Special Education Law Insights

In response to the chronic and acute shortage of approved residential placements for Illinois students with special needs, ISBE announced on Monday two steps to provide some, limited relief.

According to a letter from the ISBE General Counsel to the Illinois Council of School Attorneys Executive Committee, ISBE will reinstate its prior practice of reimbursing districts for room, board, and tuition at nonapproved residential schools when ordered by a hearing officer (after the district pays twice its per capita rate for tuition). This change is retroactive to February 2020 when the practice had been discontinued.

Critically, reimbursement is available
Continue Reading ISBE Takes Steps to Increase Access to Residential Placements

In this third blog post in our series on the OSERS Question and Answer document on IDEA requirements related to returning to in-person instruction, we are focusing on an issue of special importance during and subsequent to the pandemic: assistive technology.
Even before schools shut their doors in the spring of 2020, many were already providing one-to-one devices for students. With the transition to virtual learning, even more schools provided students with laptops to enable them to participate in instruction from home. As more and more students are using technology in school, including software that provides supports like word prediction,
Continue Reading OSERS Guidance on Assistive Technology

In this second blog post in our series on the OSERS Question and Answer document on IDEA requirements related to returning to in-person instruction, we are focusing on two questions relevant to this time of transition and uncertainty. (Our first post highlighted the guidance related to compensatory services; you can read that here.) Schools are open in person, but quarantines, adaptive pauses, and mitigation measures continue. And while expanded access to vaccinations will hopefully keep more students in school in person, the possibility of a future return to remote or hybrid instruction is not negligible. Below we explain the
Continue Reading OSERS Guidance Encourages Collaboration and Creativity for IEP Teams

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) published a Question and Answer document to advise school districts on returning to in-person instruction. The OSERS Q&A provides guidance on special education issues, including IEP meetings, extended school year services, mental health, medical conditions, transition services, and placement. While much of the document reiterates long-standing law, OSERS does provide some new guidance specific to COVID-19 transitions. We will be releasing a series of blog posts focused on those new issues.

For our first post, we focus on the highly anticipated guidance related to compensatory services. Here
Continue Reading New OSERS Guidance on Reopening, Compensatory Services

In July, the Illinois State Board of Education published non-regulatory guidance to assist schools in implementing HB 40 and HB 2748, now Public Act 102-0172 and 102-0173, respectively. The FAQ addressed many of questions from the field, as we summarized here. ISBE recently updated the FAQ, providing additional guidance related to HB 2748, specifically recommending that districts consider including a more expansive group of students for postsecondary recovery services eligibility and providing the option to parents and adult students to file a State complaint related to the provision of services under the Act. ISBE also enacted an emergency regulation
Continue Reading ISBE Updates Guidance on New Transition Laws

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year. As the new year gets underway, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) within the Department of Education advised states and districts that it will be providing a series of guidance documents addressing “school reopening efforts and intended to support the full implementation of IDEA requirements.” The letter emphasizes and reiterates the guidance provided throughout 2020 that no IDEA requirements were waived and that, regardless of the instructional delivery approach, districts remain responsible for ensuring that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to all children with disabilities. The first guidance
Continue Reading New Federal Guidance Reiterates Child Find Responsibilities

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

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