What Should Happen When a Special Ed Child Moves

Consider this hypothetical (or not so hypothetical) situation: You have made the decision to move to a different school district.  Your child is on an IEP.  The new school district believes that the services documented in the IEP are not appropriate, and tells you that they will not be providing those services, or that they do not have anything comparable.

In the above situation, is the school district operating within the law?  NO!  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is very clear that when a child changes school districts within the same state, “the local educational agency shall provide such child with a free appropriate public education, including services comparable to those described in the previously held IEP, in consultation with the parents until such time as the local educational agency adopts the previously held IEP or develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP that is consistent with Federal and State law.”  20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(2)(C)(i)(I).  Massachusetts has very similar wording in its regulations: 603 C.M.R. § 28.03(c)(1).

In other words, the new district must immediately provide services that are comparable to the old district’s IEP.  At some point, the new district will need to decide whether it will adopt the old district’s IEP, or attempt to develop a new IEP.  If the new district tries to develop a new IEP, that new IEP would not be considered the effective IEP until the parent accepts it.

For families who are moving across state lines, the IDEA provides very similar wording and protections.  The big difference for families changing states is that the new district must provide comparable IEP services until the new district conducts an evaluation of the student and develops a new IEP.  20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(2)(C)(i)(II)34 C.F.R. § 300.323(f).

There is also often a question of records.  How do the old records get to the new school?  Again, IDEA defines the district’s responsibilities.  The new school “shall take reasonable steps to promptly obtain the child’s records… from the previous school in which the child was enrolled.” 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(2)(C)(ii).

The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.

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