SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 95
May 24, 1996
|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. WCBJr:lpdf