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Attorney representing and advising school districts, higher education institutions, and other private and public sector clients on a variety of education and employment law matters, focusing on student and special education issues.

On January 22, 2024, the United States Department of Education (“USDOE”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter regarding supporting students with disabilities who require assistive technology (“AT”) in order to receive meaningful access to their education. In conjunction with the Dear Colleague Letter, the USDOE also released a guidance document, Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services.

In the Dear Colleague Letter, the USDOE emphasizes the importance of assistive technology in transforming education and reducing barriers in equity and accessibility. The guidance document provides more in-depth information with the aim of increasing understanding of the IDEA’s requirements regarding AT devices and services and dispels common misconceptions regarding AT devices. It is a helpful resource that discusses how AT devices allow children with disabilities to improve confidence, develop communication skills, participate in activities, access and understand course content, and more fully engage in the educational process, while simultaneously providing an important overview of the responsibilities assigned to schools by the IDEA related to AT devices. As the guidance document notes, AT devices should be included in all aspects of the students’ education programming and planning, including transition planning, state assessments, and across academic as well as non-academic environments.Continue Reading Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter Provides Updated AT Device Guidance

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase inclusivity towards non-native English speakers in the academic setting, the Illinois State Board of Education amended its special education regulations to expand access to interpreters and translated documents. These changes, which went into effect on February 6, 2023, are largely geared towards ensuring meaningful participation for non-native English-speaking parents in special education meetings and decision making processes These changes not only codify procedures that were already in place but also institute new responsibilities for school districts and rights for parents.

Parents who believe that a school district unreasonably denied their request for an interpreter in an IEP meeting, have all the rights available to them for remedy under the IDEA and Article 14 of the Illinois School Code, including but not limited to a due process hearing, mediation, and filing a Complaint with the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) or the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. To ensure compliance, school districts must record data on interpretation services, such as notices of interpretation services, when those services are or are not provided, when parents file complaints on the basis of interpretation services, the qualifications of the interpreters and more.Continue Reading New Amendments to Illinois Special Education Regulations Increase Translation Accommodations for Parents and Guardians

As the 2022-2023 school year draws to a close, the deadline to submit Physical Restraint, Time Out and Isolated Time Out (RTO) Plans for the 2023-2024 school year, as well as progress reports for the 2022-2023 school year, is fast approaching. The District’s oversight team, which must include teachers, paraprofessionals, school service personnel, and administrators, should use the updated directions, checklist, and 2023-2024 templates released by ISBE when developing their school-specific RTO Plan for reducing the use of restraint, time out, and isolated time out and procedures to implement the Plan. The updated template includes a new section that streamlines the submission of progress reports and RTO Plans by combining the progress reports for the 2022-2023 school year and the 2023-2024 RTO Plan into a single document. As a reminder, the 2022-2023 progress report and 2023-2024 RTO Plan need to be submitted to ISBE at rtoreductionplan@isbe.net by July 1, 2023.Continue Reading Important Upcoming Restraint, Time Out, and Isolated Time Out Deadlines

Over the past year and a half, school districts have been inundated with high numbers of due process complaints and mediation requests. Looking back, it appears that as the wave of COVID-19 cases finally began to slow, the number of due process complaints and mediation requests increased drastically. As we head into 2023, we want to reflect on recent trends in due process litigation to help prepare for the year ahead.

The pattern of increased litigiousness is likely the culmination of increased frustrations with the effects that remote learning and COVID-19 had on students. Parents are frustrated that they are not seeing the progress they expected to see in their students’ goals. On the other side of things, school districts are seeing inappropriate behaviors in an intensity and severity they have never seen before.Continue Reading Trends in Due Process Litigation