Special Education Issues Related to Possible Teacher Work Stoppage

Thank you to CCOSA Attorney Andrea Kunkel for providing the following information!

Special education directors and other administrators or teachers with special education responsibilities, please review and consider these issues in anticipation of a possible teacher work stoppage beginning on April 2:

1.  Spring is a popular time for IEP team meetings. Directors should review with teachers any IEP team meetings that must be scheduled and held prior to any teacher work stoppage to avoid missing the annual review date for IEPs that will come due during the stoppage. In the worst case scenario, a work stoppage could potentially last through the end of the 2017-18 school year (or longer). Thinking about that possible worst case scenario, directors should consider which meetings must be scheduled or rescheduled before the proposed work stoppage date. (Same for Section 504 annual review meetings) The same consideration should be given to meetings for students for whom graduation is anticipated. Summary of Performance documents may need to be completed before the stoppage as well. Meetings to address ESY need/services may also be needed now.

2.  Three-year IDEA reevaluation timelines may come due during the work stoppage period. Again, directors should review with teachers MEEGS/IEP team meetings that must be scheduled and held before the stoppage to avoid missing three-year reevaluation timelines. (Same for Section 504 three-year reevaluations)

3.  MEEGS meetings must be held and IDEA eligibility determined no more than 45 school days from the date of parent consent for evaluation. If school has been entirely suspended during a work stoppage, then this timeline won’t continue to run. However, if school has not been suspended, but teacher absences preclude holding meetings with all necessary personnel in attendance, then that could impact Districts’ ability to meet this timeline. Therefore, it may be necessary to schedule and hold some MEEGS meetings before the stoppage. (Same for Section 504 evaluations)

4.  There will likely be entities that will continue providing services to your students with disabilities, as provided by their IEPs, even if instructional and related services aren’t delivered by your district. Just for example, at least some career tech schools will probably continue classes during any teacher work stoppage. The same may be true of Head Start centers and other places. If your students don’t attend or don’t have the opportunity to attend, including the provision of transportation and supportive services such as paras and sign language interpreters (if those are services the District ordinarily provides for those students) then they will miss classes/services that cannot easily be made up. Make sure you know which students fall into this category, confirm whether classes/services will continue at those non-District sites and – if possible – try to make arrangements for your students to continue those classes/services during any teacher work stoppage.

5.  This isn’t necessarily a special ed issue, but check contracts between the District and different entities (like day treatment centers, residential treatment centers, juvenile detention centers, etc.) that require the District to provide teachers to provide on-site educational services at those sites. Check contract language to see what the limits are on the District’s obligations (such as, teachers will be provided only on District school days). It is possible that contracts may call for consequences to the District if teachers are not provided under certain circumstances.

6.  If instruction will continue for District students at the Oklahoma Schools for the Blind and Deaf, then any District responsibility for transportation services will also continue. Please contact the schools and arrange or confirm transportation arrangements, as appropriate.

7.  Districts may have obligations to provide services under Individualized Service Plans to students attending private schools located within District boundaries. Private schools will be in session even if public school teachers engage in a work stoppage.  Investigate how to continue services required under ISPs, if at all possible. If some services can’t be delivered under ISPs during a work stoppage, plan to make them up later.

8.  There may be some students – such as some children who are 3-5 years old – who receive only related services on a drop-in basis at a school site. Investigate whether it is possible to continue providing those services during a work stoppage. If not, plan to make them up later.

9.  Coordinate with contracted related service providers from outside the District in the event it is not possible to arrange to continue their services to students during a work stoppage.

10.  An extended work stoppage may lead some parents to claim a denial of FAPE, even if missed days are ultimately made up. Parents claiming FAPE denial (for services not provided during an extended time, thereby impacting progress), may seek not only the make-up of missed days, but other compensatory services. If such issues arise, the student’s IEP or 504 team should meet to consider the parent’s claim.  Too, if school personnel have reason to think that delivery of FAPE is compromised, they should request an IEP or 504 team meeting to consider the issue.

11.  If a lengthy work stoppage is anticipated, directors should work with teachers and related service personnel to perhaps put together lists of appropriate activities parents could engage in with their children with disabilities while school is not in session (much the same as may already be done for summer breaks).

12.  Parents of students with disabilities may need even more support from school staff than the parents of nondisabled students and may feel more stress and frustration in the event of a teacher work stoppage. Any reassurance or support that District personnel can offer them in advance (and during the stoppage) may help to avoid explosive frustration if the stoppage is lengthy. Plan to work closely with parents to allay concerns about missed services.

13.  Most students with disabilities will be taking the regular assessment with or without accommodations.  Their assessment timeline/participation concerns will be the same. For students participating in the DLM alternate assessment, the timeline is longer – until May 4. Nevertheless, Directors, along with teachers, should consider how to meet the alternate assessment timeline in the event of a lengthy work stoppage and, in the alternative, the consequences for failure to meet the timeline.

14.  MEEGS and IEP meetings must be held by the 3rd birthday of young children transitioning from Sooner Start to District services.  For any child whose 3rd birthday would otherwise fall during the anticipated work stoppage period, please schedule and hold the meeting beforehand.