P. O. BOX 2120
August 15, 1997


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Richard T. La Pointe
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (P.L. 105-17)

  Public Law 105-17, Amendments to the Individuals with
  Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was enacted on June 4,
  1997.  Many of the new requirements that affect local policy
  and procedure are effective immediately.  Although the Board
  of Education has not yet revised special education
  regulations, the new federal statute will supersede existing
  regulations in any areas of inconsistency.  The purpose of
  this memorandum is to provide you with information about steps
  the Department plans to take in implementing  the new
  requirements as well as information designed to assist
  localities in doing the same.  Specifically, we will address
  our immediate response to the new requirements and provide
  several guidance documents which will be forwarded by mail and
  copied to local Directors of Special Education.
  Timeline for Implementation of the IDEA Amendments of 1997
  Many of the new requirements are effective immediately. For
  your information, attached is the Memorandum dated June 12,
  1997, from Thomas Hehir of the U.S. Office of Special
  Education Programs, summarizing the timelines set forth in
  the IDEA Amendments.

  Plans for Revising State Regulations

  Our plan is to await final federal regulations before
  revised state regulations are prepared.  Current projections
  by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
  indicate that a draft of  the  federal regulations will be
  introduced in late September 1997;   final regulations are
  scheduled for April 1998.  State regulations will be revised
  as soon as possible after April 1998 in accordance with the
  provisions of the Virginia Administrative Process Act.

  Special Education Complaints and Due Process

  The special education complaints staff and hearing officers
  will apply the IDEA Amendments that became effective on June
  4, 1997, to events which occurred after the effective date. 
  Where the events occurred before the effective date of the new
  Amendments, the special education complaints staff and hearing
  officers will apply IDEA requirements as they existed prior to
  the 1997 Amendments.  Where federal or state regulations
  conflict with the effective IDEA Amendments, the statutory
  language will be applied. Regulations developed by the U.S.
  Department of Education and the Virginia Department of
  Education will be applied as they become effective.

  Federal Program Monitoring of Special Education Programs

  The IDEA Amendments will impact school divisions in all three
  phases of the monitoring process during 1997-98.  Information
  regarding Phase I of the monitoring process will be provided
  at the 1997 Summer Institutes to school divisions that will be
  conducting self-assessments during the 1997-98 school year. 
  On-site reviews will be conducted in the same manner as before
  for school divisions receiving on-site visits (Phase II)
  except that the new requirements will be added as focus areas. 
  School divisions will not be cited during the on-site review
  for failure to meet the new requirements.  However, areas
  where school divisions are not meeting the new requirements
  will be identified and follow-up will be conducted on these
  issues during Phase III of the review process.

  Special Education Annual Plans and IDEA Part B Grant Awards

  As a condition of the 1997-98 grant award of federal funds,
  localities must comply with all the requirements of the IDEA
  Amendments.  Revisions to local Annual Plan policies and
  procedures in response to the new requirements will need to be
  submitted to appropriate Department technical assistance
  staff.  Further information regarding the schedule of the
  Annual Plan submission requirements will be forthcoming.

  Comparison of Virginia Regulations and IDEA Amendments of 1997

  Department personnel have prepared a comparison of Virginia
  Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children
  with Disabilities, 1994  and the IDEA Amendments of 1997 (P.L.
  105-17). While this document is lengthy, it provides a
  comprehensive overview of the new requirements in a format
  designed to identify easily the pertinent changes


  The IDEA Amendments set forth immediate implementation of
  requirements that  allow parties to resolve disputes through
  a mediation process which, at a minimum, shall be available
  whenever a due process hearing is requested.   As the Virginia
  Department of Education develops this statewide process, an
  interim process is offered to guide school divisions in
  implementing these requirements. (See attached, Mediation - An
  Interim Process, Aug. 1997) 

  Prior Written Notice and Procedural Safeguards

  The amendments require that additional information be provided
  to parents as part of the prior written notice and statement
  of procedural safeguards. The revised model notice is attached
  and may be duplicated. (See attached, Parental Rights in
  Special Education and Addendum to Parental Rights in Special
  Education, July 1997)

  Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plan

  The IDEA Amendments requiring a functional behavioral
  assessment and behavioral intervention in the context of
  disciplining students with disabilities, are effective
  immediately.  A technical assistance document addressing this
  topic has been developed and will be distributed by mail to
  local Directors of Special Education under separate cover.

  We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.  We realize the
  difficulties created by federal amendments that are effective
  immediately while regulations are at least several months
  away.  Providing assistance to school divisions and engaging
  in discussion to develop regulations,  during this period, are
  our major priorities.

  Attached is an updated listing of technical assistance
  personnel. Questions about this memorandum may be referred to
  H. Douglas Cox, Director, Office of  Special Education and
  Student Services or Dr. Judy Douglas, Associate Director,
  Special Programs, Division of Compliance.  Mr. Cox can be
  reached at (804) 225-2402 and Dr. Douglas at (804) 225-2771.


  Attachments:  A hard copy of this memo and its attachment
                will be sent to the superintendent's office.

  cc: Local Directors of Special Education