Special Education Law Insights

From Illinois

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…
As the kick-off to the school year winds down and daily routines take shape, we start to see serious student discipline issues pop up. And one situation that always leads to confusion is what to do when a student who does not have an IEP is up for expulsion and then the parent requests an evaluation or argues that the student should have already been found eligible. You know special rules apply, but trying to piece it all together can make your head spin. We’re flowchart people over here at Franczek P.C. Let’s start with a visual representation of the…
A speech pathologist goes out on unexpected medical leave. Three paraprofessionals quit in one week. A special education teacher is abducted by aliens and no substitutes are available. Sometimes staff absences are unavoidable, and they are almost always unpredictable. Shortages in special education in particular are making it difficult to find qualified teachers, related services providers, and substitutes and replacements when one of those professionals is unavailable unexpectedly. As we previously explained, a recent Illinois law (HB 3586) added notification requirements when a student’s IEP services are not provided. Although we hope that this increased communication and…
With all the hub-bub about HB 3586 (more on that here!), you would be excused if you missed that another special education law, passed last year, went into effect this school year. This one is easy to implement. The law requires that the district post on its website and in its student handbook or “newsletter notice” that students with disabilities who do not qualify for an IEP may qualify for services under Section 504 if the student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, has a record of a physical or…
You know from our previous post regarding recent legislation in Illinois, we have had our eye on House Bill 3586, which has been awaiting the Governor’s signature since June. Well, the time has come; Governor Pritzker signed the law on Friday. And there were no amendments to the law to address some of the areas of confusion that were identified after the bill was passed by the legislature. The amendments to the Children with Disabilities article of the School Code brought by the law are immediately in effect, although revisions may be on the horizon during the veto session.…
You would be forgiven if you can’t keep up with the many changes in the Illinois laws governing education at back-to-school time this year. As if Illinois special educators and administrators don’t have enough to do already, a significant number of laws passed or awaiting Governor Pritzker’s “John Hancock” impact special education. See the end of this post for information about the many Franczek resources on the horizon to assist with understanding the current education-legislation landscape. For now, we wanted to make sure you are aware of some particularly noteworthy legal changes relating to students with medical concerns and medication…
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…
And By Guest Author Tracey Truesdale In what is perhaps an agency first, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a letter in response to a request from a concerned parent.  The parent sought an opinion on whether the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) would provide job protection to an employee who takes time off to attend individualized education program (IEP) meetings for their children.  In a somewhat surprising turn of events given the current political climate, the DOL determined that parents may take intermittent leave under the FMLA to attend these meetings for…
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…
AngelSense™, Amber Alert GPS™, Pocket Finder™, Filip™. The list of tracking devices for students with special needs constantly grows, and parents increasingly seek to send such devices with their students to school. The use of GPS is usually uncontroversial. But what if the device allows parents to listen into or even record what the student hears at school? Such functions can raise a plethora of legal concerns. In a recent due process decision from Nevada, an impartial hearing officer decided that parents of a student with Autism could not use the “listen-in” function of an AngelSense tracker at school. What…
A recent Education Week Curriculum Matters blog post, “Meet the Moms Pushing for a Reading Overhaul in Their District,” is an important reminder of the challenges that can arise when parents and school staff do not agree on reading methodology for students with special needs. While the law allows schools to choose methodology for students receiving special education and related services in reading and other curricular areas, conflicts over curriculum choices can be expensive to litigate and can undermine parent-staff relationships. How do you minimize the risk of curriculum wars over reading methodology? The Education Week post describes…
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…
In 2017, the Supreme Court issued an opinion, Fry v. Napoleon, stating that unless parents/guardians seek relief that is also available under the IDEA, they need not exhaust IDEA procedures by filing a complaint for a due process hearing before filing a lawsuit under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Michigan federal trial court so that it could collect more facts and apply the “Fry tests” that the Supreme Court set forth in the case. Earlier this month, the trial court…