Five New Special Education Rights in Florida
Friday, June 21, 2013
Florida’s new Exceptional Student Education law provides students with disabilities and their parents with five important new rights:
An expansion of your current right to bring an adult of your choice with you to meetings about your child with school officials is included in the new law. The law now says that schools cannot object or discourage you from bringing an adult to the meeting and cannot retaliate against you for doing so. Your responsibility is to thoughtfully select the adult and prepare them for the meeting. You will be asked to complete and/or sign a document about whether anyone with the school or district discouraged you from bringing someone, or threatened or retaliated against you. You are responsible to carefully review the document and accurately complete it.
A new right to have a greater voice in two major decisions made by IEP teams each year is included in the new law. IEP teams will be required to use a new standard state informed consent form that includes information about the benefits and consequences of consenting to one or both of these life-changing decisions. From now on, these decisions can only be made if you give your informed consent. The decisions are whether:
- your child will receive instruction on standards and curriculum that do not count toward a regular diploma and therefore be on a special diploma track, and whether
- your child will be educated at an ESE center school (also called a separate day school), defined by state and federal law as a separate school that only students with disabilities attend.
Your responsibility is to learn what your options are and carefully decide whether to give consent during the IEP meeting process. Be aware that these decisions must be reconsidered each year. If you do not consent, the district will have the burden to prove at a due process hearing that the proposal to put your child on a special diploma track or in an ESE center is the correct proposal. Otherwise, these changes will not be implemented.
A new right to have your private certified behavior analyst, applied behavior analyst, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language therapist, psychologist and/or clinical social worker work with public schools personnel and be allowed to observe, collaborate, and serve your child at school is included in the new law. Your responsibility is to negotiate a reasonable time and place that the teacher and principal will agree to. This new right does not relieve the district of any of its obligations to provide these services. This law removes a barrier to collaboration between professionals, reaffirming that professional collaboration usually works best for children with disabilities.
A new right to be informed, at the first IEP meeting of each year, how much money your district is receiving for each of the five ESE funding support levels is included in the new law. Florida Statute 1003.57(j). Your responsibility is to learn this new information, learn what level your child is, and consider how to use this information when advocating for your child.
A new right to request an extraordinary exemption from specified tests, if the test measures disability and not ability, is included in the new law. Under the limited circumstances outlined in the new law, the Commissioner of Education must grant the exemption. The new law also says that if you disagree with a decision, you may use an expedited due process hearing to appeal the decision. Your responsibility is to learn about the exemption and discuss it with your IEP team if you would like to start the process of making the request.
These changes were contained in Senate Bill 1108/House Bill 465, sponsored by Senators Andy Gardiner and Representative Jason Broduer, during the 2013 Florida Legislative session. The bills also made several important systemic improvements to special education in Florida. To learn more about these bills, you may access the final legislative staff analysis from this Florida House webpage.
After Governor Rick Scott approves these changes, they become effective on July 1, 2013.
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