A new year and a new decade mean new opportunities to improve the regulations and guidance that govern the education of students with disabilities in public schools—and here at the Center, we aren’t wasting any time.
On January 7, the Center submitted public comments to the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) regarding proposed amendments to Chapter 30 (Special Education) of Title 5-A in the District of Columbia’s Municipal Regulations.
The proposed regulations are intended to improve the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities in D.C. traditional and public charter schools. To do so, they provide clarity on the responsibilities of districts, also referred to as local education agencies or LEAs, in a number of areas, including following the already federally mandated procedures related to suspensions of students with disabilities. The provisions also adopt rules around the restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities that previously applied only to nonpublic schools. Finally, they more closely align the state’s regulations with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which governs special education at the federal level.
The Center applauds OSSE for its efforts, which demonstrate a clear commitment to improving the education of students with disabilities in Washington, D.C. In particular, our comments highlight several key areas in which OSSE has proposed robust regulation that should drive improved outcomes while also noting potential areas of expansion. These include:
New requirements will provide parents/guardians with additional tools to allow for more meaningful participation in their child’s Individualized Education (IEP) process, which determines the nature and level of the supports they receive.
Paraprofessional training requirements
Previously, D.C. had no specific standards for paraprofessional education, training, or experience (other than the federal requirement that they are “appropriately trained and supervised”). The new regulations include minimum qualifications for paraprofessionals, which we see as a positive step. Given the inherent challenges involved in appropriate paraprofessional training and hiring, we encourage OSSE to continue to monitor how these changes impact student success and staffing issues.
The most significant change to the proposed OSSE regulations is the inclusion of limitations on restraint and seclusion. These restrictions are a positive step for D.C. students, and we encourage OSSE to both strengthen them further and introduce mandatory reporting of incidents involving disciplinary restraint and seclusion.
Our commentary also includes guidance on charter school closure procedures and the identification of students with multiple disabilities. In addition, the Center’s comments emphasize the importance of the execution of these regulations, as even the best regulations will have no effect without proper implementation. It is imperative that OSSE creates a plan detailing its steps for rolling out these regulations and holding LEAs accountable for following them.
The Center will continue working with stakeholders in the District of Columbia and nationwide to ensure students with disabilities have access to an equitable and quality education. Read our full comments to OSSE for more.