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Schools Obligated To Maintain IEPs When Kids Move

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Schools have a special responsibility to provide continuity when students with disabilities move from one district to another, federal education officials say.

In a letter to state directors of special education this summer, officials from the U.S. Department of Education clarified that schools have a duty under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide comparable services to “highly mobile” students as they move between districts. This group includes kids from military families, those in foster care as well as migrants and children who are homeless, among others who move often, the department said.

“Ensuring a high-quality education for highly mobile children is a critical responsibility for all of us,” wrote Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Melody Musgrove, director of the Office of Special Education Programs.

“While these children often possess remarkable resilience, they also experience formidable challenges as they cope with frequent educational transitions,” continued the pair who indicated they’re looking for assistance from schools in “improving the educational stability of, and post-school outcomes for, these highly mobile children.”

Prompted by concerned stakeholders to clarify the obligations that schools have under federal law, Yudin and Musgrove said they have heard reports that special education evaluations are sometimes delayed and extended school year offerings have been denied when children transfer.

However, officials said that under IDEA a child moving to a new school is entitled to receive services that are “similar or equivalent” to what was provided in their last placement. This mandate includes not only offerings provided during the traditional school year, but also any summer programming included in the student’s individualized education program, or IEP.

In cases where students transfer schools within the same state, such services must be provided until the new school either adopts the student’s IEP or develops and implements a new one. Similarly, when children move out of state, comparable services must be offered until an evaluation is conducted, if needed, and a new IEP is put in place, the letter said.

Federal officials urged schools to work together to ensure that children who move while they are in the process of being evaluated for special education services do not experience a delay. Ideally, schools should expedite evaluations for highly mobile children so that such assessments can be completed within 30 days, Yudin and Musgrove indicated.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. KA101 says:

    Well, it looks like the letter came out on 19th July. Better late than never.

  2. Laurie says:

    I’m glad this is being addressed. I understand that it is often a nightmare for parents when they move as new schools don’t want to continue services or want to dramatically change them, especially in those districts that don’t have a great reputation for helping students with special needs. I’ve always felt for those parents. Hopefully, the schools won’t read this letter to just mean “let’s immediately call an IEP meeting and make changes that way.” I know that’s not the intent of this letter.

  3. soricobob says:

    Not for noting, but this is old news. We were required to provide when a student moved to our town back in the 80′s.

  4. cindylou says:

    Where or how can we get copies of these letters issued by OSEP and Federal Office of Education?

  5. F. Dang says:

    Learning the Laws, IDEA, is one of the best ways a parent can advocate for their child. When our family move from one state to another the receiving school did not want to honor the current IEP. After showing the IEP team the section in IDEA and addresses this, they reluctantly followed the old IEP. Which had, by the way, a section that included a “shadow aide” ( the school did not believe and provide aides) My wife and I were so active in advocating for my son that some of the staff showed their dislike for us…we didn’t care. At one point during my son’s schooling, the bus company that provided transportation for the students in Special Education went on strike. Guess what, the aide from school provided transportation to and from school, Door to door transportation was in the IEP.

    The IEP is a legal document if the school doesn’t follow it they are breaking federal laws including Civil Rights laws.

    Learn the laws to best advocate for your child. There is a website for Reed Martin (google his name to find it.) He is a long time advocate for children in special education he is a lawyer that is well known by other parents

  6. Lynn says:

    @ soricobob: You are entirely correct, it’s old news. Which is why is it so disheartening that school districts need to be reminded thirty years later. What will truly be “news” is when all SWDs actually receive a free appropriate public education. I don’t plan to hold my breath.

  7. Fleming Elam says:

    As a special educator in both the co-taught setting and small group instruction a.k.a. Resource it is very disheartening as my school leadership does not place significant value on students with disabilities and their IEP. For example, I have student rosters consisting of 52 students in the 9th grade; a very impressionable year for young people, and, there are 12 in my Resource class. However, it has been decided that I will be pulled for an entire week to facilitate high graduation retake testing. Which results in my students with disabilities will not receive services although all of the required documentation for FTE $$$ states these students are being served by a highly qualified special educator.

    I too have new students that have relocated from another state and because the parent does not have an official copy of the IEP these students have been registered in general education classes without support. Teaching students with disabilities is my passion and it hurts to see them displaced and treated as a burden in their school.

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