It is the responsibility of Norwell Public Schools to identify any child who is a resident of Norwell who may have a disability, regardless of the severity of the disability. Further it is the responsibility of Norwell Public Schools to evaluate these students to determine if any of these students are eligible for special education or related services under IDEA 2004 (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) or the Massachusetts Special Education Regulations.
Norwell Public Schools is committed to locating children before their third birthday in order to provide early intervention services to three and four year olds. If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s development and would like to have him/her screened, you may call for an appointment at (781) 659-8800. If you or your pediatrician believes your child should be evaluated to determine eligibility for special education services, please either request verbally by calling the Office of Special Education at 781-659-8800 or by making the request in writing (include your child’s date of birth, name, address and telephone number and a brief description of your concerns) and send it to:
Suzan A. Theodorou, Administrator of Special Education, Norwell Public Schools, 328 Main St., Norwell MA, 02061.
The following article, published today in Wicked Local Norwell, might be of interest to Norwell residents:
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.
The law regarding timelines for special education evaluations can be confusing. State law can vary from the federal IDEA requirement, and parents also need to be aware of whether the law refers to “days” or “school days.” The term “days” refers to calendar days, which includes weekends, holidays and vacations; the term “school days” refers to days in which school is in session.
Federal law states that evaluations must be conducted within 60 days of receipt of parental consent for the evaluation, but defers to state timelines if such timelines exist (34 C.F.R. 300.301(c)). Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have implemented their own specific timelines. The remainder of this article will be specific to Massachusetts law; I will post a separate article specific to New Hampshire law.
“Within 45 school working days after receipt of a parent’s written consent to an initial evaluation or reevaluation, the school district shall: provide an evaluation; convene a Team meeting to review the evaluation data, determine whether the student requires special education and, if required, develop an IEP in accordance with state and federal laws; … The evaluation assessments shall be completed within 30 school working days after receipt of parental consent for evaluation. Summaries of such assessments shall be completed so as to ensure their availability to parents at least two days prior to the Team meeting.” 603 C.M.R. 28.05(1).
In other words, in Massachusetts, once a parent provides consent, the school district has 30 school days to complete the evaluation. The entire process, including conducting the evaluation and convening the Team meeting to discuss the results, must be complete within 45 school days of parental consent. Furthermore, a summary of the evaluations must be provided to the parents at least 2 days prior to the Team meeting.
We can look at an example to better understand these timelines. Let’s assume that a parent provided consent for an evaluation on 09/12/11. Counting ahead 30 school days, including a day off for Columbus Day, brings us to 10/25/11, which in this example is the deadline for conducting the evaluation. Counting ahead 45 school days from 09/12/11, including days off for Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day, brings us to 11/16/11, which is the deadline for conducting the Team meeting and drafting the IEP.
But what happens if consent is provided at the end of the school year, and there is not enough time under the law as listed above to complete the evaluation and conduct the Team meeting? In Massachusetts, parents may still be in luck. Massachusetts has added the following protection:
“If consent is received within 30 to 45 school working days before the end of the school year, the school district shall ensure that a Team meeting is scheduled so as to allow for the provision of a proposed IEP or written notice of the finding that the student is not eligible no later than 14 days after the end of the school year.” 603 C.M.R. 28.05(1).
Again, let’s look at an example to better understand this law. Assume that the school year ends on Friday, June 22, 2012. 45 school days prior to June 22, 2012 brings us to April 12, 2012. 30 school days prior to June 22, 2012 brings us to May 10, 2012. Thus, we have three time frames to consider:
- Consent provided prior to April 12, 2012: the school district will be expected to complete the evaluation, Team meeting, and draft IEP before the end of the school year on June 22.
- Consent provided after May 10, 2012: the school district will not be required to complete the evaluation prior to the end of the school year, because there are fewer than 30 school days remaining.
- Consent provided between April 12, 2012 and May 10, 2012: the school district will be required to complete the evaluation prior to and of the school year. If the 45 day rule would go beyond June 22, then the school district will be required to convene the Team meeting no later than 14 calendar days following the end of the school year.
The school year is now well underway. It is a sad fact of life that as the school year rolls along, more and more disputes arise between parents and school systems regarding a child’s education. For disputes that cannot be resolved directly between the parents and the school systems, it is sometimes necessary to engage an attorney. When parents call my office, one of the first things I do is to categorize the dispute into one of four major categories (and then further sub categorize within those categories):
- Eligibility and Evaluations. Does the child have a disability? Is the child not making effective progress in regular education due to that disability? Does the child require specially designed instruction or related services in order to access the curriculum? If the answers to these questions are yes, then the child should be eligible for special education services.
- The Team process and IEP services. Who makes up the Team? Do Team meetings take place when and how they are supposed to according to the law? Does the IEP properly reflect the special needs of the child? Do the accommodations and services match what the medical professionals and recommended in the evaluations?
- Placement. Where will services be provided? In-district or out-of-district?
- Discipline. Has a child been removed from their educational placement because of discipline? Has this happened for more than 10 days? Did the school conduct a Manifestation Determination and a Functional Behavioral Assessment?
Once you know where the dispute exists within this special education “lifecycle,” you can then better understand your rights and the school district’s responsibilities under the law.
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal disputes. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.
The short answer is “no,” but since no attorney can ever give a one word answer, here are more details…
RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It is a way for schools to identify students who are at risk for poor learning performance, to monitor student progress, and to provide appropriate interventions depending on how a student responds. It is used for students who are struggling, whether or not they have disabilities. RTI has been very controversial, because some schools have used it to delay special education evaluations and implementation of special education services.
The federal Department of Education has characterized RTI as follows: “[T]he core characteristics that underpin all RTI models are: (1) students receive high quality research-based instruction in their general education setting; (2) continuous monitoring of student performance; (3) all students are screened for academic and behavioral problems; and (4) multiple levels (tiers) of instruction that are progressively more intense, based on the student’s response to instruction.” (OSEP 11-07 RTI Memo, Jan. 21, 2011)
So here’s the problem: Parents have the right to request an initial special-education evaluation at any time to determine whether a child is eligible for special education services. When such evaluation referrals are made, most school systems conduct the evaluations in a timely manner. However, some school systems try to delay the evaluations to see what the results are of RTI.
A school system which tries to delay an evaluation due to RTI is at risk of violating both federal and state law. Federal law requires school districts to conduct an initial evaluation within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation. 34 CFR 300.301(c). In Massachusetts, the timeframe is even shorter: 30 school days from the time the parents provide consent. 603 CMR 28.04(2). These time frames do not provide for any exception due to RTI.
The federal Department of Education has clearly advised school districts that “It would be inconsistent with the evaluation provisions… [for a school district] to reject a referral and delay provision of an initial evaluation on the basis that a child has not participated in an RTI framework.” (OSEP 11-07 RTI Memo, Jan. 21, 2011)
For more information about the Law Office of James M. Baron, visit http://www.lawbaron.com.