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Special Education

It is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the Commonwealth, including children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated. This responsibility is required by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA 2004).

The IDEIA 2004 requires each state educational agency to publish a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, before any major identification, location, or evaluation activity. The IDEIA 2004 requires this notice to contain certain information. Another federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which protects confidentiality, requires educational agencies to notify parents annually of the confidentiality rights (FERPA regulations were amended in 2008). Pennsylvania special education regulations require each school district to fulfill the IDEIA 2004 notice requirement by providing an annual public notice. To comply with the above requirements, following is the annual public notice. Note: The federal and state special education regulations upon which this notice was based were those regulations in effect on June 28, 2008.

Richland School District is required by the IDEIA 2004 to provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities who need special education and related services. (Note: the duty to identify, locate, evaluate, and provide special education services to school-age individuals incarcerated in local correction institutions rests with the school district within whose boundaries such an institution is located.) Pennsylvania must adopt state laws, regulations, and/or policies conforming with the IDEIA 2004 which school districts must follow. In Pennsylvania, school age children with disabilities who need special education and related services are identified as exceptional. Students are exceptional if they need specially designed instruction and have one of more or the following physical or mental disabilities:

Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Emotional Disturbance
Traumatic Brain Injury
Deafness
Deaf-Blindness
Hearing Impairment
Specific Learning Disability
Mental Retardation
Other Health Impairment
Orthopedic Impairment
Speech or Language Impairment
Visual Impairment including Blindness
Multiple Disabilities

 


Early Intervention


The IDEIA 2004 requires the provision of a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities between 3 years of age and the school district's age of beginners. In Pennsylvania, a child between 3 years of age and the school district's age of beginners who has a developmental delay or one or more of the physical or mental disabilities listed above may be identified as an "eligible young child."

Eligible young children are afforded the rights of school age exceptional children, including screening, evaluation, individualized education program planning, and provisions of appropriate programs and services. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is responsible for providing programs and services to eligible young children under Act 212 of 1990, the Early Intervention Services System Act. The Intermediate Unit 8 provides programs and services to eligible young children on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. For more information, contact the IU8 Preschool Office at (800) 228-7900.

 

Screening

Richland School District has established and implemented procedures to locate, identify, and evaluate students and young children suspected of being exceptional. These procedures involve screening activities which include but are not limited to: reviews of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, and report cards); hearing screening (at a minimum of kindergarten special ungraded classes, first, second, third, seventh, and eleventh grades); vision screening (every grade level). The above screening activities may lead to consideration to move to the next level of evaluation. Intermediate Unit 8 and each school district have an established annual schedule to conduct screening activities. The screenings are conducted at specific times during the school year in designated school buildings and community sites. Parents, guardians or surrogate parents may contact their local school district or Intermediate Unit 8 contact person to obtain specific information about the times and locations of screening activities. The contact person for Richland School District and phone number is listed at the end of this notice.

Except as indicated above or otherwise announced publicly, screening activities take place in an ongoing fashion throughout the school year. Screening is conducted in the student's home school unless other arrangements are necessary.

 


Evaluation

When screening indicates that a student may be exceptional, the school district will seek parental consent to conduct an evaluation. Evaluation means procedures used in the determination of whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs.

In Pennsylvania, this evaluation is conducted by a group of qualified professionals, which must include at least a certified school psychologist (when evaluating a child for autism, emotional disturbance, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, other health impairments, specific learning disability, or traumatic brain injury), a teacher, and the parents. The evaluation process must be conducted in accordance with specific time lines and must include protection-in-evaluation procedures. For example, tests and procedures used as part of the evaluation may not be racially or culturally biased.

The evaluation process results in a written evaluation report called an Evaluation Report (ER). This report makes recommendations about a student's eligibility for special education based on the presence of a disability and the need for specially designed instruction. The evaluation report also makes recommendations for educational programming, regardless of whether or not the team recommends that the student is exceptional. Once parental consent for evaluation is obtained, the school district has time lines and procedures specified by law which it must follow.
Parents who think their child is exceptional may request, at any time, that the school district conduct an evaluation. This request should be made in writing. If a parent makes an oral request for an evaluation, the school district shall provide the parent with a form for the purpose of making a written request. Prereferral activities do not serve as a bar to the right of a parent to request, at any time, including prior to or during the conducting of instructional/educational support activities, an evaluation.

Parents also have the right to obtain an independent educational evaluation. The school district must provide to parents, on request, information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained. Under certain circumstances, such independent education evaluation may be obtained at public expense.

 

Educational Placement

If the student is determined to be exceptional, a group of individuals forming an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team develop a written education plan called an IEP. The IEP shall be based on the results of the evaluation. The IEP team must include the parent(s), at least one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment), at least one special education teacher, or where appropriate, at least one special education provider, and a representative of the school district.  Parents can excuse members of the team from participating when they have either provided information regarding their child in writing to the IEP team or when their area of the child’s program will not be discussed.

An IEP describes a student's current educational levels, goals, objectives (if appropriate), and the individualized programs and services that the student will receive. IEP's are reviewed on an annual basis. The IEP team will make decisions about the type of services, the level of intervention, and the location of intervention. Types of services include:

  • Learning Support 
  • Life Skills Support
  • Emotional Support
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Support
  • Blind-Visually Impaired Support
  • Speech and Language Support
  • Physical Support
  • Autistic Support  (including sensory support)
  • Multiple Disabilities Support
  • Inclusive Practices (with or without a co-teacher)

Level of intervention options include:

  • Itinerant.
  • Supplemental.
  • Full-time.

Educational placement must be made in the least restrictive environment in which the student's needs can be met. Students with disabilities must be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who are not disabled.

 

Services for Protected Handicapped Students

Students who are not eligible to receive special education programs and services may qualify as protected handicapped students, and therefore, be protected by other federal and state laws intended to prevent discrimination. The school district must ensure that protected handicapped students have equal opportunity to participate in the school program and extracurricular activities to the maximum extent appropriate for each individual student. In compliance with state and federal law, the school district will provide to each handicapped student without discrimination or cost to the student or family, those related aids, services or accommodations which are needed to provide equal opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school program and extracurricular activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the students abilities. In order to qualify as a protected handicapped student the child must be of school age with a physical or mental disability that substantially limits a major life activity, including prohibiting participation in or access to an aspect of the school program.

These services and protections for "protected handicapped students" may be distinct from those applicable to exceptional or thought-to-be exceptional students. The school district or the parent may initiate an evaluation if they believe a student is a protected handicapped student. For further information on the evaluation procedures and provision of services to protected handicapped students, parents should contact the Special Education Contact in the accompanying listing.

 

Confidentiality

Richland School District protects the confidentiality of personally identifiable information regarding its exceptional, thought to be exceptional, and protected handicapped students (if not protected by IDEIA 2004 or Pennsylvania's special education regulations) in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and other applicable federal and state laws, policies, and regulations.

Education records means those records that are directly related to the student, including computer media and videotape, which are maintained by an educational agency or by a party acting for the agency. Educational agency, for purposes of this notice, means the local school district and/or the Intermediate Unit 8. For all students, the educational agency maintains education records that include but are not limited to:

Personally identifiable information - the student's name, name of parents and other family members, the address of the student or student's family, and personal information or personal characteristics which would make the student's identity easily traceable.

Directory information - information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. It includes, but is not limited to, the student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
  • Accrediting organizations;
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
  • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

For additional information or technical assistance, you may call (202) 260-3887 (voice). Individuals who use TDD may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.

Or you may contact the following:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920

 

Mode of Communication

The consent of this notice has been written in straight forward, simple language. If a person does not understand any of this notice, he or she should contact the school district or Intermediate Unit 8 and request an explanation. The school district will arrange for an interpreter for parents with limited English proficiency. If a parent is deaf or blind or has no written language, the school district will arrange for communication of this notice in the mode normally used by the parent (e.g., sign language, Braille, or oral communication).

Special Education Contacts

Appalachia IU08
Amy Woomer
Director of Educational Programs & Services
Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8
4500 6th Avenue
Altoona, PA 16602  
(814) 940-0223

Richland School District
Mrs. Mary Beth Prociuk, Ed.S., NCSP
Director of Special Education
Richland School District
321 Schoolhouse Road
Johnstown, PA 15904
(814) 266-6082