Federal Government says Highly Mobile Children Need Timely and Expedited Evaluations and Eligibility Determinations

Federal Government says Highly Mobile Children Need Timely and Expedited Evaluations and Eligibility Determinations

United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services provides information, guidance, and clarification for the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in several ways including the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Memos, Letters, and Policies.

A July 2013 letter to a State Director of Special Education stressed the importance of ensuring a high-quality education for highly mobile children.  Highly mobile children are children experiencing frequent family moves into new school districts and includes military-connected children, migrant children, children in the foster care system, and children who are homeless.  These children often experience stiff challenges as they cope with frequent educational transitions.  The letter addressed concerns expressed by stakeholders regarding the unique educational needs of highly mobile children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The U.S. Department of Education described several important principles that states, school districts, school staff, parents, and other stakeholders might find of assistance in ensuring that highly mobile children with disabilities receive required special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs in a timely manner.  It is important for school staff—including special education administrators and teachers—to have accurate and timely information to meet their responsibilities to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to highly mobile children with disabilities under IDEA.  This means providing all of IDEA’s rights and protections to eligible children and their parents when children change school districts.  There have been concerns about IDEA’s requirements for timely evaluations, including when a response to intervention (RTI) framework is used prior to completing evaluations of highly mobile children, and the provision of comparable services, which could include extended school year services, when a highly mobile child transfers into a new school district.

Under IDEA, all children who are thought to have a disability and in need of special education and related services, including highly mobile children, must be evaluated in a timely manner and without undue delay so that eligible children can receive FAPE.  Generally, IDEA requires completion of initial evaluations within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation or within the time frame established by the state.  When a child transfers to a new school district in the same school year—whether it’s in the same state or in a different one—after the previous school district has begun but has not completed the evaluation, both school districts must coordinate to complete the evaluation.  This must occur as quickly as possible to be in line with applicable Federal regulations.  However, this time frame doesn’t apply if the following two conditions are present:

1)    The new school district is making sufficient progress to ensure prompt completion of the evaluation; and

2)    The parent and new school district agree to a specific time when the evaluation will be completed.

The IDEA regulations require school districts to promptly exchange relevant records when a child changes school districts.  Relevant records include the existing evaluation data.  This prompt exchange of records avoids duplicating previous evaluations, and provides important data to the new school district to ensure the timely completion of the evaluation.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services encourages school districts to complete their evaluations of highly mobile children within expedited time frames (e.g., within 30 days), consistent with each highly mobile child’s individual needs. When highly mobile children change school districts after the previous school district has begun, but have yet to complete the evaluation, the new school district will postpone the evaluation until the new school district’s RTI process has been implemented because it could delay the initial evaluation of those children.  If a child transfers to a new school district during the same school year before the previous school district has completed the child’s evaluation, the new school district can’t delay the evaluation or extend the evaluation time frame in order to implement an RTI process.  The new school district may provide interventions while it completes, but it cannot delay an initial evaluation because a child has not participated in an RTI process in the new school district.

School districts should be coordinating assessments by exchanging relevant records to complete the evaluations of highly mobile children.  Parents should also be given a prompt explanation of the applicable IDEA requirements and should be connected the appropriate parent training and information center (PTI) funded by OSEP.

Questions about who can make educational decisions for your special needs child? For more than 10 years, ADAMS ESQ has represented hundreds of special needs children throughout California and Nevada.

Ms. Adams’ and her experienced staff represent the interests of children from the ages of 3 through 22 who qualify or should qualify for special education and related services provided by their local school districts. Contact ADAMS ESQ today to get answers to your questions. They can be reached at 1-800-785-6713 or oaklandadmin@adamsesq.com.

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