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 proactive planning for compensatory services can decrease due process and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) complaints related to missed services, there is no doubt that special educators have many questions about how to comply with the new notice requirements. Let’s break down exactly when parental notification is required and what it should look like. Continue Reading Don’t Miss the Boat After Missed Services! What to Do Under HB 3586

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 mental impairment, or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment. That’s it. Or is it? Continue Reading Opening the Floodgates? IL Law Requires Notice That Non-IEP-Eligible Students May Qualify for 504

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 (PA 101-0515). 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. For now, special education professionals should promptly implement the significant procedural requirements under the law. We will keep you posted regarding any changes or guidance from ISBE that may impact the implementation of the law, but for now, make plans to meet the following requirements. Continue Reading New Law Adds Procedural Requirements for Special Education in Illinois

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 needs that you should be actively working on now. We have all you need to know here. Continue Reading Marijuana, Medication, and Minors, Oh My! New Medication Laws For Schools

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.

Continue Reading NPR Calls on Franczek’s Jennifer Smith for Story on Out-of-State Residential Placements

Including Guest Author Tracey Truesdale

One of the things we love the most about Franczek P.C. is the synergy that exists between our practice areas. A recent letter from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is one example in which the worlds of special education law and labor and employment law—our two main practice areas at Franczek—collided. We called on our Partner Tracey Truesdale, who has vast experience in this area of labor and employment law, to help us understand this law and its potential impacts on IEP teams.

The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL issued the 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. The DOL determined that parents may take intermittent leave under the FMLA to attend IEP meetings for children who have “serious health conditions.”

Continue Reading DOL Gives Working Parents FMLA Pass to Attend Children’s Special Education Meetings

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? Continue Reading Discipline, Special Education, and Race: Key Takeaways From Civil Rights Commission Report  

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? Continue Reading The Evaluation Was Supposed to Happen When?! Timing of Special Ed Evaluations Over the Summer

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? Continue Reading What You Should Know About the Critical Skills Test for ESY

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 key takeaways for school leaders at the end. Continue Reading First Circuit Refuses to Heighten the Endrew F. FAPE Standard or Find LRE Violation for Self-Contained Program Placement