U.S. Department of Education proposes changes to special education regulations

On Tuesday, May 13, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education published proposed changes http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-10522.pdf to its special education regulations.  The Department seeks public comment on the proposed changes.  Details on how to submit comments are included with the announcement.

Among the proposed changes are new provisions to give a parent the right to unilaterally exit a child from special education.  The LEA would have no option or recourse, such as a due process hearing, to override the parent's decision. 

The Department also proposes to clarify its long-standing position on non-attorney representation at due process hearings.  The proposed changes state that whether parents can be represented by a non-attorney advocate would be determined by state law. 

Other proposed changes include amendments to subgrant funding processes, and state and local efforts regarding employment of highly qualified staff. 

The deadline to submit comments is July 28, 2008.

Fourth Circuit placement decision revisited: the last word

A few months ago and few times, I wrote about a “problematic” placement decision by the Fourth Circuit in a case coming from Virginia (here, here, and here). Since then, there is more information to provide about the legal issues as well as a comment that is curious.

The school sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court. The National School Boards Association (“NSBA”) and others supported the petition seeking review. See the NSBA brief here.  The Supreme Court denied review.  The NSBA position was the same as my previous entry yet with even more legal support, including review of agency interpretations that “location” means the type of in-school setting where provision of the special education and related services will occur, such as a resource room. “Location” does not mean a particular school.

Finally, the comment. The commenter took objection to my observation that “[t]he best solution to problematic law, as always, is to create and maintain a healthy and cooperative relationship with student families.” Commenter wrote “[i]nteresting. So instead of complying with the court's ruling, you advocate that school districts talk nice to the parents and pull the wool over their eyes. I don't think that's good advice.”  Never did I suggest non-compliance and little do I think that healthy and cooperative relationships are based on the deception and misrepresentations that the commenter suggests.

The cases are replete with admonitions that IEP development is to be a cooperative process. The IDEA requires transparency, at least from the school, through things like prior written notice, procedural safeguards, access to records and the like. In the very case in question, the facts established that parents actually decided before hand that A.K. would attend their selected school only, while the IEP Team discussed the two schools under consideration, that parents knew the two schools proposed, and that the school's fault was simply not listing the two schools that were discussed within the document. 

I sit on both sides at the IEP Team table. For what it is worth, I believe open and honest communication does as much or more than mere technical compliance. After all, technical, legal compliance does not always equal moral compliance.  When dealing with our kids, I would like to think, and work for, improving our collective abilities.