February 24, 2021 Meeting Minutes - Evaluation Process, Writing Goals, Ariel Zych
PALS Meeting Minutes
February 24, 2020 9:30 a.m.
Virtual Meeting using Zoom
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.
504 Plan / IEP Evaluation Process
*We held a very similar conversation about the initial steps taken when seeking a 504 Plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP) last month. For that reason, we have copy/pasted the information from those meeting minutes below AND included even more from today's meeting.
Like anything new, working through the initial steps of a 504 Plan can be eye opening. We discussed denial, appeals, MTSS, advocacy, and timelines. Below find these topics and more along with a few links for further information:
What is a 504 Plan?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that is intended to give all individuals the same advantages and opportunities, so that individuals with disabilities have an equal chance for success. Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania Code describes the school’s responsibility in implementing Section 504. In the area of education, Chapter 15/Section 504 protects the individual who has or has had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or who is regarded by others as having a disability. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for one’s self, and performing tasks (see the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act for additional examples of major life activities). The impairment needs only to substantially limit one major life activity for the student to be determined to have a disability. Chapter 15/Section 504 differs from IDEA in that it protects the rights of individuals with disabilities, while IDEA is an educational benefits law that requires special education and related services as determined by a student’s IEP team. All students with IEPs are also covered under Chapter 15/Section 504. Read more from PaTTAN.
What is the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP?
504 plans aren’t part of special education. So, they’re different from IEPs. 504 plans and IEPs are covered by different laws and work in different ways. The main difference is that a 504 plan modifies a student's regular education program in a regular classroom setting. A 504 plan is monitored by classroom teachers. A student with an IEP, as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), may receive different educational services in a special or regular educational setting, depending on the student's need. IEP programs are delivered and monitored by additional school support staff. Read more from Wrightslaw and KidsHealth.org.
What is the timeline for 504 Plan or IEP?
Federal regulations do not mandate a timeline for Section 504 meetings or for implementation of a 504 plan. A district's school board may implement a policy regarding the 504 Plan procedure. Read more on the subject from Wrightslaw. As it relates to this conversation, here are policy's adopted by FCASD:
PARENT/GUARDIAN REQUEST FOR EVALUATION, TERMINATION, OR MODIFICATION UNDER SECTION 504
PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS NOTIFICATION
Federal regulations do mandate a timeline for all things related to the implementation or and review of IEPs. Although schools were given some flexibility at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to COVID-19 closures, all schools are expected to adhere to the mandated timelines as of the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Pennsylvania offers the following on for download:
Can you appeal a school district's decision regarding a 504 Plan or IEP?
Yes! "Section 504 and IDEA require school districts to conduct impartial hearings for parents who disagree with identification, evaluation, or placement. Under Section 504, the parent has an opportunity to participate and obtain representation by counsel, but other details are left to the discretion of the school district." Read more from Wrightlaw.
PARENT'S RIGHTS UNDERSTANDING THE PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS NOTICE
IEP due process is protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA), and provides parents with the right to resolve disputes with your school district. There are two ways to resolve disputes, mediation and through a due process hearing. McAndrew's Law Firm offers a quick look at the difference in this article. Wrightslaw also offers the following articles to help families:
How to Disagree with the IEP Team Without Starting World War III
Familiarize yourself with a district's MTSS efforts as it may relate to a 504 Plan or IEP denial.
When requesting a service, if you hear, "We do this (or that) for all students." the person speaking is most likely talking about MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) formerly known as RtII (Response to Instruction and Intervention). It's great that school district's are required to have a MTSS initiatives in place for all students, that doesn't mean the service being received shouldn't also be included in the 504 Plan or IEP of a student who qualifies for services. For more on MTSS visit PaTTAN. In addition, here's a fantastic article on how NOT to get caught in this trap.
How can you advocate for a 504 Plan for your child?
Data, Data, Data! and Write Things Down! The best advocacy involves a plan. Do your homework, know what to expect, know how the process works, and most importantly, be prepared with your own data. Jot down your observations and make it clear what your child is capable of doing on their own and what requires scaffolding. Have examples of work done with and without assistance. The following article from VeryWellMind.com addresses possible accommodations for students with ADHD, the concepts of which may help you think about to look for in your observations. Read more from Wrightslaw.
McAndrew's Law Firm has an extensive page of articles related to the topic of Special Education. For further information visit, McAndrewsLaw.com.
Quick One Liners to Remember
- feel free to request the district Director of Special Education Services be present at your 504 or IEP meeting
- get an advocate (visit pealcenter.org or achieva.info for more information on advocates in the area)
- remember, you can have anyone you like with you at the meeting, an advocate, a family member, a friend, a lawyer, etc.
- buckle up and be ready to push as needed, don't give up on what you believe is best for your child
- give your child the outside support they need and provide that data to the other team members
- remember, YOU are just as much a team member as any school staff member
- if your child takes medication, do not let the school based team members say medication is the answer and no plan is needed
- remember, just because a child reaches a goal doesn't mean they've "graduated" out of their IEP, the goal should now move forward in the student's learning, as the student grows so does the goal
- use the school's verbiage as much as possible / speak their language
- research how goals are written to help facilitate what you are looking for
PealCenter.org (fantastic resources online and over the phone | you have questions, they have answers)
ADHD Across the Life Span at Western Psychiatric Hospital Outpatient Program
Independent NeuroPsych Evaluations are always a good idea
Ariel Zych joined us to introduce herself to the community. Ariel will be running for Fox Chapel Area School Board in Region II on May 18, 2021 as Dharmesh Vyas has decided not to seek re-election. Ariel brings with her experience as a high school biology and environmental science teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). As a general education teacher 40% of her students received special education services giving her the chance to co-teach with a special education teacher. Ariel is excited to bring her passion for education to the school board and engage with the community. If you have specific questions or would like to hear more from Ariel on a certain topic, please e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Meeting: March 24, 2021 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.
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