COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P. O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120

SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 95
May 24, 1996

INFORMATIONAL

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: William C. Bosher, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: The Comprehensive Services Act, Special Education Students and the Least Restrictive Environment


  Many questions have arisen in recent months about the
  relationship between the Individualized Education Program
  (IEP) and the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for
  children who are served by the Comprehensive Services Act. 
  This Memorandum is designed as a reminder of the
  relationship between special education and the Comprehensive
  Services Act, specifically with regard to implementation of
  the least restrictive environment provisions of special
  education.  It is intended to help localities in their
  effective use of community resources in meeting the special
  education needs of their children.
  
  The Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and
  Families (CSA) is a child-centered, family-focused,
  community-based approach to meeting the needs of certain
  youth in Virginia.  The General Assembly created CSA to
  foster inter-agency decision-making about services for
  youth, to reduce duplication of services and maximize
  community resources.  In addition, the General Assembly
  eliminated the rate-setting process for private providers,
  with the intention that this would promote the creation of
  necessary services in a more timely fashion.
  
  Two special education funding streams were placed into the
  CSA Pool, effective July 1, 1993.  These streams had
  previously paid for private day and residential special
  education placements, whether made by the local school
  division according to the student's IEP (Special Education
  Private Tuition) or made by social services or the juvenile
  justice system (Interagency Assistance Fund).  The federal
  provisions of special education require that the services
  identified on the IEP be provided. Further, the law only
  permits modification of the IEP by an IEP committee or a
  hearing officer following a special education due process
  hearing. The CSA Implementation Manual and certain CSA
  Newsletters (e.g., March 1994) provide additional
  information regarding the relationships of the IEP to the
  CSA process.
  
  Supt. Memo. No.  95 
  May 24, 1996
  Page 2
                                                             
  During the past two and a half years, many local school
  divisions have found that their efforts to place special
  education students in the least restrictive environment have
  been enhanced by the CSA process.  The support provided by
  other community agencies has often been the necessary
  component to enable children to remain in their community or
  school.  CSA planning has enabled schools to ensure that
  they are meeting the least restrictive environment
  provisions of special education.  
  
     State special education regulations, based on federal
  regulations, describe the least restrictive environment as
  follows:
  
      "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE) means that to the
       maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities,
       including children in public or private institutions or
       other care facilities, are educated with children who
       are not disabled, and that special classes, separate
       schooling or other removal of children with
       disabilities from the regular educational environment
       occurs 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.  (Virginia Board of
       Education, Regulations Governing Special Education
       Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia,
       effective January 1994; 34 CFR,  Assistance to States
       for the Education of Children with Disabilities Program
       and Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities,
       Part 300.550).
  
  Some school divisions have found that other local agencies
  have assisted them in identifying and providing the
  supplementary aids and services to maintain the child in the
  community, in a regular classroom or a regular school.  For
  example, support for youth with emotional and behavioral
  problems is provided by the Community Services Board, for
  youth in foster care by the local Department of Social
  Services, for delinquent youth by the local court service
  unit.  The parent, health department, and private provider
  representatives on the Family Assessment and Planning Team
  (FAPT) offer additional assistance.  The interagency
  approach of CSA has often been identified as valuable in
  meeting the students' needs to be educated in the least
  restrictive environment.  Some of these services may be
  identified on the students' IEP by  the IEP team, whereas
  others are identified on the Individual Family Services Plan
  (IFSP) developed by the FAPT.  
  
  This interagency support is useful before placement in a
  more restrictive setting and during the annual review of the
  student's education plan for students placed in private
  schools by the local school division.  The local school
  division has a continuing obligation to be involved in any
  decisions about the child's IEP and to agree to any proposed
  changes in the program.  (Virginia Board of Education,
  Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for
  Children with Disabilities in Virginia, effective January
  1994; 34 CFR,  Assistance to States for the Education of
  Children with Disabilities Program and Preschool Grants for
  Children with Disabilities, Part 
    
  SUPTS. MEMO NO.  95
  May 24, 1996
  Page 3
                                                             
  300.348).  The interagency focus of CSA has helped many
  school divisions determine how and when a child may be
  returned to a less restrictive environment in the community.
  
     Further, the local CSA structure can also help local
  school divisions meet the transition needs of students with
  disabilities.  The local school division is responsible for
  ensuring that transition planning is included on the IEP for
  each student, beginning no later than age 16.  Collaboration
  with community agencies is critical to ensure that
  transition planning occurs and transition services provided
  for some students.  Many of these community agencies are
  already involved with the student  through the local Family
  Assessment and Planning Team.  Linking these interagency
  teams can increase the effectiveness of services.
  
     As the State Education Agency, the Department of
  Education has the responsibility to ensure that students are
  educated in their least restrictive environment.  Department
  staff  include CSA involvement among the components of
  information reviewed.  
  
     I encourage all local school divisions to view the CSA
  structure and the local CSA teams as resources in meeting
  the requirement to educate students in the least restrictive
  environment.  Dr. Lissa Power-deFur represents the
  Department of Education on the State Management Team of the
  Comprehensive Services Act and is available to answer
  questions.  She can be reached at (804) 225-2818.  Questions
  regarding special education transition can be directed to
  Dr. Sharon deFur at (804) 225-2702.  In addition, local
  school divisions may wish to contact the Special Education
  Technical Assistant assigned to their region.
  
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