April 01, 2008

NYSUT issues response to proposed special education regulations

Source: Research and Educational Services

The State Education Department has proposed regulatory amendments that are intended to conform to:

  • Chapter 378 of the New York State (NYS) Laws of 2007,
  • the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as amended in 2004, and
  • the final federal regulations to implement IDEA 2004.

NYSUT has reviewed the proposed regulations and prepared comments that will be submitted to the State Education Department in writing by NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. Local leaders and NYSUT members may also choose to use these comments at either the public hearing scheduled for April 2 in Albany and Syracuse or as written comments that must be submitted to the State Education Department by April 7th.

NYSUT's comments are as follows:

  • Throughout the proposed regulations, there are numerous references to statute and regulation solely by citation.

    We believe that such references are not user-friendly and do not allow for easy understanding by parents and professionals. Instead, it creates a situation where individuals need to check references with additional texts in order to fully comprehend the statutory intent. For example, in proposed section 200.4(g)(1) regarding changes to a student's IEP after the annual review meeting, parents would be unaware of a school district's requirement to inform parents of the right to consult with the child's teacher or related service provider to discuss the proposed changes unless the parent checks the statutory language. We strongly suggest that SED replace the citations found in the proposed regulations with detailed language from the specifically-referenced statutory citations.

    • We do not support the proposed role of the chairperson of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Subcommittee on Special Education.

    We are unconvinced that this proposed role definition would have any significant positive impact on the CSE (or SubCSE) process.

    NYSUT members report continuing issues of locally-appointed chairpersons engaging in poor meeting practices, limiting choices on the continuum of services for students with disabilities based upon administrative convenience or budgetary concerns, presenting pre-determined services to the committee members rather than consideration of individual student needs, and not seeking to reach consensus decisions from the members of the committee.

    Any regulatory effort to specifically establish the role of a chairperson would need to be coupled with language that identifies prerequisite knowledge and training in special education. The role of the chairperson must be clearly defined as one of consensus-building that recognizes of the role and value of the entire committee in the special education process. Too often our members have informed us that the chairperson's unwillingness to allow discussion of a student's individual needs, violates the requirements that requires IEP decisions be made by the full membership of the multidisciplinary committee on special education.

    • Recommendations for clarifying requests for initial referrals by professional staff members.

    We suggest that the amendment be reworded to require that a parent immediately receives a copy of a request for referral when received by the district. The parent would then either be asked for consent to begin the evaluation or offered the opportunity to meet to discuss the referral and be informed of the parental right to refer the child for an initial evaluation. This notice must be in writing in the parent's native language or other mode of communication.

    The proposed regulation should be amended to clarify that:

    • The ten day period of action begins when the building administrator or other school employee of the school receives the written request for a referral of a student for an initial evaluation.
    • The person making a written request for an initial special education evaluation be invited to attend the meeting of the parent and school district to discuss the written request.
    • If the parent and school agree to appropriate general education support services for the student, that school district must provide the parent and the professional member of the school who submitted the written request for an initial special education evaluation with a written copy of the agreement, including any methods, programs and services to address the identified learning difficulty of the student, and provide the opportunity for a follow-up conference within an agreed upon period of time to review the student's progress. A copy of the agreement must also be placed in the student's cumulative educational record.

    The proposed regulations also make changes to procedures regarding the withdrawal of referral for an initial special education evaluation at the request of the school district. The proposed changes would eliminate this professional staff member of the school from the meeting with the parent and school district to discuss the potential withdrawal of the referral. We strongly support the continued involvement of teachers and other school professionals in any meeting to discuss general education alternatives to address a student's learning needs. In addition, the professional member of the school should be provided with a copy of the written agreement between the parent and school district.

    For more information on the proposed regulations and specific details on the public comment process, go to: http://www.vesid.nysed.gov/specialed/idea/publichearing108.htm