Periodically the United States Department of Education (USDOE) issues letters that are determined to be significant guidance. While the letters are non-binding and do not create new legal requirements, the information is intended to assist states and public school districts in meeting obligations under federal regulatory requirements. Three letters determined by USDOE to be significant guidance were issued in summer regarding students with disabilities.
Dear Colleague Letter on the Inclusion of Behavioral Supports in Individualized Education Programs (OSEP)
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued a letter of significant guidance related to the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), reminding states and districts of the responsibility for ensuring a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, including the IEP team addressing the implications of a child’s behavioral needs. OSEP further clarifies that a failure to consider and provide for needed behavioral supports through the IEP may result in a student not receiving a meaningful educational benefit or FAPE. The letter provides IDEA requirements for PBIS as well as resources that support planning and implementation of services.
The Ohio Department of Education requires use of a PBIS framework to support a positive school climate and supports for all Ohio students in public school districts. Professional learning and technical assistance to implement PBIS is supported by State Support Teams throughout the state.
Dear Colleague Letter on Online and Virtual Schools and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (OSEP)
In the first of what is promised to be additional guidance, the Office of Special Education Programs issued a letter of significant guidance to states and public school districts regarding the education of students with disabilities who are enrolled in an online or virtual school. The definition of a virtual school is provided in the guidance along with an outline of the general supervisory responsibilities for the state education agency as well as the public school district, whether a community (public charter) school or a school in a traditional school district. In the conclusion of the letter, OSEP states: “The educational rights and protections afforded to children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA must not be diminished or compromised when children with disabilities attend virtual schools that are constituted as LEAs or are public schools of an LEA.” (Dear Colleague Letter: Virtual Schools, 8-5-16)
Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on Students with ADHD (OCR)
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the USDOE issued the letter and resource guide as significant guidance to state and local education agencies. The focus of the policy guidance is on the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The letter highlights problems in the areas of identification and evaluation, provision of supplementary aids and services in appropriate settings, failure to provide relevant information and documentation to staff, and decisions being made based on administrative and financial burden rather than the needs of the student. The resource guide included with the letter provides guidance on Section 504 requirements and considerations for students with ADHD.
U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on English Learners
The U.S. Department of Education today released non-regulatory guidance to help states, districts and schools provide effective services to improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement of English learners (ELs) through Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance is an effort to ensure that students who are English learners receive the high-quality services they need to be college and career ready.