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, allow student absences related to mental or behavioral health, create the High Cost Special Education Funding Commission, and require daily play time for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Read on for more details.
Post-Secondary Transition Laws
PA 102-0172 extends special education eligibility under Article 14 of the School Code to the end of the regular school year for students whose 22nd birthday falls within that regular school year. PA 102-0173 provides for recovery services during the 2021-2022 school year for students who turned 22 during a period when in-person instruction, services, or activities were suspended for at least three months. Find additional information about these laws and the ISBE FAQ in our recent post.
Time Out and Physical Restraint
PA 102-0339 takes additional steps to move away from the use of time out and physical restraint. The main components of the bill include (1) additional oversight from ISBE; (2) district level plans to reduce the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint; (3) codification of definitions and rules in the current regulations (with a few modifications); and (4) the opportunity for parents to request a post-incident meeting to debrief. Additional information about this law is available in this recent post. We will be watching for ISBE to release new regulations, grant information, and goals/benchmarks for reducing the use of these restrictive interventions.
P.A. 102-0238 takes effect August 1, 2022, and requires that any third-party online curriculum that is made available to enrolled students by a school district through the internet is readily accessible to persons with disabilities. The Department of Education reported that students with disabilities had more difficulty accessing remote learning than their nondisabled peers. The new law aims to address the accessibility challenges by mandating compliance with Level AA of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 or any revised version of those guidelines.
PA 102-57 requires IEP teams to provide families with a copy of the Department of Human Service’s “Understanding PUNS: A Guide to Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services” each year at the annual review meeting. While the law previously provided that the opportunity to enroll in the PUNS database be discussed at the annual review meeting for students believed to have a developmental disability, the new provision appears to apply to all students with IEPs.
In-State Residential Options
P.A. 102-1254, provides that before the IEP team places a student in an out-of-state special education residential facility, the district and family must explore in-state options. In-state options must also be considered at an annual review while the student is placed residentially out-of-state. While keeping students close to home is a priority, the lack of capacity at approved residential placements both in- and out-of-state is a pressing concern that will likely limit the impact of this new law.
Mental and Behavioral Health Days
PA 102-0266 and PA 102-0321 (which are identical) provide for excused absences for the student’s mental or behavioral health. The laws allow up to 5 such excused absences without a medical note and require the opportunity to make up missed schoolwork. These laws take effect January 1, 2022. Read more in this recent post.
High-Cost Special Education Funding Commission
PA 102-0150 creates this new Commission to make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly for an alternative funding structure for high-cost special education students that is aligned to the principals of the evidence-based funding formula. The Commission must report its recommendations by November 30, 2021.
PA 102-0357 requires thirty minutes per day for supervised, unstructured, child-directed play for all students in kindergarten through grade 5. This time can include organized games, but not computers or other electronic devices, and should be held outdoors or in a space that promotes physical activity. Play time cannot be withheld as a disciplinary or punitive action unless the student’s participation poses an immediate threat to the safety of the student or others. For students with IEPs, the team should consider what supports or accommodations the student will need to be able to participate.
If you have questions about these or any other new laws, please reach out to our Special Education Team for guidance.