify as a disability under Section 504 or the IDEA. The Factsheet reinforces the need to follow standard Section 504 and IDEA procedures related to child find, evaluations, eligibility, and services and modifications for such students. The challenges of the last year and a half have led to a variety of health, academic, and social/emotional difficulties
Continue Reading Students with Long COVID May Need Support Under Section 504 or the IDEA

Earlier this summer, we let you know about two special education bills that had passed the Illinois legislature, which, if signed by the Governor, would provide additional services to some transition students. These bills have both been signed by the Governor, and ISBE has issued an FAQ to address the many questions from the field on how these laws will work in practice.   
 
Public Act 102-0172 (HB 40) 
PA 102-72 (HB 40) amends Section 14-1.02 of the School Code, extending eligibility to the end of the regular school year for students whose 22nd birthday falls within a regular school term. “Regular school term”
Continue Reading ISBE Releases Guidance on New Transition Laws

Wage and hour violations in Illinois just got a lot more expensive. On Friday, July 9, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed an amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act that increases the penalty for underpaying wages from 2% of the amount of the underpayment per month to 5%. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up fast.
Suppose a former employee claims that their employer failed to pay them $5,000 in vacation pay upon separation from employment. Employees have up to 10 years to file a lawsuit under the Act, so it may be several years
Continue Reading Illinois More than Doubles Penalties for Wage & Hour Violations

In this immediate post-COVID-19 education landscape in which schools are contemplating a full return to in-person instruction, schools are also grappling with the stark realities of achievement gaps and the disproportionate impacts that the pandemic and remote learning had on various student populations. In response to President Biden’s Executive Order calling for the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education to deliver a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students in elementary, secondary, and higher education, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published this Report. The introduction to the Report states that “Although
Continue Reading New Department of Education Report Highlights the Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on Students

On May 30, 2021, SB1577 passed both houses and, if signed by the Governor, will amend the School Code to reflect that the mental or behavioral health of a student is a “valid cause” for absence from school. Currently, valid exemptions recognized for school-age children to be absent include but are not limited to illness, religious holidays, death in the immediate family, and family emergencies. Additionally, in January 2019, “other circumstances which cause reasonable concern to the parent for the mental, emotional, or physical health or safety of the student” was added. The most recent amendment would allow parents to
Continue Reading Mental Health and Behavioral Health Days – Are Your Child Find Senses Tingling?

Just hours before the conclusion of the spring legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed two bills that will significantly impact students who receive services until age 22. 
The first, HB40, impacts students who turn 22 during the school year by allowing them to continue to receive special education services until the end of that school year rather than until the day before their 22nd birthday. This is a change we have been anticipating for some time, and will take effect upon the Governor’s signature.   
The second, HB 2748, titled “COVID-19 post-secondary transition recovery eligibility,” provides an extended period of IEP services for students who turned 22 “during the time in
Continue Reading Two New Bills Offer Extended Special Education Services to Transition Students

On May 30, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed HB219, which will further restrict the use of time out and physical restraint in Illinois schools. The legislation will take effect upon signature by Governor Pritzker. You may recall that similar bills have been introduced over the last several sessions, and the current bill is very similar to the version we previously highlighted for you. The legislature took action at the close of this session and just days following the publication of another Pro Publica article showing continued reliance on time out and physical restraint, despite reduced in-person instruction this year.
Continue Reading Illinois Legislature Passes Bill Further Restricting Time Out and Physical Restraint

On May 13, 2021, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights published a Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment. The document is aimed at “helping schools reopen safely and in ways that support equity among students” and addresses obligations under Section 504 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability), Title VI (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin), and Title IX (prohibiting discrimination based on sex). In the disability section, most of the answers repeat or expand on prior guidance from the Department. And on the one question where
Continue Reading New OCR Q&A Reiterates Guidance, Promises Additional Guidance on Compensatory Services to Come

The Department of Education recently issued Volume 2 of its COVID-19 Handbook. The handbook offers suggestions for creating safe and healthy learning environments, addressing lost instructional time, and supporting educator and staff stability and well-being. Throughout the guidance, the Department encourages readers to keep students who may have been especially impacted by the pandemic and remote learning – including students with disabilities – at the center of plans for returning to in-person learning and using American Rescue Plan funds. The reminder to focus on issues of equity and the needs of vulnerable students, including students from low-income backgrounds, students
Continue Reading COVID 19-Handbook V.2: What are the Implications for Special Education?

The American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden at the end of last week includes almost $130 billion in education funding. The vast majority of that money will be distributed to school districts based on the Title I formula. This amounts to an average of $2,521 per student in Illinois, though districts with more disadvantaged students will receive more while other districts will receive less. Some of the money will also go to states to use for learning recovery grants, summer enrichment programs, and after-school programs. Of particular importance to special education directors and practitioners is that $3 billion
Continue Reading New IDEA Funding in the American Rescue Plan Act

A recent OCR decision out of Wyoming is a reminder to school districts of their Child Find obligations—including during remote instruction. In Teton County School District, Wyoming, OCR found in favor of the school district who responded to a doctor’s note diagnosing anxiety and depression with immediate supports and initiating an evaluation. The case illustrates the perils of informal communication about disabilities but confirms that not every reference to a disability triggers the obligation to evaluate.
In the Wyoming case, there were several red flags that unfolded for school personnel.

First Red Flag: The parents requested “strict” confidentiality when disclosing to
Continue Reading OCR Decision Highlights Common Child Find Red Flags

ISBE has proposed amendments to the current rules regarding special education. These amendments generally track recent changes in the School Code, including

  • PA 101-0643: Changes related to RTI and MTSS, providing written materials 3 school days prior to IEP meetings, related services logs, and providing notice of missed services. We previously covered this legislation with an overview and tips for implementation. The legislation was effective June 18, 2020.
  • PA 101-0164: Revisions to the process for a school district to withdraw from a special education joint agreement. This legislation was effective July 26, 2019.
  • PA 100-0465: As


Continue Reading Proposed Amendments to Special Education Rules Have Two Curious Provisions

ISBE has adopted new rules to support parent participation in IEP meetings by requiring districts to arrange for and fund “qualified interpreters” for parents whose native language is other than English. We have heard concern from many clients that they do not yet have staff who meet the requirements to be a qualified interpreter. This is not surprising given that the rules are brand new and the requirements are extensive. In the meantime (and on ongoing basis if desired), districts can use outside vendors, including telephonic interpreters. The requirements for qualified interpreters are summarized below. For now, districts should focus
Continue Reading New Rules for Qualified Interpreters in Effect

In the final weeks of the Trump administration, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated “proactive investigations” against Seattle Public Schools and the Indiana Department of Education related to special education services during the pandemic. You’ll recall that since the early days of COVID-19 and the first school shut-downs, the Department of Education has maintained that, while the methodology may change, the obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education to students with IEPs and 504 plans remains intact. In October, OCR and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) reiterated that position in two FAQ
Continue Reading Outgoing OCR Opens Investigations Into Special Education Services During Remote Learning

Prior to winter break, we wrote about proposed legislation that would further limit the use of physical restraint and time out in Illinois schools. While many expected the bill to pass during the lame duck session earlier this month, it failed to do so. Some opposition continues, but we do expect the bill to be taken up again in the spring.
In the meantime, we’ll be sharing a checklist of the current requirements for policies, procedures, and training in the IAASE blog next week. The final regulations issued last spring remain in effect and do make significant changes to the
Continue Reading Physical Restraint and Time Out Update