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  • PALS

December 21, 2022 Meeting Minutes - Sticking With It, Whatever IT Is

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

PALS Meeting Minutes

December 21, 2022 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom

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.

Standing Tall

If there is one thing to say above all else, it is that the role of advocate for children can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. It is always our goal to support each other through shared experiences; helping through insight. During today's meeting we talked about a variety of situations in which advocacy prevailed. From a parent successfully pushing for what they knew to be best for their child in school and obtaining a much needed GIEP, to a parent in the first steps up an IEP evaluation to hopefully move from a 504 Plan, to one helping a child advocating for their rights.


"A Gifted Individualized Education Plan (GIEP) is a written plan describing the education to be provided to a gifted student. The initial Gifted Individualized Education Plan shall be based on and responsive to the results of the evaluation and shall be developed and implemented in accordance with Chapter 16 (22 Pa. Code §16.31(a))." "Mentally gifted is defined as outstanding intellectual and creative ability the development of which requires specially designed programs or support services, or both, not ordinarily provided in the regular education program. (22 Pa. Code §16.1)" "Intellectual ability is not equated with an IQ score alone. Intellectual ability is and should be a reflection of a range of assessments including a student’s performance and potential." Information provided by Pennsylvania Department of Education, Gifted Education Guidelines.

Similar to Individual Education Plans (IEP) GIEPs have timelines.

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to GIEPs is whether or not a student can receive both a GIEP and an IEP. The Pennsylvania Department of Education dedicates a page to Frequently Asked Questions, here is what the PaDOE says about helping gifted students with learning needs;

"If a student has a learning need based on a weakness or discrepancy, can it be included in a Gifted Individualized Education Plan? If so, where and how should it be noted?

The Gifted Individualized Education Plan is a strength-based document and if a learning need exists that stems from a student's strength, it belongs in the Gifted Individualized Education Plan. The need(s) can be noted in the present levels and used to craft a goal/short- term learning outcome, or it can be incorporated into the specially designed instruction. An example of a need based on a student's strength might be support for long-term projects because he/she is working independently as part of a compaction opportunity. A child may need a learning contract developed to help chunk the project into intermediate steps with clear guidelines and expectations in order for resources to be secured ahead of time and allow the student the maximum opportunity to work independently.

If a learning need does meet the definition of a disability and it is preventing the child from accessing the general education curriculum, then all needs, goals, short-term learning outcomes, specially designed instruction, and support services need to be addressed in one document, an individualized education plan according to the procedures in the Pennsylvania Code (22 Pa. Code Chapter 14).

If the learning need stems from a student's weakness and it is not a documented disability, it can be noted in the present levels section of the Gifted Individualized Education Plan, but it is not addressed in the goals, short-term learning outcomes, or specially-designed instruction. For instance, if a child struggles with organization and it is not connected to a disability or a medical diagnosis, it would be helpful for the Gifted Individualized Education Plan team to understand that aspect of a child's learning. The team (consisting of general education and gifted education staff) will provide support in accordance with Pennsylvania Code (22 Pa. Code Chapter 4) through normal differentiation that would be offered to a child who struggles with organization and is not identified gifted. Therefore, since the support provided is not beyond the scope of the general education curriculum, there is no need to write it in a Gifted Individualized Education Plan as specially designed instruction."


"Which is designation takes precedence, gifted or learning disabled? How do you mesh the special instruction, the acceleration and graduation requirements.

​The Pennsylvania Code (22 Pa. Code Chapter 16) requires that a dually diagnosed student must have their gifted needs and strengths addressed as part of the individualized education plan. Information on both exceptionalities may be used to mesh the special instruction, acceleration, and/or graduation requirements."

"Does a school district have an obligation to find all mentally gifted students in a district, including ones not attending a school within the district?

​Yes. A school district must locate and identify all students of school age who reside within the district who are thought to be gifted and in need of specially designed instruction. When considering a screening protocol for students, it is best practice to be as universal as possible to ensure no student has been overlooked. Screening at one particular grade level, using one particular test, or only in one domain area (i.e., literacy) is not an effective or universal screening process. It is necessary to use alternate screening methods if test bias is evident."

The case we discussed in today's meeting was a result of a parent knowing their child needed more than what they were receiving in the classroom. The parent received an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) which was then presented to the school district. The school district accepted the IEE and a GIEP was developed for the student. This parent's advocacy journey did not happen over night. With thoughtful insight, listening and observing their child, monitoring the data, the parent was able to provided the evidence to support an evaluation and was willing to seek an IEE. For more information on IEEs see our May 2015, February 2016, March 2021, and April 2021, meeting minutes.

IEP Process

We speak often about the IEP process including requesting an evaluation, the evaluation, timelines, and finally IEPs and what they look like. Today's topic was about going through the process to prove a need for a student to move from a 504 Plan to an IEP. The parent documented a week-in-the-life of their child in their request for evaluation and the process has started. IEPs are a topic we frequently discuss in one way or another. You can find these conversations within our meeting minutes. You can also visit the PaDOE's Bureau of Special Education and PaTTAN; Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network. In addition, the Peal Center offers a wide variety of information regarding special education, including introduction to special education training videos, previously recorded webinars and frequently hosts new sessions.

Wrap-around Services, Service Providers, and Service Coordinators

Wrap-around services like Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services (BHRS) and Family Based Mental Health Services (FBMHS) and Therapeutic and Behavioral Staff Support (TSS and BSS) are still difficult to come by at this point. A history of wait lists and lags in service have plagued the system for years and was made worse by the pandemic. In some cases prescriptions for services have expired before services become available, in which case a family must go through the process of obtaining a prescription again while remaining on the wait list. Can be a long road, but one area that you may be able find relief in is working with a a Service Coordinator.

Service Coordinators help families manage and provide access to necessary supportive services in the community, provide case management services as needed and requested, and develop programs and resources that support wellness for the entire resident population. Service Coordinators have helped families access service providers like BHRS's, write grants to access devices or summer camp scholarships, complete paperwork and organization documents for Social Security and Medicaid. Organizations like Wesley Family Services, Achieva, Glade Run Lutheran Services, Familylinks, Peal Center, DHS Office, either offer service coordinators or can point you in the right direction.

Community Training

Faced with almost an unimaginable event, we were left wondering what went wrong. Because our conversations are normally involve people and organizations that are well versed in all things exceptional needs, we may forgot about the rest of the world. Today we discussed the need for better education and training for all members of the community when it comes to the American Disabilities Act (ADA), and specifically Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT). The events make clear that there is a lack of training within PRT regarding staff interacting with the public as it relates to people with non-visible exceptions that fall under the ADA.

Although the PRT Bylaws and Policies acknowledges the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act of October 27, 1955, P.L. 744, as Amended) it may not translate to the PRT HR Employee Handbook. "Under this Act, a public accommodation is any accommodation which is open to, accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, including government services.

It is unlawful for any owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any public accommodation to discriminate against any person in the full use and enjoyment of such public accommodation, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, disability, known association with a person with a disability, use of a guide or support animal due to blindness, deafness or physical disability or because the user is a handler or trainer of such animals."

It is important for organizations in all communities to remember that it is not enough to have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy Statements (DEI). There must be training to support the statement and make it reality. In this instance the PRT seems to have no support for their DEI statement. When our participant made contact with PRT Customer Support they were left feeling unheard and the situation unresolved. This is a clear lack of DEI and ADA training in the PRT Customer Support department. If proper training in these areas had occurred the customer support representatives would have directed the caller to the Port Authorities Office of Equal Opportunity as stated on their website:

"If you think that PRT has failed to provide these services or discriminated or retaliated in another way based on race, color, national origin (including language), disability, sex, age, or religion, you can file a complaint online at or in writing by mail, or email to: Program Manager - Office of Equal Opportunity, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, 345 Sixth Avenue, FL 3, Pgh., PA 15222 or**UPDATE: The Port Authority have not changed the information on their website to coincide with the recent name change. Here is the new e-mail address:

You can also file a Title VI complaint with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights:

U.S. Mail: Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590

Phone: 1-888-446-4511

You can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL):

E-mail: (fastest method to submit your complaint) Fax: 202-401-4708 U.S. Mail: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Compliance Branch 245 Murray Lane, SW Building 410, Mail Stop #0190 Washington, D.C. 20528 For additional information: Phone: 202-401-1474 Toll-Free: 1-866-644-8360"


Next Meeting: January 25, 2023 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom.

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All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.


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