Last fall, in response to serious concerns raised about the use of isolated time out and physical restraint in schools, ISBE issued emergency rules to limit the use of those behavior management techniques. Emergency rules are effective for up to 150 days or until permanent rules are approved, and these emergency rules were due to expire on April 17, 2020. On April 9, ISBE and JCAR (the bipartisan legislative oversight committee responsible for reviewing and approving agency rulemaking) passed permanent rules regarding isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint. The new rules allow the use of isolated time out as well as prone and supine restraint in limited circumstances, but the provisions related to prone and supine restraint terminate on July 1, 2020.
After three weeks of being out of school buildings and one week of remote learning, we can all see that the IDEA was not written for pandemics and widespread school closures. While requests for IDEA flexibility have been made, the Department of Education has not indicated whether or when such requests might be granted. Federal and State guidance has been provided but continues to evolve. Educators, administrators, parents, attorneys, states, and the Department of Education are all improvising. In these uncertain times, we recommend schools go back to basics: individualize, communicate, document, and be reasonable. Remember that the FAPE standard is based on what is reasonable under the circumstances.
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.
On March 18, 2020, ISBE issued guidance on providing special education during the current mandatory two-week school closure. While the guidance responds to some of the questions arising from this unprecedented situation, neither the U.S. Department of Education nor Congress has provided flexibility with respect to IDEA rules, and the State is correspondingly constrained. As we described in our last post, the big picture message is to do your best to provide services to students with disabilities and meet applicable deadlines. Be creative, document your efforts, and expect compensatory education claims once we get back to school. Below are the key takeaways from ISBE’s guidance.
In the wake of Governor Pritzker’s recent order requiring all Illinois schools to close between March 17 and March 30, many schools and school districts have been left guessing how to best serve students with disabilities and comply with IDEA timelines during the closure. While forthcoming guidance from ISBE and the U.S. Department of Education may provide additional flexibility and clarity, for now we can share the following update to ease your mind a bit. In summary, schools can safely consider that all special education deadlines calculated using “school days,” including evaluations, are postponed. Guidance is limited with respect to other timelines and so we recommend that you contact legal counsel to address how your school district will proceed with those calculations.
School personnel should expect to encounter a heated parent from time to time; parents are often understandably passionate about their children’s educations. But what happens when parental advocacy escalates from vigorous advocacy, strenuous objections, and detailed questions to baseless accusations, repeated demands, and threatening or vulgar language or actions? What can a school do when a parent’s hostile behavior continues over time, putting a strain on staff members’ time and impeding productive communication? A recent case out of the Ninth Circuit examined just such a situation and affirmed the rights of schools to put in place reasonable limits on communication.
Dana Fattore Crumley and Kendra Yoch were honored to present at the IAASE 21st Annual Winter Conference in Springfield on “The Crossroads of Special Education Evaluation and Risk Assessment: Which Issue Has the Right of Way?” For anyone who was not able to make the conference or session, here is a handy recap and some key takeaways to bring you up to speed on the intersection between threat assessment and special education evaluations.
Continue Reading What Did I Miss? Recap of IAASE Presentation on Special Education Evaluations and Threat Assessments
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. Continue Reading Isolated Time Out is Back (for now): ISBE Issues Revised Guidance and Reporting Form After Second Amendment to Emergency Rules on Time Out and Physical Restraint
On February 25, 2020, ISBE posted a second amendment to its emergency rules governing physical restraint and time out. This new amendment, which is effective immediately, is the most recent development in ISBE’s attempts to deal with the difficult issues related to these restrictive and sometimes misused techniques. ISBE’s efforts have led to a dizzying series of emergency rules, amendments, proposals, and revised proposals over the past months, leaving many schools (and even school attorneys!) confused about what rules are in effect and how to prepare for upcoming changes. This summary outlines the newest changes schools need to be aware of.
The second amendment to the emergency rules is similar to the first amendment to the emergency rules, with two notable exceptions, both of which were also included in the revised proposed rules:
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.