Recent News

(Posted 07/25/2022)
Avoiding Discrimination in Student Discipline

In July 2022, the Office for Civil Rights issued guidance on a school's responsibility to ensure nondiscrimination against students based on disability during the issuance of discipline. OCR explains how compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities can assist schools in effectively supporting and responding to behavior that is based on a student's disability.

Schools must take steps to ensure that any staff responsible for providing a student with the services necessary to reeive FAPE understand the student's needs and have the training and skills required to implement the services. For students with disability-based behavior that interferes with their own or others' ability to learn, the Section 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program will identify individualized behavioral supports for responding to the behavior and supporting the student. Providing the needed services and supports can help the student engage in learning, build and maintain social relationships, and avoid behaviors that would lead to disciplinary measures.

The OCR guidance includes information on identifying and evaluating students with behavioral needs, making placement decisions, identifying necessary behavioral supports, and the procedural safeguards available to parents. There is information on the assessment of safety risks, on removal to another setting, and on discipline ofr illegal substance abuse.

Supporting Students with Disabilities and Avoiding the Discriminatory Use of Student Discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

 
(Posted 07/18/2022)
Tutoring to Help Students with Learning Recovery

$122 billion of federal American Rescue Plan funds is available to schools. Among other things those funds are to be used to combat learning loss. President Biden has called on schools to use the funds to provide high-quality tutoring, summer learning and enrichment, and afterschool programs so that students can make up for lost learning. An announcement was made on July 5, 2022 that The National Partnership for Student Success is being launched to provide the nation's students with an additional 250,000 tutors and mentors over the next three years. AmeriCorps, the US Dept of Education, Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, and leading national education, youth development, and service organizations are launching the National Partnership for Student Success to recruit, train and place screened adults as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, integrated student supports coordinators, and post secondary education transition coaches.

Studies show America's students are on average two to four months behind in reading and math because of the pandemic. A Fact sheet released about this initiative notes that research shows that high-quality tutoring programs can produce about five months of additional learning if they are provided 3 times per week for 30 minutes per day and use teachers and welltrained volunteers. 

Parents are encouraged to engage with their school district on how the district's ARP funds will be spent. This page includes information on how ARP funds are being spent in Illinois: https://bestpracticesclearinghouse.ed.gov/interactive-map-resource-results.aspx?State=Illinois

Fact Sheet on the Tutoring Initiative

 
(Posted 05/26/2022)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

By July 16, 2022 anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can call, text, or chat 988 to connect to trained counselors who will listen and provide support. Persons contacting 988 will also receive additional local community resource connections as needed. The current Lifeline phone number of 1-800-273-8255 will always remain in effect even after all areas of the United States have access to 988.

 
(Posted 05/26/2022)
Five Mental Health Days for Students

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say a 24% increase in the number of mental health emergency visits by kids ages 5-11 and a 31% increase for kids 12-17. In August 2021, Illinois passed a law that change the school code at 105 ILCS 5/26-1(2) allowing students to take 5 days each school year for mental or behavioral health reasons without needing a doctor's note. The students are allowed to make up any school work missed during the absence. This law took effect January 1, 2022. The school may refer the student to a school counselor or other appropriate school personnel after the second mental health day is used.

Public Act 102-0321

 
(Posted 05/25/2022)
Definition of Autism

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM, is published by the American Psychiatric Association and describes and lists of hundreds of mental health diagnoses, conditions, and social problems. 

The DSM IV was published in 1994. in the 1997 edition of the DSM IV, the DSM IV TM, Pervasive Developmental Disorders included Autistic Disorder, Rett's Disorder, Childhood Integrative Disorder, Asperger's Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Rhw SAM 5 came out in 2013. In this version it was noted that individuals with a well-established DSM IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The diagnositc criteria for autism spectrum disorder included persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. It was noted that symptoms had to be present in the early developmental period; cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning; and not be better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay. There were three severity levels listed: Level 1 Requiring Support; Level 2 Requiring Substantial Support; and Level 3 Requiring Very Substantial Support. For each level, there was a description of social communication and of restricted, repetitive behaviors associated with that level of support need.

In the DSM 5 TR, released in March 2022, there were only small changes made to add clarity to the autism definition. The DSM 5 indicated that an autism diagnosis requires "persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manfiested by the following: deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, and in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships". The DSM 5 TR just changes "as manifested by the following" to "as manifested by all of the following". This change clarifies that the diagnosis requires all the deficits to be present. 

The second change is that clinicians were to specify if a person's autism is "associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental or behavioral disorder". This now says "associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental or behavioral problem". With this change, co-occurring problems do not have to be a distinct "disorder".

(Posted 5/25/2022)
Strengthening Section 504 in Schools

Students who need accommodations at school based on a diagnosis or condtion that significantly impacts a major life activity such as learning, focusing, breathing, walking, etc., have a Section 504 Plan put in place to ensure equal access to learning and functioning in the school setting. Students receive support under a Section 504 Plan when they do not need speical education services that include specialized instruction and related services as a student with a disability under IDEA in order to benefit from education, but still need support to receive equal access. Students with 504 Plans may be students with ADHD, diabetes, asthma, orthopedic issues, mental health needs, reading difficulties, etc. The accommodations provided can include such things as being exempt from physical education class, sitting near the teacher, doing every other math problem for homework, access to large print items, taking tests in special formats, getting outlines of classroom discussions, etc. 

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability civil rights law, prohibits discrimination in public and private programs that receive federal assistance, including schools and colleges. The Office for Civil Rights has worked to eliminate discrimination in schools by investigating complaints alleging violations of regulations to this law since 1977. There has been a wide variation in how district's meet the regulations.

The U.S. Department of Education is soliciting public commen ts on how to best improve these regulations to assist students. These could include such things as more parent participation in the 504 Plan process, more school accountability, and more specific wording on who qualifies and what accommodations could look like. The department would appreciate comments be received by the end of June 2022, but will continue to take comments until any notice of proposed rulemaking is reviewed.

Submit Comments on Updating Section 504 Regulations

 
(Posted 3/15/2022)
Masking in Schools

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel A. Cardona, Ed.D., issued a letter to School and Early Childhood Communities on February 25, 2022 discussing the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention framework that creates COVID-19 community levels that account for the severity of COVID-19 and the capacity of health care systems to respond. This letter notes that masking guidelines for school and early care settings now follow the same guidelines for the community in which they are located. This change includes masking on buses. Previously universal masking was recommended for all education and child care settings.

Letter from Secretary Cardona

 
(Posted 3/14/2022)
Actions to Address People with Disabilities in Response to and Recovery from COVID-19

The White House issued a fact sheet on February 24, 2022 addressing the unique needs of individuals with disabilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The issues address in the fact sheet include plans to:

  • Equip schools with guidance and support to keep vulnerable students safe and learning in-person. (The fact sheet directs parents to use their Parent Training and Information Center of which Family Matters is one of the two in Illinois.)
  • Expand the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living's Disability Information and Access Line to support people with disabilities who face difficulty using or cannot use a self-test.
  • Launch new COVID-19 guidance in American Sign Language and review all existing COVID-19 guidance to confirm accessibility for all disabled individuals.
  • Execute a new effort to develop at-home COVID-19 tests that are accessible to all.
  • Incentivize all at-home test manufacturers to prioritize accessibility of at-home tests.
  • Request accessible instructions from manufacturers who have received a Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization.
  • Distribute masks to disabled individuals through community-based organizations and jurisdictions.
  • Call on states to directly distribute high-quality masks through community-based organizations serving individuals with disabilities.

White House Press Release

 
(Posted 2/25/2022)
Services for Students with Disabilities Enrolled in College

The Understood.org website is about understanding and making the world a better place for those who learn and think differently. Their team recently posted an article entitled 7 Things To Know About College Disability Services. This article explains that there are no Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in college but that colleges do have disability services. They explain that students need to register as a student with a disability in order to get accommodations and that this will include proof of a disability.

7 Things to Know about College Disability Services by Understood.org

 
(Posted 2/23/2022)
Compensatory Services for Students with Disabilities Who Missed Services during the Pandemic

On February 16, 2022, the Office for Civil Rights issued a fact sheet about compensatory services under Section 504.  This document was issued to remind public schools that appropriate evaluations and services must be provided to students with disabilities during the pandemic and that they may need to provide compensatory services to some students.

The fact sheet states that “Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for schools, students, and parents, the responsibility for schools to comply with Section 504 continues regardless of how schools provide education: virtually, in-person, or with a hybrid learning model”.  If a student with a disability did not receive appropriate evaluations or services, including the services that the school had previously determined they were entitled to, then the fact sheet notes that “the school must convene a group of persons knowledgeable about the student to make an individualized determination whether, and to what extent, compensatory services are required”.  Compensatory services are a way for schools to remedy the injury caused by a lack of services. 

In determining the appropriate type and amount of compensatory services, the fact sheet lists factors that may be relevant:

  • the frequency and duration of missed instruction or related services;
  • whether special education and/or related services that were provided during the pandemic were appropriate based on the student’s individual needs;
  • a student’s present level of performance;
  • previous rates of progress;
  • the results of updated evaluations;
  • whether evaluations were delayed; and
  • any other relevant information.

 

Parents who feel compensatory services are warranted but have been denied those services may file a complaint at https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html

 

Fact Sheet:  Providing Students with Disabilities Free Appropriate Pubic Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Addressing the Need for Compensatory Services under Section 504

 
(Posted 2/18/2022)
In Person Learning for ALL Students
 

On February 5, 2022, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health revised public health guidance for schools.  Part 5-Supporting Fully In-Person Learning for All Students states that “the majority of students need full-time in-person access to their teachers and support network at school to stay engaged, to learn effectively, and to maintain social-emotional wellness”.   It adds that “remote learning can be challenging for many students, leading not only to learning loss, but also worsening mental health for children as well as parents”.  At the time of this revision masks were still to be worn by teachers, staff, students, and visitors inside schools.  Doctors can provide exceptions for students who are medically unable to tolerate a face covering because of a medical condition or disability.  Students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan who are unable to wear a face mask or face shield due to a medical contraindication may not be denied access to an in-person education if the school is offering in-person education to other students.  At the time of this revision, teachers were also still required to be fully vaccinated or do at least weekly testing.  This document outlines how schools are to employ contact tracing and exclusion of students and staff consistent with public health guidance or requirements including the use of a Test-to-Stay protocol. 

Supporting Fully In Person Learning for All Students

 
(Posted 2/16/2022)
College Courses During High School - Do IEP Services Apply
 

A letter from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special and Rehabilitative Services, dated January 26, 2022, states that "If under State law, attending classes at a postsecondary institution, whether auditing or for credit, is considered secondary school education for students in grade 12 or below and the education provided meets applicable State standards, those services can be designated as transition services on a student's IEP and paid for with IDEA Part B funds, consistent with the student's entitlement to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

This letter goes on to say that "The IEP Team for a student who has not graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma has the full range of options available to provide FAPE, including providing appropriate transition services "to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, special education and related services continue to be the responsibility of the child's school district regardless of the location of the services.

OSERS Letter January 26, 2022

 
(Posted 2/16/2022)
ABLE Accounts
 

A 2014 law allows individuals with disabilities to save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for government benefits including Medicaid. The amount of money that people with disabilities can save annually was raised for 2022 from $15,000 to $16,000. Disability Scoop, a source for news about developmental disabilities, issued an article by Michelle Diament on January 3, 2022 on this issue.

IRS Raises Limit for ABLE Accounts

 
(Posted 2/16/2022)
Graduation Requirements in Illinois
 

As an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for students ages 14 1/2 and older, transition services are outlined. Transition services should include appropriate measurable post-secondary goals that are based on age-appropriate transition assessments. The IEP team will identify a course of study that is a long-range educational plan or multi-year description of the educational plan or multi-year description of the educational program that directly relates to the student's anticipated post-school goals, preferences and interests. Planning includes courses leading to graduation and experiences that move the student toward post-school goals. In considering what is appropriate for a course of study. parents may need to have an understanding of the current graduation requirements, so that an informed discussion can take place regarding how the student can meet requirements when given appropriate accommodations and modifications. The Illinois State Board of Education updated the graduation requirement list as of December 2021.

Illinois Graduation Requirements

 
(Posted 9/16/2021)
Tax Benefits Related to Educational Costs
 

On August 31, 2021, the Illinois Department of Public Revenue issued a reminder for taxpayers that they may be eligible to claim school expenses for their K-12 students on their 2021 Illinois individual income tax returns. 

Qualified educational expenses include tuition, and book and lab fees in excess of $250. The total credit may not exceed $750. Tax benefits are also available for families whose children are homeschooled.

Media Release from the Illinois Department of Revenue

(Posted 9/16/2021)
Accessibility Features to be Available for Online Learning for Students with Disabilities
 

When students with some disabilities use digital education tools, there can be accessibility issues. Governor Pritzker stated that "we need to be sure that these tools are properly became Public Act 102-0238 on August 2, 2021, it guaranteed that accesbility features such as text-to-speech, captions for videos, text alternatives for non-text content, and color-blind alternatives will be standard in the curriculum of public and private k-12 schools starting August, 1 2022.

Illinois Public Act 102-0238

 
(Posted 8/26/2021)
College Accreditation for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
 

Colleges across the nation have established higher education programs for young adults with intellectual disabilities.  As of May 2021, 308 postsecondary education programs enrolled over 6,500 students.  The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was enacted in 2008 and authorized federal financial aid for students with intellectual disabilities.  A requirement of the legislation is that the students enrolled in such programs be included with nondisabled individuals.  Model accreditation standards have been developed to provide guidelines for colleges and universities so that students and their families have an assurance of quality. 

Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability:  Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community Living

Think College

 
(Posted 8/26/2021)
Restraint and Seclusion
 

The General Assembly found that the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint on children and youth carries risks to the health and safety of students and staff. Therefore, effective August 13, 2021, the goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of those interventions. 

(105 ILCS 5/10-20.33)  Isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint (other than prone physical restraint) may be use only if

-the student’s behavior presents an imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or to others;

-other less restrictive and intrusive measures have been tried and have proven to be ineffective in stopping the imminent danger of serious harm;

-there is no known medical contraindication to its use on the student; and

-the school staff member or members applying the use of time out, isolated time out, or physical restraint on a student have been trained in its safe application as established by rule by the State Board of Education. 

Isolated time out may be used ONLY if the adult in the time out room or enclosure is in imminent danger of serious physical harm because the student is unable to cease actively engaging in extreme physical aggression.

Mechanical restraint and chemical restraint are prohibited.

Prone restraint is prohibited except when ALL of the following conditions are satisfied:

-the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan specifically allows for prone restraint of the student;

-the Behavior Interventions Plan was put in place before January 1, 2021;

-the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan has been approved by the IEP team;

-the school staff member or staff members applying the use of prone restraint on a student have been trained in its safe application as established by rule by the State Board of Education;

-the school must be able to document and demonstrate to the IEP team that the use of other de-escalation techniques provided for in the student’s Behavior Intervention Plan were ineffective; and

-the use of prone restraint occurs within the 2021-2022 school year

 

The use of any of the following rooms or enclosures for an isolated time out or time out purposes is prohibited: 

-a locked room or a room in which a door is obstructed, prohibiting it from opening;

-a confining space such as a closet or box;

-a room where the student cannot be continually observed; or

-any other room or enclosure or time out procedure that is contrary to current ISBE rules.

The deprivation of necessities needed to sustain the health of a person, including the denial or unreasonable delay in the provision of food or liquid, medication, or the use of a restroom, is prohibited. 

Each school district is to develop a plan for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint (School Code 105 ILCS 5/2-3.130).  The plans are to include actions to be taken to:

-reduce and eventually eliminate a reliance on isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint for behavioral interventions and develop non-coercive environments;

-develop individualized student plans that are oriented toward prevention of the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint with the intent that a plan be separate and apart from a student’s individualized education program or a student’s plan for services under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973;

-ensure that appropriate school personnel are fully informed of the student’s history, including any history of physical or sexual abuse, and other relevant medical and mental health information; and

-support a vision for cultural change that reinforces positive behavioral interventions and support rather than isolated time out, time out, and physical restraints; effective ways to de-escalate situations to avoid isolated time out, time out, or physical restraint; crisis intervention techniques that use alternatives to isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint; and

-use of debriefing meetings to reassess what occurred and why it occurred and to think through ways to prevent use of the intervention the next time.

 
(Posted 8/25/2021)
Special Education Services - Age 22
 

Special education services are provided to eligible students with disabilities beginning at age 3. For some students, services continue through age 21. Until now, services had to end on the day before the student turned 22 even if that was mid-school year. Legislation passed July 28, 2021 allows students who turn 22 during a school year to finish out the school year. 

Public Act 102-0172

Illinois State Board of Education FAQ on Public Act 102-0172

 
(Posted 8/25/2021)
Severe Allergic Reactions
 

Illinois House Bill 102 became Public Act 102-0413 and is now known as the Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act. This law providing safety measures related to severe allergic reacations of children in day care settings or schools is effective July 1, 2021. This law ensures that day care and school staff have policies and procedures in place to response to students experiencing anaphylaxis.

Allergic reacations are unpredictable and can quickly turn into a life-threatening emergency. Day care and school staff need to know the signs of allergic reaction and be prepared to take action. This legislation helps parents konw their children will be safer during the time they spend away from home and in the care of others.

Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act

 
(Posted 8/12/2021)
Masks Required for ALL Students
 

On August 11, 2021, the Illinois State Board of Education issued a letter to all school superintendents regarding the Governor’s requirement that all students, staff and visitors wear masks indoors in all P-12 schools in Illinois.  ISBE noted that noncompliance is not an option for districts.  Districts whose boards vote to ‘only recommend’ masks will be given opportunities to correct that action.  If the requirement is not adhered to after a probation period, the district will lose all state funding and lose the ability to engage in IL High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association athletic competitions. 

ISBE Letter to Superintendents

Governor’s Order for Masking

 
(Posted 6/15/2021)
ABA-Applied Behavior Analysis
Now an Option for More Children with Autism
 

Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence-based approach for providing therapy to children with autism. It focuses on improving motor skills, communication, academics and behaviors. In 2008, Illinois passed a law requiring insurance companies to cover ABA therapy. In 2019, Illinois passed a law saying ABA was included in coverage for children with autism who qualified for Medicaid.

Few children using Medicaid could access the services due to a restriction on the qualifications of the person providing the therapy. The therapy for children under Medicaid had to be provided by an enrolled Board Certified Behavior Analyst who was also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Very few professionals in Illinois met this criteria. 

As of June 2021, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services has agreed to allow Board Certified Behavior Analysts who work under an enrolled provider to also provide the ABA therapy to children on Medicaid. This drastically increases the availability of the therapy for children in low-income families.

Learn more from McManus Consulting Disability Serviceds

 
(Posted 5/24/2021)
Only In-Person Learning for School Year 2021-2022
 

On May 19, 2021, The Illinois State Board of Education voted 7-0 to return all schools to full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. The resolution notes that in-person learning is essential for students' mental health and social-emotional development. The members took into consideration the capability of schools to rapidly identify new cases to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks and reduce the risk of further transmission due to access to rapid testing. Schools will be able to offer remote instruction to students not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine who are under a quarantine order.

Supporting In-Person Learning Resolution

 
(Posted 4/09/2021)
Increase in Homeschooling this School Year
 

The United States Census Bureau released statistics in March 2021 about the number of families in the United States who are now homeschooling their children.  In Illinois, the percentage of households who homeschooled was 2.1 % in May of 2020.  That increased to 5.4 % by October 2020.  The report notes “It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children. From the much-discussed “pandemic pods,” (small groups of students gathering outside a formal school setting for in-person instruction) to a reported influx of parent inquiries about stand-alone virtual schools, private schools and homeschooling organizations, American parents are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”

Homeschooling on the Rise

 
(Posted 3/12/2021)
Changes to Illinois Law Related to Education
 

The Illinois School Code has been amended by Public Act 101-0654, the Education Omnibus Bill (HB2170) as of March 8, 2021.  In part, the law: requires the State Board of Education to annually assess all public school students entering kindergarten creates the Whole Child Task Force to establish an equitable, inclusive, safe, and supportive environment in all schools for every student makes changes concerning eligibility requirements for early intervention services (birth to three) requires the Illinois P-20 Council to make recommendations for short-term and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Act 101-0654