Special Education Law Insights

On July 18, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its revised Case Processing Manual (CPM), which was last updated in August 2020. The CPM outlines the procedures OCR uses to investigate and resolve complaints under the civil rights laws it enforces, including Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The revised manual contains several noteworthy changes schools and colleges should be aware of, including the following highlighted below. 

Definition of “complaint” 

  • Defines “complaint” as “a written statement to the Department [of Education] alleging that


Continue Reading OCR Releases Revised Case Processing Manual with New Updates to Complaint Process

On July 19, 2022, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) released several guidance documents concerning the civil rights of students with disabilities specific to student discipline. The resources are aimed at minimizing exclusionary discipline and supporting the pandemic-related mental health needs of students, particularly those with disabilities.  With respect to schools providing training on the how to address disability-based behavior and implement the guidance, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “we expect that districts utilize the federal American Rescue Plan dollars to build capacity, provide professional
Continue Reading OCR and OSERS Issue Guidance on IDEA and Section 504 Requirements for Addressing Disability-Based Student Behavior

Governor Pritzker recently signed two bills into law, expanding accessibility and flexibility within special education. The first, Public Act 102-0703 (House Bill 4365), allows IEP teams to place students at non-ISBE-approved facilities and the second, Public Act 102-1072 (House Bill 5214), requires school districts to notify parents of their right to an interpreter during various special education proceedings. Both new laws went into effect immediately. 

Placement

Public Act 102-0703 allows placement at non-ISBE approved facilities when ISBE provides an emergency and student-specific approval for the placement. To receive such approval, a school district must send a request to ISBE
Continue Reading Governor Pritzker Signs Two New Special Education Laws Regarding Placement and Interpretation Services

In March, the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington ruled against a school district in favor of a student with intellectual disabilities, who was awarded $500,000 by a jury based on the district’s failure to address repeated acts of peer sexual harassment against the student. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the school district violated the student’s due process and equal protection rights, violated Title IX, violated the Washington Law against Discrimination, and was negligent. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on her due process, equal protection, and negligence claims, and the
Continue Reading Federal Case Highlights Nuances of Addressing Sexual Harassment Involving Students with Disabilities

Public Act 102-0339 requires each school district’s time out and physical restraint oversight team to develop a plan for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint in accordance with ISBE goals and benchmarks. Last week, ISBE announced the deadline for submitting such plans is July 1, 2022, with yearly progress reports to be submitted by July 1 of each year thereafter. To assist districts in creating their plans, ISBE also released a template and checklist that addresses required components of the plan and aligns with the ISBE goals and benchmarks. Districts
Continue Reading ISBE Releases Isolated Time Out, Time Out, and Physical Restraint Reduction Plan Template and Due Date

The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education recently issued a new Fact Sheet. The Fact Sheet repeats prior guidance that “the responsibility for schools to comply with Section 504 continues regardless of how schools provide education: virtually, in-person, or with a hybrid learning model.” Accordingly, the guidance provides that 504 teams should meet if needed to address changes in student needs related to the pandemic as well as to determine whether compensatory services are warranted. The OCR Fact Sheet follows the Q&A issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services last fall, which
Continue Reading OCR Issues Fact Sheet on Providing FAPE During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Addressing the Need for Compensatory Services Under Section 504

In Illinois, as universal masking is fading, the next question looms: what will the end of universal masking mean for staff and students with disabilities who are at high risk? Across the county, issues regarding universal masking have been hotly litigated. In this post, we focus on the issue of mask mandates as a reasonable accommodation for disability needs, and to date, the decisions paint a complicated picture. Districts planning or implementing mask optional plans should consider the needs of students and staff with disabilities who request continued masking of those around them to preserve their access to the district’s
Continue Reading Are Mask Mandates a Reasonable Accommodation?

Over the summer, we reported on the passage of Public Act 102-0339, which aims to reduce and the use of time out, isolated time out, and physical restraint (referred to herein as “restrictive interventions”) in schools. In part, the new law requires ISBE to promulgate updated rules for the use of restrictive interventions, including documentation and reporting requirements, training requirements, and a procedure to file a complaint alleging a violation of the law related to the use of restrictive interventions. In addition, the new law requires ISBE to establish goals and benchmarks for schools to reduce the use of
Continue Reading ISBE Releases New Rules and Goals & Benchmarks Regarding Use of Isolated Time Out, Time Out, and Physical Restraint

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