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More Tips for Surviving SDOE Compliance Investigations

For our special education administrator friends, figuring out how to comply with the state and federal special education regulations and proving that to the Bureau of Special Education is no easy task.  Just when you think you have all the rules figured out, the “interpreters” of the regulations manage to invent new requirements.  So, a couple of tips culled from recent experiences:

 (1) Proving compliance with the 5-day rule for sending out the IEP following the PPT meeting: Parents seem to be increasingly concerned about your compliance with the rule that a copy of the IEP should be mailed to them within 5 days following the PPT meeting.  Even if a separate complaint is not filed on this point, it is almost always included on the list entitled “And Another Thing”.  Although it is stated nowhere in the regulations that you must retain documentation of this, you will find that the letter from the Bureau inquiring as to your compliance with this rule will ask you for copies of your documentation proving that you have sent a copy of the IEP to the parent within 5 days following the meeting. A couple of ideas for keeping such documentation: Enter the mailing of the IEP as an entry on your log for “documentation of attempts to secure parental participation”.  Send a (dated) cover letter with the IEP and keep a copy of the letter in the file along with other correspondence and copies of PPT invitations.  Paperwork reduction act, anyone?

(2) Ensuring continued delivery of FAPE when there is an interruption in the delivery of related services: Every year, there seems to be some crisis in the delivery of related services such as OT, PT and speech and language therapy.  Someone quits or takes an emergency leave, leaving the school unable to comply with IEP’d services for children.  Sometimes the district is able to shuffle people around and fulfill the IEP’s; other times, there are lengthy gaps in services.  Although most times, the services can be made up later in the year, there are times when the gap in services is lengthy and the delivery of FAPE is threatened.  Again, although there is no mention made of this in the regulations, you should expect that in the case of a lengthy gap in services, if a complaint is filed with SDOE, you will be asked whether you gave the parents the option of obtaining the services privately and being reimbursed, or whether you offered to fund private services at a clinic in the community for some period of time until a service provider becomes available within the district.  Wait a minute, you say, aren’t related services supposed to be “related” to the delivery of special education services in the student’s IEP?  And if the services are being provided in a clinic somewhere in an isolated setting, how does that help the student in terms of the delivery of the IEP?  Despite these concerns, senior officials at the SDOE take the position that the offer to fund private services in the community should be made as a way of delivering the IEP when the school district is unable to provide qualified staff for an extended period of time.  How long is this “extended period of time”?  Each situation is reportedly considered on a “case by case basis”.

Do you have other tips learned “the hard way” from compliance investigations?  Were you surprised at the way the regulations were interpreted by SDOE officials? Post your tips here…