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Attorney focused on representing school districts, colleges, and universities.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently issued a “Supplemental Fact Sheet” updating its earlier Questions & Answers and Fact Sheet on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and clarifying that schools should not refrain from providing distance learning out of fear that they cannot adequately serve students with disabilities. In the updated guidance, ED advises school districts that the delivery of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) remains required but may look different when schools are physically closed. The guidance also addresses the impact of school closures on special education timelines, including urging schools “to work with parents to reach mutually agreeable extensions of time.” School districts should keep the fact sheet in mind when crafting general distance learning options and specific services and supports for individual students.

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Last week, ISBE reversed course on isolated time out. After initially banning the practice in late November 2019, ISBE heard from many stakeholders that having a staff member in a time out room with an escalated student was often unsafe. The recent amendment to the emergency rules seeks to limit and regulate the use of isolated time out rather than prohibit it altogether. Accordingly, ISBE updated its Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions and reporting form to reflect the new development.
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On February 14, 2020, ISBE issued notice that it will no longer provide reimbursement for students placed at non-approved special education facilities, even if the placement is ordered by a hearing officer. In a brief memorandum to Illinois special education due process hearing officers and state directors of special education, ISBE announced the change, which is effective immediately. This change will have important impacts on Illinois public schools.

In Illinois, districts can receive reimbursement from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for students placed at “approved” private day and residential schools. To be approved, the private school must meet the eligibility standards set out in Part 401 of the Illinois Administrative Code. These requirements were amended in March 2018, and the stricter rules meant that many residential schools that had previously been approved no longer were. Many districts found it difficult to place students in appropriate and approved residential placements given the decrease in availability.


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In response to outcry from educators in and outside of Illinois about the legitimate need to use prone and supine restraint for certain diverse learners and the lack of notice to allow teams to identify alternative techniques, the Illinois State Board of Education amended its recent emergency rules to allow the practices on a limited basis if certain conditions are met. What are our initial insights from the amended rules?

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With the number of students who identify as gender non-conforming on the rise, many educators have questions regarding the supports and services that may be available to such students. This year at IAASE, Jennifer Smith and John Swinney addressed this intersection of gender identity and special education, including factors to consider under Section 504, the

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

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.

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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?
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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 ruled in favor of the Frys, finding that the parents’ claims were not subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement because the parents were not claiming a denial of a free, appropriate public education (or “FAPE). The decision makes clear how important it is for school districts to identify requests for accommodation that are related to access and equity (and not the denial of a FAPE) from early on in the process and to handle them as required by Section 504 and the ADA. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that documentation regarding requests for accommodation thorough and clear. For more on the next chapter in this important Supreme Court case, keep reading!
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