The Special Education Process
The Forest Hills School District is committed to providing a continuum of services that offers students with disabilities the opportunity to access the general curriculum of the district in the least restrictive environment. Services are designed in alignment with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 04) and state law (Chapter 14) to meet the needs of Forest Hills students with disabilities. These services are provided at no cost to students who qualify.
The Special Education Department is committed to supporting the delivery of specially designed instructional strategies and related services as prescribed on an identified students Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with an emphasis on increasing opportunities for students with disabilities to learn and grow with non-disabled peers.
Special education is instruction that is individually prescribed to meet the unique learning strengths and needs of an individual school-aged student with disabilities from kindergarten through graduation from high school. The specially designed instruction and related services focus on academics as well as therapeutic needs to help a child overcome his or her difficulties in varied areas of development. These services may be offered in a variety of educational settings, but are required by the IDEA to be delivered in the least restrictive environment.
A student must be evaluated and identified as having a disability and in need of specially designed instructional strategies by a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation (MDE) to be eligible for special education programs and related services. Disability categories are as follows:
• Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorder
• Emotional Disturbance
• Hearing Impairment including Deafness
• Intellectual Disability
• Multiple Disabilities
• Orthopedic Impairments
• Other Health Impairments
• Specific Learning Disability
• Speech and Language Impairments
• Traumatic Brain Injury
• Vision Impairment including Blindness
Examples of Related Services include:
• Assistive Technology
• Occupational Therapy
• Orientation and Mobility
• Physical Therapy
• Speech and Language
The Forest Hills District provides for students with disabilities with a variety of types and levels of supports. Types include Speech and Language Support, Vision Support, Hearing Support, Learning Support, Emotional Support, and Life Skills Support. Levels include Itinerant, Supplemental, and Full-time. In some instances, arrangements are made for students to attend classes in other locations such as Appalachia Intermediate Unit 08 Classrooms located outside of the district. All decisions on placements are made and approved by the IEP team. Services and transportation are paid for by the school district.
Eligibility for Special Education Services
The district conducts ongoing Child-Find activities for the purpose of identifying students who may be in need of special education and related services. Additionally, parents and teachers who suspect a child may need services can make a referral to the Student Resource Team (SRT) to explore regular education supports and classroom modifications. Multi-disciplinary evaluations (MDE) follow for those not making sufficient progress with SRT supports. Parents can also directly request an MDE regardless of whether their child attends public, private, or parochial school.
A Multi-disciplinary evaluation (MDE) consists of information provided by parents and school personnel, classroom observations, a review of records from school or outside agencies or providers, and assessments by specialists when appropriate (e.g. school psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language therapist, behavior specialist, consulting psychiatrist). The results are summarized in an Evaluation Report (ER) which discusses eligibility, need, and recommendations for specially designed instruction and related services. The report must be completed in 60 days. An initial evaluation cannot begin without written parent consent.
Individualized Education Process
If the student is found to be eligible and in need of specially designed instructional strategies through the evaluation process, an IEP meeting is held with team members (parents, school personnel, specialists) to develop the Individual Education Plan. The IEP team determines the instructional program, goals, objectives, related services, supports for school personnel, and specially designed instruction to meet the needs of the student. The team must convene in no less than 10 school days and no more than 30 school days from the date of the ER. Parents can opt to meet as soon as they wish after receipt of the ER by signing a waiver with the district.
Notice of Recommended Educational Placement
The completed IEP will be mailed via certified mail to the parents with a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP). Once the parents have signed their approval of the IEP and returned the approved NOREP to the Special Education Department, the district may proceed with services.
IEPs must be reviewed at least annually. This means that the team reconvenes to review the progress of the student on the IEP goals and objectives and makes necessary revisions. The Re-Evaluation process is tri-annual, except for students with mental retardation, in which it is bi-annual. Teams can choose to conduct a review of records if no additional testing is deemed necessary.
A parent can request that an IEP be re-opened at any point during the life of the IEP if they feel changes are warranted. A parent can request a Re-Evaluation at any point in the 2 or 3-year cycle if they feel additional testing is necessary.
Transition services are defined by IDEA as a coordinated set of activities for a student, designated within an outcome-oriented process, to promote movement from school to post-school activities including: post-secondary education/training, employment, and community living (residential, participation, and recreation/leisure). These activities are based on the individual needs of each student, taking into consideration his/her preferences and interests. IEP goals and objectives may address Instruction and Related Services, Community Experiences, Acquisition of Daily Living Skills, Functional Vocational Evaluation, and Adult Living. Students with disabilities have equal access to career education services, including a career assessment that occurs by 9th grade. That data will assist the IEP team in appropriate transition planning.
Parent Tips for Attending IEP Meetings
Either the parent or school personnel may initiate an IEP meeting. Look over the information you have about your child and write down any questions or concerns you may have. The IEP conference is an excellent opportunity to ask these questions and to discuss any concerns. School staff can respond and also be provided any additional information you can share. The program being designed is based on the child’s needs. If you do not agree with something, let the team know. If you feel the teachers are doing a nice job, let them know that also. Teachers who will be working with your child will be assessing his or her progress on a continuing basis. They will report this progress to you on a quarterly basis.
A child’s progress must also be reviewed each year at a new IEP meeting. Parents are a part of that review team. At the review meeting, a new IEP will be developed for the next IEP year. Remember that even though the IEP review meeting typically occurs annually, parents have the right to request a new IEP meeting anytime they feel their child’s educational needs are not being met. When you have concerns, talk to your teacher or principal. They can help you decide if the IEP team needs to be brought together again to discuss the need for programmatic changes.
In compliance with state law, services designed to meet the unique needs of gifted students are provided. Students are identified individually based on guidelines and regulations embodied in state law under Chapter 16. Students who possess superior intelligence scores or who meet the multiple eligibility criteria indicating gifted ability by the Gifted Multidisciplinary Team are provided with a program of specially designed instruction to meet the outstanding intellectual and creative abilities of the student. Gifted instructional services for eligible students are delineated on a Gifted Individualized Education Plan and address areas of demonstrated gifted achievement. If your child is suspected to qualify for gifted services, you will be notified of screening and evaluation procedures. Requests for screening and evaluation procedures should be made to your building principal who will direct you to the appropriate forms and personnel.
Services for Protected Handicapped Students
In compliance with state law (Chapter 15) and federal law (Section 504), The Forest Hills School District provides services, related aids, or reasonable accommodations needed to provide equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the school program and extracurricular activities. In order to qualify, a student must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits a major life activity. If an evaluation and subsequent parent/school team determine that a child is eligible, a service agreement, noting reasonable accommodations in regular education is developed. These services are distinct from those applicable to students in special education. For further information on the evaluation procedures and provision of services to protected handicapped students, parents can contact the Director of Special Education.