New Year, New Responsibilities: Tips for Preparing Educators of Students with Disabilities for the 2022-2023 School Year
A new school year brings new students, new teachers, new IEPs, new ARD committees, and new responsibilities for educating students with disabilities. It is critical that special education teachers are properly trained at the start of the school year regarding their responsibilities under the IDEA and the students on their caseloads. These responsibilities, however, do not stop at special education teachers. Administrators must also make sure that general education teachers understand their roles in implementing IEPs. To make this hectic time a little less overwhelming, Thompson & Horton LLP has made a checklist for administrators and case managers to start the 2022-2023 school year off on the right foot and avoid potential legal issues during the year.
- Training is Tops! Both special education and general education teachers must be trained on their responsibilities under the IDEA. This includes but is not limited to training on child find and the evaluation process, the ARD/IEP process, and IEP implementation. Teachers should also be trained on state, federal, and district policies regarding disciplining students with disabilities, including laws and policies relating to the use of restraint, seclusion, and time-outs.
- Provide Copies of IEPs to Teachers and Service Providers All teachers, including special education and general education teachers, and services providers must receive a copy of the current IEP for each special education student in their classroom or on their caseload. If a teacher or service provider does not know what is contained in a student’s IEP, it will be difficult to provide the services and supports within it. Often, case managers provide documents summarizing the key points of the IEP (e.g., an “IEP at a Glance”) in lieu of the IEP itself. While this may be a helpful aid, teachers and services providers should also receive complete copies of the IEP along with the deliberations and any attachments/addendums to the IEP. This will provide teachers and service providers a complete picture of the student’s IEP and the rationale behind the ARD/IEP committee’s decisions. Prior to the start of the school year, administrators or case managers should obtain signatures from teachers and services providers, confirming receipt of the ARD/IEP documentation.
- Review IEPs with Teachers and Service Providers It is not enough to simply provide copies of IEPs to teachers and service providers. Rather, teachers and service providers must actually understand the services and supports in an IEP and how to implement them. This is especially important for accommodations, as the same accommodation on three IEPs may look different for each student. Teachers and service providers must also recognize who is responsible for implementing each annual goal and what progress monitoring for that goal looks like. Finally, administrators or case managers must discuss a student’s BIP and any additional behavior supports with teachers and service providers before the first day of school.
- Review Documentation for Newly Enrolled Students School districts are responsible for ensuring that all students with disabilities in need of special education or related services have an IEP in effect on the first day of school for the school year. A student who enrolls in the district over the summer is not considered a transfer student. Thus, campuses must implement the IEP from the previous school district on the first day of class, unless the ARD Committee convened over the summer to revise the student’s IEP. In addition, all services listed in the current IEP should be implemented from day one, including related services, in accordance with the student’s IEP.
- Set Expectations and Provide Support While teaching students with IEPs can be one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching, it can also be incredibly daunting, especially for first-year teachers. Now more than ever, teachers and service providers often fear that one mistake will find them in a due process hearing. With the current staff shortages disproportionately impacting special education, teachers and service providers need to feel supported and encouraged by their campuses. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to set expectations regarding IEP implementation and participation in ARD/IEP committees. It is equally important, however, to demonstrate a sincere appreciation for teachers and service providers of students with disabilities and to provide additional support as soon as it is needed.
Following these tips will help ensure a smooth start to the 2022-2023 school year, with students receiving the services and supports set forth in their IEPs from the very first day. For additional information on this topic or to request the training described in this post, contact the author of this post or any member of the Thompson & Horton Special Education Team.