After receiving and reviewing questions and concerns from stakeholders regarding the practical implications of its emergency rules on the use of time out and physical restraint, the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) released a Guidance and FAQ document aimed at providing clarification. The Guidance, which ISBE issued in collaboration with the Illinois Counsel of School Attorneys (“ICSA”), explains what does and does not constitute a time out—one of the issues that has caused the most confusion. The Guidance also provides other needed definitions and answers various practical questions related to alternative behavioral supports and the application of time out and physical restraint. Because the Guidance document is extensive, we have highlighted some of the more important and nuanced questions that may be of interest to your school or district below.

Continue Reading Key Takeaways From ISBE’s Guidance and FAQ on Time Out and Physical Restraint Emergency Rules

Within the last few weeks, there have been significant changes to the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) rules regarding time out and physical restraint. First, ISBE issued emergency rules, then it issued amendments to the emergency rules, and finally, on December 9, 2019, ISBE published proposed permanent rules on the use of time out and physical restraint. We have heard and raised numerous questions and concerns regarding the practical implications of the emergency rules in the classroom. ISBE’s proposed permanent rules provide some additional clarity. But the work to overhaul policies and procedures and train staff on the rules is significant. To help with that work, the following chart sets forth the key differences between the amended emergency rules and the proposed permanent rules. We also flag several new provisions in the proposed rules to assist you in understanding and preparing for the likely upcoming changes.

Continue Reading What Do ISBE’s Proposed Permanent Rules on Time Out and Physical Restraint Mean for Your School?

After pushback from Illinois school districts, an amendment to the Illinois School Code’s special education provisions will alleviate some, but not all, frustrations related to a recent law that added significant procedural requirements for special education teams. Senate Bill 460 (Public Act 101-0598) amended the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code to delay the requirement that special education teams provide a child’s parent or guardian with copies of all written materials to be considered by the student’s IEP team three school days prior to the IEP meeting. Special education teams should be aware of what changes are required now and in the future based on these recent changes.   Continue Reading Illinois Senate Bill 460 Suspends Implementation of Draft IEP Paperwork Requirement

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?

Continue Reading ISBE Amends Emergency Rules on Time Out and Physical Restraint

IAASE recently reported that HB 3897 is currently making its way through the Illinois legislative process. This bill would expand special education eligibility to students through the school year in which they turn 22. Currently, students who have not yet received a diploma are eligible for services through the day before their 22nd birthday. Note that federal funding does not cover students beyond the age of 21.

We wondered, how many students would this impact and what are other states doing?

How many students would receive additional services? According to ISBE data, 306 students aged out during the 2018-2019 school year. If this bill were in effect last year, those students would have been entitled to continue to receive transition services and complete the school year.

Continue Reading Are Extended Special Education Services Coming to Illinois?

As we previously reported, effective immediately, school districts must comply with ISBE emergency rules for the use of seclusion and restraint. To comply with the emergency rule, districts will need to take the following steps:

Continue Reading Update on ISBE’s Emergency Rules for the Use of Seclusion and Restraint

The Illinois State Board of Education has filed emergency rules, effective immediately, banning the use of isolated time out in our schools. Like many of you, we were disheartened to read the Tribune/Pro Publica report on the use of isolated time out as a behavioral intervention.  While this is a change in practice that will require investment from all stakeholders, we know from our work in schools that administrators and teachers share the common goal of implementing behavioral interventions that are positive, affirming and effective for all students, especially the most vulnerable.

According to ISBE, the emergency rules will:

  • Ban all seclusion practices;
  • Permit time-out, but only with a trained adult present and for therapeutic, not disciplinary purposes;
  • Ban physical restraints that may impair a student’s ability to breathe or speak normally, and set forth stricter parameters on when physical restraint is allowed;
  • Require all educational institutions to submit data to ISBE within 48 hours of use of physical restraint or time-out; and
  • Eliminate the parent/guardian option to waive notification of the use of physical restraint or time-out.

We will issue further alerts when the emergency rules are posted. Read ISBE’s full press release here:

When you get a request for a service animal in school, your mind may race with concerns. What if students or staff are allergic? Is the dog going to be a distraction for other students? Where will the dog relieve itself? Though these concerns are valid considerations, you might be surprised that in most cases, courts do not find they justify excluding service animals from schools.

The school context is especially complicated because school administrators cannot only think of the rights of the student requesting to bring a service animal to school. Administrators must also consider the needs of faculty and other students and the need to maintain a safe and effective learning environment. Let’s look at the general legal requirements and some common myths to help you determine when and under what circumstances service animals must be permitted. Continue Reading Who Let the Dogs . . . In? Five Myths Busted About Service Animals in Schools

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 IDEA, and the ADA. The main take away? Educators should be cognizant that gender non-conformity is not, as a rule, a disability. However, the emotional and educational impact in identifying as non-conforming may require school districts to provide gender non-conforming students with supports. Other important topics that were addressed included how to proceed when a parent does not want a district to honor a student’s gender identity and the current state of Federal and Illinois laws protecting gender identity and sexual orientation. You can download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation for the session here.

We had great participation in our IAASE session last week on this topic, with the audience voting electronically to weigh in on their anticipated outcomes of cases. If you missed it, here are our main takeaways.

When it comes to bullying and special education, districts face potential liability on a number of fronts, including lawsuits, OCR complaints, and due process complaints. To mitigate these risks, districts need a two-pronged approach and clear communication. First, districts should follow their bullying policies to fully investigate reports of bullying and take steps that are reasonably calculated to stop the bullying, prevent its reoccurrence, and remedy its effects. Second, districts should convene the IEP or 504 team if it appears that the student’s needs may have changed and consider whether different or additional services are needed to provide FAPE. Finally, staff in charge of the investigation and response should be in communication with special education staff to ensure that both of these processes are moving forward.

Reviewing recent cases, we identified a common source of liability: the IEP team refuses to discuss bullying, instead directing parents to the bullying policy. These processes are complimentary, not mutually exclusive. The second common source of liability was child find. Students may be vulnerable to being bullied or prone to bullying behavior if they have communication deficits, social skills deficits, or difficulty with emotional regulation, which in turn may be signs the student should be evaluated. On the other hand, districts that take (and document!) reasonable steps to stop the bullying, respond to student needs, and communicate with parents are more likely to prevail in these disputes.

Speaking of documentation and parent communication, we fielded a great question about what information can and should be shared with parents. The parents of a student who reports bullying should be informed that the complaint was investigated, whether it was founded, and of any follow-up actions that directly impact their child. Closing the loop with parents goes a long way to ensure that they feel the school heard them and took appropriate action. And that can help you avoid lawsuits, OCR complaints, and due process complaints.