After Criticism, Department Eases Deadline for IEP Changes

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The Department of Education will not require teachers and administrators to rewrite all disabled students' education plans by July 1, officials announced last week.

In an April 28 letter to the chief state school officers and special education directors, the Education Department's special education chief said the agency would not demand that all individualized education programs be revised by that date to comply with new requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Instead, only those IEPs written on or after July 1 must reflect last year's amendments to the IDEA, Judith E. Heumann, the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, wrote. Schools will be allowed to make required revisions to existing plans when a student's IEP comes up for an annual review during the 1998-99 school year, unless a parent requests a review sooner.

Grassroots Opposition

The July 1 proposal--which was included in proposed regulations for the IDEA--generated a huge grassroots protest from school groups and administrators, who said there was no way they could revise the IEPs for all of their students in such a short time. ("Discipline Resurfaces as IDEA Concern at Hearing," April 29, 1998.)

The National Education Association joined with the Reston, Va.-based Council for Exceptional Children to write letters to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and key congressional Republicans protesting the deadline. If the July 1 change-over were mandated, teachers and administrators would have had to spend thousands of overtime hours to hastily rewrite IEPs for their students with disabilities, the groups said.

The 2,500-member Fairfax County (Va.) Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, also organized a telephone campaign last month. Most of the 13,000 teachers in the 143,000-student district in suburban Washington called Congress and the Education Department, said the group's president, Rick Nelson.

The department plans to release its final rules on the new IDEA late this month, spokesman Jim Bradshaw said last week.

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Related Stories
Web Resources
  • Read about the impact that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has made over the past twenty years from the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.
  • "Disciplinary Exclusion of Special Education Students." This digest from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, defines some of the legal and educational difficulties that can surface when a handicapped student is involved in a disciplinary action.
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