Introduction to Special Education
The Litchfield School District special education programs are a subset of the regular education system that are designed to provide highly specialized instructional services for those students who are determined to be educationally disabled. Access to special education services and the manner in which they are delivered are strictly regulated by state and federal law and can seem complicated. Students are afforded a free and appropriate public education ages three to 21.
Student, for the purpose of Ed.1121, means a student with educational disabilities as defined in RS 186-C:2 or a child from birth to age 21 who has been referred to Litchfield School District for an evaluation and determination of whether the child has an educational disability.
The Special Education Process refers to the cycle of activities which must be completed in order to provide a student with special education services. The flowchart which follows summarizes the steps of the special education process. Briefly, students who might be educationally disabled are identified and referred to the school. Anyone may make a referral. The school must then determine if the child has serious educational needs and if he or she meets eligibility criteria for access to special education services. If a student is found to be eligible to special education, usually through a diagnostic assessment, and Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be written to describe the specific nature and scope of services to be provided. Students who are receiving special education services have their progress monitored by certified personnel, and their IEP's are revised at least yearly.
Confidentiality is a very important aspect of special education. All documents pertaining to the student are confidential. It is important that this confidentiality is respected. Every IEP includes information relevant to the student's performance in the areas of cognitive ability. Academic performance, communication skills, motor skills, sensory, health, social and emotional.
The school is required to provide parents with written notice of any recommendations which they are making for their child which relates to the special education process, and must receive the consent of the parents in writing before proceeding. Parental rights in special education are described in detail in a document entitled New Hampshire Procedural Safeguards Handbook which is provided to parents by the school at the time of referral. In the event of a disagreement between parents and the school regarding an individual student's special education issue, the case may be heard by the state appointing hearing officer who will settle the matter.
The Special Education Team is the heart of the special education process. The Team is a group of educational professionals and parents that must be established by a school district to make important decisions regarding its educationally disabled students. A Special Education Team may vary by size and membership depending upon the task to be completed, but its basic composition is established by state/federal regulations and depends upon the individual needs of the student. Typically, a Team might include the classroom teacher, the parents, a special educator, and an administrator.
The Special Education Team reviews referrals, plans diagnostic evaluations, determines if students are eligible for special education, writes IEPs and makes placement recommendations. No one person may make a decision regarding a child's special education evaluation, identification, program or placement. Only a properly composed Team may do so, using the criteria set forth in the New Hampshire Rules for the Education of Students with Disabilities (June 30, 2008).
One of the most important criteria used by the Team in making service and placement decisions is known as least restrictive environment (LRE). As required by state and federal regulations, the Litchfield School District makes every effort to insure that, to the maximum extent appropriate, educationally disabled students are educated with students who are not disabled. Disabled students are not removed from the regular classroom except when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in the regular classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be satisfactorily achieved. Most students can have the special education needs met in regular classes.
Parents are encouraged to be active participants throughout the special education process. The special education application is available for review by parents, other agencies, and the general public.
The State Department of Education will monitor the Litchfield School District's efforts to provide special education services.