Individualized Education Plans And The History of Special Education in Virginia
The state of Virginia has historically been proactive about providing extra resources for children with disabilities. In 1968, the state enacted its first legislation requiring special education for children with certain disabilities. Later in 1972, the laws were expanded to include all children with disabilities from ages 2 to 21 years of age. The federal government enacted its own legislation in 1975 that is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). After it was promulgated on the federal level, the state of Virginia modeled its statutes after IDEA, which are now codified under the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia.
What is an Individualized Education Plan?
Under Virginia law, local education agencies are required to develop individualized education plans (IEP) for each child with a disability, including a child that is placed in a private special education school either by a local school division or by a Comprehensive Services Act Team.
Generally, IEPs have been focused on students learning basic academic and functional skills without emphasis on a specific academic area or grade level. With the evolution of the Standard-Based IEP, the state now aligns IEP goals with grade-level standards in the hopes of the aiding a child’s proficiency level with state standards. IEP objectives address:
- Present academic level;
- Measurable annual goals;
- Short-term benchmark objectives;
- Special education, related services, supplementary aids and services;
- Participation with children without disabilities;
- Participation in state and division-wide assessments;
- Duration, frequency, and location of services;
- Progress report schedule; and
In theory, the intent of the legislature in requiring IEPs is a noble endeavor. In practice, IEPs are often left lacking and become a source of contention between parents, teachers and students.
What Can You Do If Your Child’s School Is Not Adhering To State IEP Requirements?
Individualized Education Plans are mandated by the state and federal governments so if your school is not providing or adhering to your child’s IEP, you have options. There are three common methods of resolving disputes involving your child’s IEP.
One option of dispute resolution is to file a complaint through the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). If you file a complaint, the VDOE has 60 days to resolve the matter and if they determine that the school is in violation, they may order reimbursement or other corrective action. A second way to resolve issues is to request mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party will aid parties in negotiation.
Finally, the most common method of resolution is for a parent or guardian is to initiate a due process hearing. A hearing officer will listen to arguments by both sides and decide the best action based on the law. You may request the hearing if you believe your child was inappropriately evaluated, identified or otherwise denied appropriate education. Note also, that the school may also initiate a due process hearing if it believes the child is not receiving parental support as required by law.
Leesburg Special Education Law Attorneys Can Help
Each method of dispute resolution involving you and your child’s IEPs requires procedural accuracy. While parents often go at the process alone, having an experienced attorney aid you in understanding exactly how to ask for what you need is invaluable. Virginia’s special education law attorneys at Whitbeck, Cisneros, McElroy PC are dedicated to advocate on behalf of you and your child so that your child is able to receive the education they deserve.