The Ohio Department of Education has proposed a slew of revisions to the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), several of which will negatively impact students with disabilities.
The most alarming change proposed is the removal of a school district’s obligation to obtain parental consent before changing a student’s educational placement (OAC 3301-51-05). If the rule is adopted as written, a school district can transfer a student to the more restrictive environment of a private school, even if the parents oppose that decision. The school district can also remove a student from an outside environment, bringing them back to their home school, a much less restrictive environment, without parental approval. Change of placement does not always involve a separate facility; it can also include moving a student from general education classes with supports, to a self-contained classroom in the same building, with no typical peers. This is a big deal!
A second, huge change is the addition of the term “Educational Agency”(OAC Chapter 3301-51-01). It looks as though all “Educational Agencies” are now responsible for much of what used to be the exclusive responsibility of the school district: child find, evaluations, IEPs, etc. The term “Educational Agency” does include school districts, but it also includes Educational Service Centers, DD Boards, open enrollment school districts, juvenile justice facilities and potentially multiple other agencies that “provide or seek to provide special education.” The definition itself is very unclear as to which agencies it encompasses, and the substitution of this definition for school district in many spots throughout the proposed rules makes it quite unclear now who is responsible for what, and exactly how the dispute resolution process (i.e., Due Process Complaints) would unfold.
A third proposed change is that school districts and parents would no longer have the opportunity to choose their own mediator. The Ohio Department of Education would select the mediator. To see the full list of special education rules currently under review, click here.
The good news is that these changes haven’t been made yet, and there’s a way for you to voice your opposition to the proposal. Send your comments about the proposed changes via email to: email@example.com. Be sure to include the rule number you are referencing (for example, OAC 3301-51-05). Let your voice be heard – but do it before July 31, 2020—that’s the deadline!