Great IEP, Now What? Implementation.

ARD Committees put a lot of time and effort into drafting clear, ambitious, and supportive IEPs. We attorneys spend a lot of time training teams on drafting legally compliant IEPs, reviewing IEPs, and negotiating IEPs. But what happens next? Implementation is where the magic happens. And implementation lapses are frequently where due process and state complaints happen. Here are five tips to support consistent implementation and avoid trouble.

Don’t Let a Complicated Divorce Complicate the ARD Process

Divorce often complicates everything, including the special education process. Parents of students with disabilities are provided certain rights under the IDEA, but what happens to those rights when parents are divorced? To ensure compliance with the IDEA, school leaders need to fully understand the rights of each parent to participate in their student’s special education program.

Biological and adoptive parents are typically considered “parents” with the right to make educational decisions for their children under the IDEA. When the parents of a student with a disability are divorced and share custody, both parents generally hold parental rights under the IDEA. These parental rights include notice of ARD (IEP) meetings and attendance at ARD meetings, in addition to making educational decisions and filing a State or due process complaint if a dispute arises.

U.S. DOE Emphasizes Obligations to Protect High-Risk Students as Pandemic Improves  

On March 24, 2020, Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote a letter to educators and parents emphasizing the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to providing services and supports to allow students with disabilities to learn safely alongside their peers during the pandemic.  This letter provides strategies for educators, Districts, and families to enable students with disabilities to participate in in-person instruction and to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment.  

Secretary Cardona first encourages IEP teams to leverage IEP and Section 504 processes to provide protections for in-person learning.  IEP teams (ARD Committees in Texas) and Section 504 committees must address school-related health needs of students with disabilities at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in IEPs and Section 504 plans and place students in the least restrictive environment that meets those needs. IEP teams and Section 504 committees should also consider whether students at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 require a health plan to address preventative and risk-reducing strategies, such as proper sanitizing or physical distancing. When health plans are included in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, these documents must be provided to each individual responsible for implementing the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.