Every child, regardless of their unique learning needs, deserves access to quality education. For families who need special education in Pennsylvania, it is crucial to understand the services and rights available. At Purdy Law Office, LLC, we are committed to guiding families through this journey, ensuring that each child receives the support they deserve.
In the Keystone State, the Pennsylvania Department of Education ensures that special education services are effectively implemented and children with disabilities have access to a free, appropriate public education.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education formulates and refines special education regulations and policies but also takes a proactive role in their enforcement. By working hand-in-hand with the Bureau of Special Education, the department ensures that state-level practices and provisions correspond with overarching federal guidelines. This synergy guarantees that each child in Pennsylvania, regardless of their specific needs, benefits from a consistent and high-quality standard of education tailored to them.
To be eligible for special education, a child must have a disability that affects their educational performance that requires specially designed instruction to access the general education curriculum.
The disability categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, hearing impairment, deafness, speech or language impairment, visual impairment, blindness, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairment, specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities.
The school district is responsible for conducting an evaluation to determine if a child has a disability and needs special education services.
The evaluation team, which includes the parents and school personnel, must review the evaluation results and decide if the child meets the eligibility criteria. If the child is eligible, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be developed to address the child’s unique needs and goals.
A parent can request a special education evaluation at any time by contacting the school district in writing. The school district must respond within a reasonable time and obtain the parent’s consent before conducting the evaluation.
A parent can also request a reevaluation if there are concerns about the child’s progress or need for services. A reevaluation must be conducted at least once every three years unless the parent and the school district agree otherwise.
There are different types of special education services available in Pennsylvania, depending on the level of support and instruction a child with a disability needs. The types of services are categorized as follows:
- Full-time: Special education supports and services provided by special education personnel for 80% or more of the school day. This may include placement in a special class, a special school, or a residential facility.
- Supplemental: Special education supports and services provided by special education personnel for more than 20% but less than 80% of the school day. This may include placement in a regular class with supplementary aids and services, a resource room, or a learning support class.
- Itinerant: Special education supports and services provided by special education personnel for 20% or less of the school day. This may include placement in a regular class with consultation, monitoring, or direct services from special education personnel.
In Pennsylvania, the special education evaluation process begins with a combination of standardized tests, observational methodologies, and expert consultations to build a multi-faceted understanding of the child’s strengths and challenges. Once this assessment is completed, the findings form the bedrock upon which an IEP is built. The IEP is a dynamic blueprint tailored to the individual child, laying out the services, interventions, and goals that will guide their education. Through special education services in PA, every evaluation is geared towards setting the child on a path to success.
Ensuring special education compliance is important to maintain the balance between the school’s responsibilities and the student’s rights.
The rights of students and parents in special education in Pennsylvania are based on federal and state laws and regulations that protect the interests and needs of children with disabilities and their families. Some of the main rights are:
- The right to a free, appropriate public education for every child with a disability, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
- The right to be involved in the identification, evaluation, and placement of their child and to give or withhold consent for these actions.
- The right to participate in the development, review, and revision of their child’s IEP and to have an independent educational evaluation (IEE) if they disagree with the school’s evaluation.
- The right to be informed of all the procedural protection that are available to them, such as the right to inspect and review their child’s educational records, the right to request mediation or a due process hearing to resolve special education disagreements with the school district, and the right to file a complaint with the state education agency.
- The right to have their child educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means that their child should be educated with children who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate and that removal from the regular education setting should occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
If you’re seeking clarity, advice, or legal representation to protect you and your child’s educational rights, we’re here for you. You can lean on Purdy Law Office, LLC because when it comes to your child’s future, we’re as invested as you are. Contact us today for a case evaluation.