I thought to myself who better to write to then those who were elected to serve the people. I wrote a letter, looked up every board members home address and sent the letter certified to their homes.
I write today with some concern about a recent conversation I had with the newly hired interim superintendent in regards to my son, a 3rd grade student receiving special education services at the …. School.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal government requires that local education agencies must identify and test in every area of suspected disability and to provide special education and related services to meet ALL of the child’s identified educational needs. When a school district fails to do so, it denies the child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) . Should the parent file for a due process hearing in regard to the service, and the administrative law judge finds that this service has in fact resulted in a denial of FAPE, the child is then awarded the service that he/she was denied and compensatory services for the time the district denied FAPE, along with reimbursement of attorney fees.
My son’s IEP team reviewed assessment reports this past July that identify his needs with regard to accessing his educational program. Assessment has identified his visual processing disorder and the assessment findings clearly identify that his visual processing impacts his ability to access his education in terms of reading (the physical act of scanning text and comprehension) as well as tasks that involve visual-motor integration and spatial awareness.
Since June 2002, his testing has identified these needs yet the school district, who has identified his visual processing deficits and is charged with the task of providing a free appropriate public education has failed to address his visual processing needs. Recently, my son was assessed by a developmental optometrist who reaffirmed his visual processing needs and identified the specific areas that need to be addressed in order to improve my son’s ability to access his educational program and receive benefit from it.
At the July 27th, 2004 IEP meeting, the IEP team failed to have someone at the IEP who could interpret the educational implications of his visual processing disorder (a violation of 34 CFR 300.344), failed to write goals and objectives to meet his identified needs with regard to his visual processing disorder. When I asked for the district to provide vision therapy as recommended in the recent evaluation I was told they would not provide it because it was a “medical service” as per what they were told by the superintendent. The special education director said he would consider the service if it could be provided in the school. I said that I would call the doctor to see if this was an option because I had heard of home/ school based programs. I did in fact check with the doctor who stated that only a portion of the program could be done in the school or home. The other portion of therapy must be provided by a trained vision therapist or doctor in the office where they would have access to the equipment needed. The team agreed to reconvene at a later date.
Another meeting was scheduled for September 10th. This meeting was to write and develop goals together and to discuss the vision therapy. During this meeting the majority of the meeting was run by the board attorney. Unfortunately the team refused to write goals and objectives together and they decided to conclude the meeting. They concluded the meeting with the district team asking me to review the assessment reports, identify my child’s needs and return the list of his needs to the district so that they can write goals. This is a task that is identified as an IEP team responsibility however despite this rather unusual request, I agreed and complied. I culled through the assessment reports, made a list of all the needs and returned it to the district as requested.
In addition, to completing the IEP teams task independently, I contacted the superintendent in regards to the IEP team refusing to write goals and objectives together as a team. I also shared with him at that time the audiotapes of the district council’s behavior at IEP team meetings. I also spoke with him in regards to the vision therapy being denied by him through the special education director because he considered it a medical service. I was able to show the superintendent through the doctor reports and the districts very own reports and words how my son’s visual processing disorder was impacting him educationally. I shared my willingness to take this matter to a due process hearing and provided him with N.J. case law showing that this very same service of vision therapy was granted by an administrative law judge here in New Jersey and that the school district had paid for the vision therapy. The superintendent realized that denying my son’s intervention for his visual processing disorder amounted to a denial of FAPE. This would make the district non compliant with Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The superintendent had discussed the matter and reviewed all the documents showing this need for my child and he agreed that this needed to be resolved to keep the district from being found non compliant and the resultant expenses the district would incur if we had to go to due process. It simply didn’t make sense to deny a necessary service that the district is obligated to provide that would cost approximately $5985 in regard to what a hearing would cost. The superintendent also told me to make the appointment and get the doctor’s contract because the district would get a discount for paying in advance. I followed through with the superintendent’s request. On October 27th the superintendent’s secretary notified me via phone that the Board had approved the therapy . Then on October 28th I received a letter from the special education director stating that the vision therapy had been approved and the contract had gone to the board for review.
The vision therapy was scheduled for Dec. 2, 2004 in order to give the district enough time to obtain the payment voucher. Due to the fact that I had not heard from the district on this matter, I contacted my case manager by phone several times and in writing on November 11th. She contacted me by phone on November 12th to tell me that it was on the board’s agenda to be heard on November 15th. I contacted her again on November 17th to find out the devastating news it was not heard once again as promised. I then contacted the interim superintendent who after three phone conversations stated he would not uphold the service that was previously agreed to. He told me that he wanted to be present at the meeting so he could inform the board that it would set a dangerous precedent to provide this service to one student. He said if my son’s service was approved they would have to provide this service if another child needed it. What the interim superintendent
leaves out is the law does not read that way.
Please produce the law or policy that allows refusal to meet a child’s educational needs based solely on the desire not to set precedent. IDEA is clear that cost can not be a factor in denying a service. School policy cannot be a factor, IDEA as federal law supercedes any other law in regard to the IDEA. School policy and state law cannot counter what the law provides.
As an interim superintendent, it is likely that he will be long gone by the time a hearing came around and the school board will be left explaining the waste of taxpayer money to the very people that elected them. You were elected to serve the parents and taxpayers of the district and oversee the administration and not for the administration to dictate to the school board. Our previous superintendent knew this was the appropriate thing to do for my son and the district. The interim superintendent as you all know has no long range plans to continue here but to fill in until a replacement can be found. Given this role I can understand his reticence to make any expenditures. That does not make his hesitance the legal or correct avenue to take. This is now an issue for you, the school board.
I have attached appropriate laws for you to review so you can make an informed decision. The interim superintendent stated that my son’s service and contract will be discussed in a closed meeting on December 22, 2004. I would like to attend the portion of the closed meeting pertaining to my son in order to represent him or answer any questions you may have. Please respond to my request to attend the meeting on December 22, 2004 so that I can make appropriate arrangements for my children in order for me to attend.
If the interim superintendent or the board is denying the vision therapy request that was previously agreed to I am requesting prior written notice:
20 U.S.C section 1415 of the procedural safeguards notice
(c) CONTENT OF PRIOR WRITTEN NOTICE. The notice required by subsection (b)(3) shall include-
(1) a description of the action proposed or refused by the agency;
(2) an explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action;
(3) a description of any other options that the agency considered and the reasons why those options were rejected;
(4) a description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the agency used as a basis for the proposed
or refused action;
(5) a description of any other factors that are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal;
(6) a statement that the parents of a child with a disability have protection under the procedural safeguards of this part and,
if this notice is not an initial referral for evaluation, the means by which a copy of a description of the procedural safeguards
can be obtained; and
(7) sources for parents to contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions of this part.
I appreciate your prompt attention in this matter. The therapy is scheduled to start Dec 2 of 2004. Please provide a voucher for that date so the district may receive the discount. I have also provided you with NJ case law showing that vision therapy has been given, paid for, and ordered as a related service from an Administrative Law Judge here in New Jersey and the letter from the special education director stating that this service was approved. In addition, I have provided the laws relevant to the contents of this letter.
I look forward to your prompt and written response.
Enclosures: N.J. Case law
Applicable IDEA statues and regulations
Definition: IDEA Special Education
At 20 U.S.C. § 1401(25), the law defines special education:
The term ‘special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the
unique needs of a child with a disability, including –
(A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings;
(B) instruction in physical education.
(d) PURPOSES – The purposes of this title are-
(A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes
special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment
and independent living;
(B) to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and
(C) to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children
(2) to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, inter agency system
of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families;
(3) to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with
disabilities by supporting systemic-change activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated
technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services; and
(4) to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities.
(8) FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION – The term ‘free appropriate public education’ means special education and
related services that-
(A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
(B) meet the standards of the State educational agency;
(C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
(D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under section 1414(d).
(22) RELATED SERVICES -The term ‘related services’ means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and
other supportive services (including speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical
and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, social work services, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children.
25) SPECIAL EDUCATION – The term ‘special education’ means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents,
to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including-
(A) instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and
(B) instruction in physical education.
(B) Disorders included – Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal
brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
20 U. S.C. §1414 – Evaluations, Eligibility, IEPs, and Placements
This section includes evaluations, reevaluations, eligibility, IEPs and IEP teams and placements.
(a) EVALUATIONS AND REEVALUATIONS
(1) Initial Evaluations.
(A) In General. A State educational agency, other State agency, or local educational agency shall conduct a full and individual
initial evaluation, in accordance with this paragraph and subsection (b), before the initial provision of special
education and related services to a child with a disability under this part.
(B) Procedures. Such initial evaluation shall consist of procedures-
(i) to determine whether a child is a child with a disability (as defined in section 1402(3)); and
(ii) to determine the educational needs of such child.
(b) EVALUATION PROCEDURES.
(C) the child is assessed in all areas of suspected disability; and
(B) on the basis of that review, and input from the child’s parents, identify what additional data, if any, are needed to
(i) whether the child has a particular category of disability, as described in section 1402(3), or, in case of a reevaluation
of a child, whether the child continues to have such a disability;
(ii) the present levels of performance and educational needs of the child;
300.300 Provision of FAPE. (a) General.
(1) Subject to paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section and §300.311, each State receiving assistance under this part shall ensure that FAPE is available to all children with disabilities, aged 3 through 21, residing in the State, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school.
(2) As a part of its obligation under paragraph (a)(1) of this section, each State must ensure that the requirements of §300.125 (to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities) are implemented by public agencies throughout the State.
(i) The services provided to the child under this part address all of the child’s identified special education and related services needs described in paragraph (a) of this section.
(ii) The services and placement needed by each child with a disability to receive FAPE must be based on the child’s unique needs and not on the child’s disability.
300.344 IEP TEAM
a) General. The public agency shall ensure that the IEP team for each child with a disability includes—
(1) The parents of the child;
(2) At least one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);
(3) At least one special education teacher of the child, or if appropriate, at least one special education provider of the child;
(4) A representative of the public agency who –
(i) Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
(ii) Is knowledgeable about the general curriculum; and
(iii) Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency;
(5) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (6) of this section;
(6) At the discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and
(7) If appropriate, the child.
I wondered how they would respond???
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