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PALS September 2019 - Student Disciplinary Action, Transition, Reorientation, Communication

PALS Meeting Minutes

September 25, 2019 9:15 a.m.

Eat'n Park

849 Freeport Road Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.


Education Civil Rights Attorney Nancy E. Potter will join our October 30, 2019 meeting.

Election Day is November 5, 2019. School Board Members are elected officials.

Khrissy Bartolowits from Pa Connecting Communities (PACC) will join our November 20, 2019 meeting to introduce a new transition program.​

Reference Material

The topics of conversation during the first PALS meeting of the school year were highly engaging. While reading these minutes you may want more information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania. The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.

Disorderly Conduct Citations Issued to Students at DMS

There are ongoing concerns surrounding the issuance of disorderly conduct citations to students at Dorseyville Middle School (DMS). Although very early in the school year there have already been several physical altercations between students at school. Apparently several students have received or have been told they will receive a citation for disorderly conduct. The citation is written by the Indiana Township Police Officer stationed at Dorseyville Middle School and requires the student to appear in front of the Magistrate. The students involved were addressed by DMS Administration and families were under the impression that all matters were resolved only to be contacted later and told of the citation of disorderly conduct was forthcoming.

Questions, Concerns, and Remarks

Manifestation of the Student's Disability

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) makes clear students receiving special education services (and students in the process of determining eligibility) facing some disciplinary procedures are entitled to a manifestation determination review. The purpose of this review is to determine whether or not the student’s behavior that led to the disciplinary infraction is linked to his or her disability. The LEA (Local Education Agency), the parents/guardians, and relevant members of the IEP Team (to be determined by the parent and LEA) are responsible for this review. This review is to determine if the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability; or if the conduct in question was the direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP. The review team will look at all relevant information in the student’s file, including the child’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents.

More detailed information about manifestation determination : *The links provided are by no means the only available resources regarding the topic. We encourage readers to further research the topic.

Special Education Student Discipline Timeline

School-to-Prison Pipeline

The existence of the school-to-prison pipeline is real and even when unintentional is a possibility for any student, in any community, and tends to capture the most vulnerable of our children. Nationwide, students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than students without disabilities. Students of color, socioeconomic disadvantaged students, and the LGBTQ community are also more likely to face harsher discipline than other students.

More information about the school-to-prison pipeline: *The links provided are by no means the only available resources regarding the topic. We encourage readers to further research the topic.

Questions/Concerns (written in no order of importance)

What is the district’s policy (or policies) regarding safety and security, the use of township law enforcement officers in schools, the district law enforcement department, as it relates to student behavior and disciplinary issues?

What is the difference, if any, between a law enforcement officer on duty within a school and a school resource officer?

What is the memorandum of understanding regarding the use of township law enforcement officers as school resource officers?

What training do all law enforcement officers / school resource officers receive in working with all students, including any specific training for working with student with disabilities?

What student information is shared with these officers? Under what circumstances would information be shared and what type of information would be shared?

During a PALS meeting last year a district resource officer indicated that, “SROs are not involved in behavioral or disciplinary issues with students. These officers work in the capacity of safety and security for all people in the school they serve.” The distinction may have been for those in the elementary school only, leaving the question, are the officers (township or district) involved in behavioral and disciplinary issues with students?

Under what circumstances would a township and/or district law enforcement officer have to speak to a student? Is a (another) district staff member required to be present? What about a parent or guardian?

During the above mentioned PALS meeting, we were told about Premise Alert Packets. Local law enforcement offices and schools have packets families can complete and return providing critical information about the special needs a family member may have as it relates to working with emergency responders. Families share information like, the possibility of elopement, family members who are non-verbal, anxiety, the possibility of hiding, etc. The question then becomes, do schools have the packets readily available? How do families know they are available? Is the information provided in the packet shared with school based law enforcement / school resource officers or is this information strictly placed in the families local 911 database for relay to first responders?

Special Education Timelines

Whether your differently abled child is transferring from a private school to a public school, has recently received a medical diagnosis, or you are concerned that your child’s education is being impacted by a learning difference, the timelines to get the services needed to help can feel like a lifetime.

“According to Pennsylvania law, Chapter 14 Special Education Services and Programs and Federal Regulations Part 300, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education services must be delivered according to mandatory timelines. Chapter 14 regulations are adopted by the State Board of Education. These provisions are in addition to the federal regulations adopted for the delivery of special education to students in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” ~ PaTTAN

Find all Special Education Timelines here.

As a parent, the frustration can then become what to do in the meantime. You may feel as if your child is in limbo in the time it takes to initiate the process, conduct the evaluation, provide the evaluation report, review, determine, and hold an IEP meeting. Communicating with your child’s general education teacher (or a home base teacher for older students) is key. Opening that line of communication will help build a home/school relationship to benefit your child. Let the teacher know you are available, you are invested, you need help and are willing to give help. Ask about their communication style, what works best for them.

At some point you will be writing your parental concerns, whether in narrative form or through the formal evaluation form. Make a copy to keep and think about what you would like your child’s teacher to know FIRST. Of course you want them to know everything and that can be overwhelming. Starting with one or two concerns and things you have noticed work for your child can open the door. As time goes on, ask about strategies that work in school that you might be able to use at home. Gradually add items, be open to new ideas, work together to see what works and what doesn’t.

Remember, at the same time that you are doing this, the teacher is making observations and collecting data for the evaluation and/or preparation for the student’s IEP.


The beginning of the school year can be draining for parents and guardians of students receiving special education services. Whether it is the transition between Pre-K to Elementary, Elementary to Middle, Middle to High, High to Secondary or Workforce, it can feel like you are starting all over again. Sometimes you feel that way just through grade levels within the same school. The idea of reorientation is daunting. Even when reassured that “everyone will know” “by law all teachers working with your child will receive, read, and adhere to your child’s IEP”, you know it’s coming. You wish it wasn’t, you hope it will be different this year. Sometimes, it is and sometimes it isn’t.

Switch it up. Make it a positive experience. Be prepared. Prior to the start of school write down a few things you would like your child’s teacher(s) to know about them. Have your child write down the same, draw a picture of their ideas, or convey their ideas in a way that works for them. Arrange with your special education teacher or case manager to briefly meet before school starts and introduce yourself to them (if new) and your child’s general and unified artists teachers or other important staff members. This meeting should be with your child, brief, and casual. It’s a chance for your child to see their classroom(s), meet their teacher(s), remind everyone you are all on the same team, the child’s team. Within this positive atmosphere you are conveying your expectations.

Office of Intellectual Disabilities

A part of transition into high school for some can include an introduction to the Office of Intellectual Disabilities (OID).

The Allegheny County Office of Intellectual Disability (OID) assists eligible children, graduating students and adults. This includes sharing helpful resources and connection to a supports coordinator (SC).Those eligible to register with OID and for access to service coordination services include individuals with autism, individuals with intellectual disability and children under nine years of age with developmental delays. To register, everyone must meet all PA Department of Human Services Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) eligibility requirements.

There was a consensus that families should register as soon as possible when given the opportunity. In recent years there has been a long waiting list for waivers and it is important to have the necessary waivers in place prior to transition to adulthood so that services are less likely to be interrupted.

For more information on OID, eligibility and registration, specific OID fact sheets and more, visit the website, here.

Communicating with School Staff

Different schools and staff members can have different communication styles. When possible, reach out to those who you feel you may have to the most contact with over the course of the school year. Let them know you are readily available via phone call, text, e-mail, or school communication system (think Powerschool, Schoology, or an independent App the school or teacher may use). Ask what their preferred method is and use it. Remember that phone calls should always be followed by a written recap (e-mail) for your records. If you find that you aren’t receiving a response, resend and CC: a supervisor, (To: Teacher CC: Principal). Still having a problem? Resend and CC: a supervisor and their supervisor (To: Teacher CC: Principal and Director of Special Education). Think of it like a sphere of communication, start small and grow if necessary.

Next Meeting: October 30, 2019 9:15 a.m. Roots of Faith 800 Main Street Sharpsburg, PA 15215 with Guest Speaker, Education Civil Rights Attorney Nancy E. Potter

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