Speak Up to Protect Family Involvement and Help Students with Disabilities Succeed

From the folks at JustChildren of the Legal Aid Justice Center: The Virginia Department of Education’s Draft Special Education Regulations make major cuts to parents’ rights to partner with schools. In addition to putting up barriers to family involvement, the draft regulations also create unfair rules and propose changes which will hurt the success of […]

From the folks at JustChildren of the Legal Aid Justice Center: The Virginia Department of Education’s Draft Special Education Regulations make major cuts to parents’ rights to partner with schools. In addition to putting up barriers to family involvement, the draft regulations also create unfair rules and propose changes which will hurt the success of students with disabilities. The voices of families, teachers, students, and others who care about children with disabilities need to be heard at upcoming public hearings to ensure the draft regulations go back to the drawing board! Virginia needs to continue current protections and improve students’ opportunities for long-term success.

Hearings are scheduled in 9 locations, starting on May 12. The schedule for upcoming public comment hearings is posted below. Please attend, bring other people, and state that you support JustChildren’s Platform. Speak about parental consent (the most critical proposed change) and one or two other issues that concern you (including items you support in the draft). You’ll only have three minutes to speak, so keep your input short, clear, pleasant, and personal. Let them know why students with disabilities need their support and that the Draft Regulations need to be re-written, in order to strengthen protections for students and enhance family involvement!

For more information or to request a Tip Sheet on giving effective testimony, please contact Emily Dreyfus by email or by phone at 1-800-578-8111.

Schedule of Public Hearings on the Special Education Draft Regulations

Eastern Virginia:

May 28, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Norview High School
6501 Chesapeake Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23513
(757) 852-4500

June 3, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Essex High School
833 High School Circle
Tappahannock, VA 22560
(804) 443-4301

Northern Virginia:

May 15, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Freedom High School (Loudon County)
25450 Riding Center Drive
South Riding, VA 20152
(703) 957-4300

June 2, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Oakton High School
2900 Sutton Road
Vienna, VA 22181
(703) 319-2700

Central/Valley Regions:

May 27, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Clover Hill High School
13900 Hull Street Road
Midlothian, VA 23112
(804) 739-6230

June 4, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Performing Arts Center
1400 Melbourne Road
Charlottesville, VA 22901
(434) 295-2722

South Central Virginia:

May 12, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Halifax Co. High School
310 High School Circle
South Boston, VA 24592
(434) 572-4977

Southwest Virginia:

May 13, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Abingdon High School
705 Thompson Drive
Abingdon, VA 24210
(276) 739-3200

May 14, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Hidden Valley High School
5000 Titan Trail
Roanoke, VA 24018
(540) 776-7320

Information from VDOE:

Those wishing to provide written comments may either submit them during a public hearing or submit them as follows:

• E-mail to ReviseSpedRegs@doe.virginia.gov
• FAX to (804) 786-8520
• Mail to Special Education Regulations Revision Process, Office of Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services, Virginia Department of Education, P.O. Box 2120, Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120

For additional information, visit http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/dueproc/regulationsCWD.html or contact VDOE by phone at 804-225-2013 or TDD toll-free phone at 800-422-1098.

Meeting Guidelines 

1. The Board of Education is pleased to receive public comment regarding these draft regulations. Individuals seeking to speak to the Board will be allotted three (3) minutes each unless the number of speakers requires the Chair to reallocate the time available to ensure that as many individuals as possible may speak.
2. Registration for individuals seeking to provide oral public comment will begin at 6:00 p.m. on the night of the hearing.
3. In order to make the limited time available most effective, speakers are urged to provide written copies of their comments.
4. Interpreters for the deaf will be provided. 

JustChildren’s Platform on the Draft Special Education Regulations

1. Maintain Protections for Parent Involvement and School-Family Partnership:  
a. We support current requirements for parental consent to any change in their children’s IEPs.  Current Virginia regulations require parental consent to any change in their children’s IEPs before the change can hap-pen. The draft Virginia regulations no longer require parental consent before children’s IEP services are partially or completely terminated. If adopted, this change will be a major loss, decreasing school-family partnership.
b. We support current requirements for Local Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs).  The proposed change to allow school system employees to be voting members of SEACs (currently school employees serve as consultants) will compromise SEACs’ abilities to provide an objective advisory role.
c. We support maintaining the requirement that IEP progress reports be provided to students with disabilities at least as often as they are provided to other students.  The draft regulations propose to change this requirement.  There is no justification for potentially providing progress reports to students with disabilities less frequently than they are provided to students without disabilities.  Home-school communication serves to enhance student success.  Without regular progress reports, parents will miss out on necessary information. 
d. We support including short term objectives in all IEPs. The draft regulations would only require short term objectives if the student is being assessed with an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards.  Short term objectives help both families and providers understand children’s progress and challenges, and help ensure long-term success.
2. Help Students with Disabilities Succeed:
a. We support maintaining the definition of ‘Developmental Delay’ so it includes children who are 2-8 years old.  The Draft Regulations limit the age to 2 through 5 years for Developmental Delay classification.  However, some children under the age of 8 years old have disabilities that cannot be determined accurately because of their young age.  Allowing them to be found eligible under the more general category of ‘developmental delay’ avoids inaccurate labeling and potentially, inappropriate or unnecessary services.
b. We support current requirements that schools conduct functional behavioral assessments (FBAs) and/or develop behavior intervention plans (BIPs) for any student who has been suspended for more than ten days in a row or total in a school year. Current Virginia regulations require that when a child has been suspended for more than 10 days in a row or total in the school year, the IEP team must do a FBA and/or a BIP to address the behaviors and help prevent future problems.  These protections are not mandatory in the draft.
c. We oppose the overly restrictive requirements to determine eligibility.  The draft regulations include a very restrictive set of eligibility criteria for many disabilities.  If a child doesn’t meet all of the requirements, they can be found ineligible and not receive the help they need.
d. We oppose the elimination of Child Study Committees and the lack of clarity about Response to Intervention (RTI) and special education evaluations.  Child Study procedures provide a uniform system for addressing referrals for evaluations for special education, and should be continued.  In addition, stronger language about RTI is needed, because the proposed regulations only state that RTI cannot “needlessly delay” evaluations; the federal requirement is stronger.
3. Support Fairness:
a. We oppose rights provided to schools that are not also provided to parents at due process hearings, and we oppose shifting oversight of hearing officers to VDOE.  Under the draft regulations, when parents file a due process hearing request, schools would be allowed to raise issues at the hearing even if the issue wasn’t raised in the hearing request.  When schools file against parents, the parents would not get the same right.  Similarly, if a parent requests due process, a resolution session must occur unless both parties agree otherwise, but if a school files due process against the parent, no resolution session is required at all.  In addition, hearing officers should continue to be overseen by the Virginia Supreme Court and not by the Department of Education (as proposed in the Draft Regulations); the proposed change can create conflicts. 
b. We oppose the provision preventing schools from being held accountable for a student’s failure to meet IEP goals or benchmarks.  A provision in the draft, which is not based on federal regulations, states that schools have no accountability even if a child repeatedly fails to meet IEP goals.  We believe that schools should be responsible if a student repeatedly fails to make progress, and the schools have done nothing to try to address this lack of progress.
4. We support these items that are included in the Draft Regulations:
a. Proposed requirement maintaining transition planning and transition services beginning at the age of 14.  This provision will enhance student success by enabling schools, students and families to work together to implement options for employment and continued education.
b. Continuation of local Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs).  Recommendations to address unmet needs and improve services are central to the role of SEACs.  School officials benefit from this avenue of family involvement.
c. Continuation of allowing referrals for special education evaluations to come from anyone concerned about whether a student might need special education services.  Limiting the people who can make referrals can cause students to “fall through the cracks.”  Virginia’s proposed regulations allow referrals to come from anyone who is concerned, continuing a helpful safeguard for student success.

For more information, please contact:
Emily Dreyfus, JustChildren Program
Legal Aid Justice Center
1000 Preston Avenue, Suite A
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
E-mail: Emily@justice4all.org
Telephone: 1-800-578-8111

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