Alex Rittberg, co-president, brought the meeting to order by welcoming everyone. Approximately 45 people were in attendance, including parents, teachers, students, and administrators. Brandywine School District Superintendent Dr. Bruce Harter, Assistant Superintendent >Dr. Tammy Davis, and Director of Special Services Ann Hilkert attended as did Greg Berg, a teacher from the district.
The first speaker of the meeting was Charles Weiner, a Pennsylvania Special Education attorney. Mr. Weiner addressed Procedural Safeguards as mandated by Federal Law and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Mr. Weiner made frequent reference to his hand-out regarding Procedural Safeguards for families of students with disabilities.
Recent changes in IDEA pertain to:
- How often the Notice of Procedural Safeguards are to be given to the families of children with disabilities. The current law states that Procedural Safeguards are to be given out once per year (usually prior to an Individualized Education Plan – IEP – meeting); upon an initial referral or parents request for an evaluation; or at the familys request.
- Adds requirements for due process hearing requests and civil actions to required notice.
- Due Process statute of limitations is 2 years.
- Due Process complaining party has to file a formal complaint consisting of:
- Relief requested
Note: For additional IDEA 2004 resources, see http://bsnpta.org/idea
Mr. Weiner stressed the importance of Prior Written Notice, which helps facilitate disputes, as provided by IDEA. He said that Prior Written Notice is a very important tool as parents can request from the school district Prior Written Notice, which requires a description of the current or proposed action for the child; assures parents have a copy of the Procedural Safeguards; and states assistance for provisions.
A question was raised about independent educational evaluations and who should pay for them. Mr. Weiner stated that families have the right at any time to have an independent evaluation done on their child; however, the family (or familys insurance) is responsible for paying for the independent evaluation. There is the possibility that the independent evaluation would be paid for by the school district, but only if the IEP team determines that this particular evaluation would help them in writing goals and determining services.
Mr. Weiner advised that parents should be up-front at all times with district staff, because this is a long-time relationship: child, parents and educators.
Eliza Hirst, attorney with Community Legal Aid, addressed the group. Community Legal Aid is a free service, regardless of income level. Community Legal Aid is designed to help persons with disabilities who are denied services. CLA is funded through federal, state and private grants, and through tax dollars.
Ms. Hirst stated that Delaware residents with autism are not getting appropriate services for their specific disability. People with autism regress much more quickly than persons with other types of disabilities, so this issue needs to be addresses with more appropriate services.
Ms. Hirst also suggested the following resources for families with children with disabilities: Parent Information Center (PIC) 999-7394; ARC 996-9400; SPARC – the University of Delaware Mediation Program 831-8158; and Community Legal Aid 575-0660.
Ms. Hirst concluded her segment with, You are the best advocate for your child. You are as important as any member of the IEP team the school psychologist, the teachers, the therapists, the principals, etc.
Mr. Weiner concluded with questions. He pointed out that any child is owed compensatory education, for instance if your child misses out on several therapy sessions due to school closings, or ill therapists, the child has the right to have those sessions made up.
The meeting concluded at 8 p.m.