US Department of Education issues Dear Colleague Letter re: Braille instruction
In a recent Dear Colleague Letter, 113 LRP 25708 (OSERS 2013), US Department of Education reaffirmed the importance of Braille instruction as a literacy tool for blind and visually impaired students. Under the IDEA, districts must provide Braille instruction to visually impaired students, unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child. The evaluation of vision status and the need for Braille instruction should be thorough and rigorous, include a data-based media assessment, be based on a range of learning modalities, including auditory, tactile, and visual, and include a functional visual assessment.
In the Dear Colleague Letter, the Department reiterated that district’s cannot necessarily use a child’s current vision status in determining whether it would be inappropriate for that child to receive Braille instruction while in school because an evaluation must also consider a child’s future needs. This is particular true, the Department noted, for a child with a degenerative vision condition who may have a high degree of functional vision when the evaluation is conducted. The Department also noted that other factors that must not serve as the sole basis for denying Braille instruction include: personnel shortages, the availability of alternative media (such as large print materials and computers with speech output), or the amount of time that would be required to adequately train the child to use Braille.
To view this Dear Colleague Letter, you can find it under the Legal References/ Guidance Documents of our client access section.
US Department of Education issues model notice of parental rights for accessing public insurance
On February 14, 2013, the US Department of Education published final regulations that changed the requirements related to obtaining parental consent to access public benefits or insurance such as Medicaid. Previously, districts were required to obtain parental consent each time the district sought to access to public benefits or insurance. The new regulations, which took effect on March 18, 2013, make it easier to access these benefits by only requiring a district to obtain a one-time written consent from the parent before accessing the child’s or the parent’s public benefits or insurance for the first time and annually thereafter.  
Before seeking written consent, a district must provide the parent with written notification that describes the parent’s parental rights.  The written notification must inform the child’s parent of all the rights and protections that are available under the IDEA so that the parent can make an informed decision regarding whether to allow the district to use the parent or the child’s public benefits or insurance.   Specifically, the written notification must contain: (1) a statement of the parental consent requirements in 34 CFR §300.154(d)(2)(iv); (2) a statement of the “at no cost” provisions in 34 CFR §300.154(d)(2); (3) a statement that parents have the right to withdraw their consent at any time; and (4) a statement of the district’s continuing obligation to ensure that all required services are provided at no cost to the parent even if the parent withdraws his or her consent or refuses consent. 
To assist districts in implementing the new parental consent requirement, the US Department of Education, in a Memorandum to State Directors of Special Education, 113 LRP 25233 (OSERS 2013),  issued a model notice of parent rights. Districts are not required to use the model notice issued by the Department. Districts must, however, ensure that the notice used includes all of the required information. 
To view this Memorandum to State Directors of Special Education, you can find it under the Legal References/ Guidance Documents of our client access section.
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