Photo of Kendra Yoch

Education attorney, TFA alum, Paralympian, swimmer, mom.

As the kick-off to the school year winds down and daily routines take shape, we start to see serious student discipline issues pop up. And one situation that always leads to confusion is what to do when a student who does not have an IEP is up for expulsion and then the parent requests an evaluation or argues that the student should have already been found eligible. You know special rules apply, but trying to piece it all together can make your head spin.

We’re flowchart people over here at Franczek P.C. Let’s start with a visual representation of the process, then we’ll dig into some of the complexities and reference guidance the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released earlier this year.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.”


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In the realm of special education, the use of specialized jargon and unique terminology it the norm. Whether it’s terms that seem basic to us now, like “IEP” and “LRE,” or more of-the-minute phrases like “significant disproportionality,” those of us who work in special education law are expected to be fluent in a veritable alphabet soup of terms and phrases. Two of the most confusing phrases that we come across are “accommodation” and “modification,” so much so that a quick review of court, hearing officer, and Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) decisions shows these terms being used interchangeably, contradictorily, and downright confusingly from day to day. What are the differences between these words, and do those differences matter? Keep reading to find out!

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Maybe you’ve heard the proverb “A stitch in time saves nine,” but have you ever wondered what it means? According to Wiktionary, this old proverb comes from the idea of mending a small tear in clothes before it becomes a larger one. In other words, putting in a little effort when an issue first arises can prevent it from becoming a larger one later. We couldn’t help but think of this proverb recently when our own Dana Fattore Crumley and others on the Attorney Panel at the IAASE Winter Conference were asked whether a non-administrator can act as an LEA representative during an IEP meeting. Many ideas were shared, and one that deserves further discussion is the impact if that LEA rep does not have sufficient authority in situations where more than typical resources are at stake. What are the cautionary concerns you should consider in this situation? Read on for the answers.
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Where do you draw the line between pre-IEP-meeting preparation, which the law allows, and “predetermination” prior to the meeting, which can get schools into hot water? This was one topic discussed during our recent Franczek webinar, IEP Season is Coming . . . Are You Ready?, which included a “top 10” list of issues to keep in mind heading into the IEP season. We encourage you to watch the 30-minute webinar, which is available on demand on our website, but want to dig in on one issue raised in it: A major mistake that can turn permissive pre-IEP-meeting planning into prohibited predetermination. What is it? How do you avoid the risk? Read on!
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A caravan of Franczek’s special education attorneys is en route to Springfield to participate in the IAASE Twentieth Annual Winter Conference, and we couldn’t be more excited. As the new website for the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education explains, IAASE is the largest statewide organization of special education administrators in the country and