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.
During my presentation on Special Education Law and Asperger’s Syndrome at yesterday’s AANE conference, a very interesting question arose. An attendee asked who can diagnosis a disability. That question seems simple enough, but the answer is not so simple.
The reason he asked the question was that his IEP Team told him that the school system is not able to diagnose a disability – they claimed that it is up to the parents to get that diagnosis privately. I see this often at Team meetings. In general, it is not true. The evaluation that the school system performs will likely include a psychological evaluation, an educational evaluation, input from parents and teachers, and possibly a medical evaluation by a physician (at school expense!).
The school system is perfectly capable of diagnosing a learning disability. On the other hand, it is in no position to diagnosis a physical ailment that only a physician can diagnose. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is in between. According to IDEA, “Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.” 34 C.F.R. 308(c)(1)(i). A developmental disability is generally defined as a mental or physical impairment identified prior to age 18. A qualified psychologist – and one would assume that a school psychologist is qualified – should be able to diagnose autism.
What’s even more interesting, and beneficial to parents when the school is refusing to diagnose autism, is 34 C.F.R. 308(c)(1)(iii): “A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.” So, even if the child has not been formally diagnosed with autism – regardless of who should have done the diagnosis – if the child “manifests the characteristics of autism,” the Team could then identify the child as having autism, and treat him or her as such.
Please visit my web site for more information about the Law Office of James M. Baron: http://www.lawbaron.com.