The Committee on Special Education

 

The Committee on Special Education, known as the CSE, has the primary function of identifying, evaluating, and reviewing the statuses of, as well as making recommendations concerning the appropriate educational placement of each child (of school age) who has a disability (20 USC § 1414(b)(4)(A), (d)(3), (4); 34 CFR §§ 300.306(a), 300.324; Educ. Law §§ 4402(3), 4410(3); 8 NYCRR §§ 200.3, 200.4).

 

In addition, the CSE must also file an annual report to their respective school board on the status of services and facilities made available by the district for children with disabilities (Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b)(3),(f)), while keeping an up to date register of children with disabilities who are entitled to attend public school during the next school year, or children referred to the committee (8 NYCRR § 200.2(a)(1)).

 

Referring a Student

 

Students referred to the committee for evaluation can only be referred by:

 

  • A student’s parent
  • A designee of the student’s school district
  • The commissioner of education (or designee)
  • A designee of an education program that is affiliated with a child care institution with CSE responsibility (20 USC § 1414(a)(1)(B); 34 CFR § 300.301(b); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(a)(1)(i)-(iv)).

 

However, written referrals for an initial evaluation may be made by:

 

  • A professional staff member of the student’s school
  • A licensed physician
  • A judicial officer
  • A professional staff member of a public agency responsible for the welfare, health, or education of children
  • The student— if he or she is 18 years or older, or emancipated

 

Commissioner regulations establish specific procedures, as well as the timelines applicable when a school district receives a request for referral (depending on who has made the request) (8 NYCRR §  200.4(a)(2)(ii)-(iv)). School districts must ensure that their implementation of response to intervention strategies does not delay nor deny the timely initial evaluation of children presumed to have a disability (U.S. Department of Education, OSEP Memo 11-07 to State Directors of Special Education (Jan. 21, 2011). More information can be found at

 

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/osep11-07rtimemo.pdf

 

Mandated Members of a School Districts Committee

 

The duty of the CSE is taken very seriously, and the committee must contain the following members:

 

  • A school representative** of the school district who is:

A. Qualified to provide or supervise special education

B. Knowledgeable about the general curriculum

C. Knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the district

  • This person may be a special education teacher or a school psychologist if they meet the above requirements.

            **The school representative must serve as chairperson of the committee

  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child (at the parent’s discretion)
  • A school physician (if requested in writing by the parents or the school district 72 hours before a meeting)
  • A parent of another child with a disability, so long as they reside within the district or a neighboring district (if requested in writing 72 hours before the meeting).
  • A parent of a declassified student who is no longer eligible for special education, or a disabled student who has graduated may also serve as the additional parent member (for up to five years beyond their student’s declassification or graduation).
  • The student (where appropriate, or otherwise required by law or regulation) (20 USC § 1414(d)(1)(B); 34 CFR § 300.321; Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b)(1)(a); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(a)(1).

 

Occasional Special Education Committee Members

 

In some instances, a child previously receiving, and transitioning out of early intervention services, a school district must invite the service coordinator or other representative to the initial CSE meeting, upon parental request (20 USC § 1414(d)(1)(D); 34 CFR § 300.321(f); see also 8 NYCRR § 200.5(c)(2)(viii)).

 

Any agency who may be responsible for providing, or paying or the student’s transition services, must be invited (with the consent of the parent, or the student if he or she has reached the age of 18) (34 CFR § 300.321(b); 8NYCRR § 200.4(d)(4)(i)(c)).

 

If the school district is considering the placement of a student into a residential therapeutic school, the CSE meeting where the possible placement is discussed, must include a representative from that school, even when the student’s parents have indicated their intent to visit their child’s school (Werner v. Clarkstown CSD, 363 F. Supp.2d 656 (S.D.N.Y 2005)).

 

According to the U.S Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Western Division, Seattle (WA), a CSE also should include staff who are familiar with English language acquisition needs, and the English proficiency of a limited English proficient student whenever the CSE is discussing the student’s placement. Their participation is necessary to determine an appropriate placement for students with dual needs of learning despite their disability, and English language acquisition. This staff member’s participation is necessary to ensure the proper coordination between special education and English language acquisition services. A failure to include an individual with these capabilities in a circumstance such as this would be a violation of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of natural origin, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability (Mt. Vernon (WA) Sch. Dist., OCR Decision, 52 IDLER 300 (2008)).

 

Excusing CSE Members from Attending a Meeting

 

There are certain conditions that are specified in both statute and regulations where the general education teacher, special education teacher or provider, school district representative, or CSE member who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, may be excused from attending a CSE meeting. However, these persons may be excused, only by the an agreement, set in writing, by a parent or guardian (20 USC § 1414(d)(1)(C); 34 CFR § 300.321(e); Educ. Law §§ 4402(1)(b)(1)(b-1)-(b-3), 4402(1)(b)(1)(d); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(f)).

 

School Districts Having More than One Committee

 

School districts, such as those in Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers are, in fact, required to establish CSE subcommittees to the extent necessary to ensure the timely evaluation and placement of students with disabilities. Other school districts are also permitted to establish CSE subcommittees but are not required to do so (Educ. Law §§ 4402(1)(b)(1) 4402(1)(b)(1)(d); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(c)).

 

Duties of CSE Subcommittees and Subcommittee Members

 

CSE subcommittees perform the same functions as a CSE. The only difference is that the CSE remains responsible for making final decisions in cases concerning the initial placement of a student in a special class, class outside of the school of attendance, or school that primarily serves children with disabilities (or school outside a student’s district) (Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b)(1)(d); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(c)(4)).

 

A CSE subcommittee must include the following members:

 

  • The parent of the child with a disability.
  • One general education teacher (if the child is, or will potentially be participating in the general education environment).
  • A special education teacher of a student, or, where appropriate, a special education provider of the child.
  • A school psychologist, whenever a new psychological evaluation is reviewed, or a change to a program option with a more a more intensive staff to student ratio, as set forth in part 200.6(h)(4) of the commissioner’s regulations is taken into consideration.
  • A representative** of the school district who is:
    • qualified to provide, administer, or supervise special education
    • knowledgeable about the general curriculum, and,
    • knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the district (this person may be the special education teacher, provider, or school psychologist if they meet the above qualifications).

            **A school district representative must serve as the chairperson of the subcommittee

  • Other individuals who have knowledge, or expertise regarding the child, including staff members of related services. These persons are to be included at the parent’s discretion.
  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (this person can be one of the above subcommittee members).
  • The child with the disability, when appropriate (20 USC § 1414(d)(1)(B); 34 CFR § 300.321; Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b)(1); 8 NYCRR § 200.3(c)(2)).

 

The Role of CSE and CSE Subcommittee Chairpersons

 

The role of the Committee of Special Education, or CSE subcommittee chairperson is responsible for presiding over meetings. This individual must carry out certain specified functions. A relative example would be the referral of students for evaluation, parental consent, or a notification to the individuals responsible for implementing a student’s individualized program of their specific responsibilities (8 NYCRR § 200.3(e)).

 

A Parents Role on Committee of Special Education or CSE Subcommittee Meetings

 

Parents of children with disabilities are considered mandated members of the CSE or CSE subcommittee, and should be present in all meetings where their child is being discussed (20 USC §§ 1414(b)(4)(A), (e), (f), 1415(b)(1); 34 CFR §§ 300.321(a)(1), 300.322, 300.327, 300.501(b), (c); Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b); 8 NYCRR §§ 200.3(a)(1)(i), (c)(2)(i), 200.5(d)(1)). However, parents who are unable to be physically present in meetings regarding their child’s educational placement, may agree with a school district to use other methods to ensure their participation, which can include conference calls, or video conferencing (20 USC § 1414(f); 34 CFR §§ 300.322(c), 300.328; 8 NYCRR § 200.5(d)(7)).

 

The school district also accepts their responsibility to ensure that the parent has a thorough understanding of the proceedings of the meetings, which includes arranging the presence of an interpreter, should the parents be deaf, hard of hearing, or have a native language other than English.

 

A CSE or CSE subcommittee may, however, meet without the parent if they have exhausted all efforts to convince the parent to attend (34 CFR § 300.322(d); 8 NYCRR § 200.5(d)(3); J.G. v. Briarcliff Manor UFSD, 682 F.Supp.2d 387 (S.D.N.Y.2010)), and are able to make placement decisions without parental involvement if they are unable to obtain the parent’s participation. The CSE or subcommittee may only do this if they can provide records of their attempts to secure the parent’s involvement (34 CFR § 300.501(c)(4); 8 NYCRR § 200.5(d)(4)).

 

It is important to note that committee or subcommittee meetings do not include informal, or unscheduled conversations.

 

Keeping Records on Committee or Subcommittee Meetings

 

Parents have the right to record their child’s own CSE or CSE subcommittee meetings without needing approval by the members or school board. However, the parent may forfeit their right o record such future meetings if there are any indications this right is being abused. In addition, the school district is also permitted to record committee or subcommittee meetings, (Application of a Child with a Handicapping Condition, 30 Ed Dept Rep 178 (1990)), and an impartial hearing officer may submit a parent’s tape recording and transcript of said meetings into evidence at a due process hearing (Application of a Child with a Disability, SRO dec. no. 05-051 (2005)).

 

In addition, school attorneys may attend committee or subcommittee meetings, but should do so only on the rare occasions when the committee’s ability to perform its usual functions depends on the immediate resolution of serious legal issues. The school attorney should not become a “listening post” for the school board, nor should he or she attend a meeting for the purpose of intimidating parents to undermine the decision-making process (Application of a

Child with a Handicapping Condition, 30 Ed Dept Rep 286 (1991)).

 

Additional Duties of the CSE or Subcommittee

 

The Committee of Special Education has many duties to students, even after they have been placed in special education. One of their duties is reviewing each student’s Individual Education Program, at least annually for two reasons. The first reason is to determine whether the student’s annual goals are being achieved. The second is to revise the student’s IEP, if appropriate, to address any lack of expected progress toward his or her annual goals, or general curriculum. Also taken into consideration, are any reevaluation results or information provided by the student’s parents, as well as the students anticipated needs or other maters (20 USC § 1414(d)(4); 34 CFR § 300.324(b)(1); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(f)).

 

The CSE must also arrange an appropriate reevaluation of each student who has a disability, whether conditions warrant a reevaluation or if the child’s parents warrant one. The CSE must not conduct reevaluations on a student more than once a year, unless the child’s parent and school district agree that another evaluation is necessary (20 USC § 1414(a)(2)(A), (B); 34 CFR § 300.303; Educ. Law § 4402(1)(b)(3)(d); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(b)(4)).

 

Prior to declassification, the CSE is obligated to evaluate each child, unless the committee concludes that they do not need additional data to determine whether or not the child will still continue to be considered a child with a disability. A declassification evaluation is not required when a student’s eligibility for special education programs and services ends as a result of the student’s graduation with a local high school or Regents’ diploma, or the student ages out of the eligibility (20 USC § 1414(c)(5)(B)(i); 34 CFR § 300.305(e)(2); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(c)(4)). However, in this instance, the district must provide a summary of the student’s academic achievement and functional performance. In addition, they must include recommendations on how to assist the student to meet post-secondary school goals (20 USC § 1414(c)(5)(B)(ii); 34 CFR § 300.305(e)(3); 8 NYCRR § 200.4(c)(4)).

 

When a student is declassified, declassification support services must be provided to aid the student’s transition to full-time general education that is directed both at the student, and his or her teacher(s). These services may include psychological support, social work, speech and language services, and counseling services that differ from career counseling. For teachers, declassification services may include assistance from supplementary school personnel and appropriate consultation with proper personnel (8 NYCRR § 200.1(ooo)).

 

School Boards Disagreeing with CSE recommendations

 

If a school board happens to disagree with a CSE or CSE subcommittee’s recommendation, it may follow the following procedures:

 

  • Return the recommendations to the committee with a statement that addresses the board’s objections or concerns. The committee must then take the boards concerns or objections into consideration, revise the child’s IEP, and resubmit a recommendation to the board. If the board disagrees with the resubmitted recommendation, it may either return the recommendation once again, or establish a second committee to develop a new recommendation.

 

  • Establish a second committee to develop a new recommendation for the child. If the board disagrees with the recommendation from the second committee, it may continue to return the recommendation until it is satisfied with the revisions made to the student’s IEP.

 

An important note is that once the board establishes a second committee, it cannot select the recommendation of the initial CSE (8 NYCRR § 200.4(e)(2)).

 

A school district is also required to notify a child’s parents with a written notice of its proposal or refusal to initiate, change the identification, evaluation or placement of a child with a disability. This notice must also include:

 

  • A description of the action being proposed or refused
  • An explanation of the decision
  • A description of other options considered, and why these options were rejected
  • A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report that was used as a basis for its actions. Additionally, this letter must also include all other factors that weighed into the district’s decision.

This notice must also include a statement notifying parents of a student with a disability that they have procedural protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

 

The Committee on Special Education has an important role in making decisions on students with disabilities. With the importance of a child with a disability’s academic future weighing on their shoulders, the CSE and CSE subcommittees must take all factors into consideration, using every available resource to make sound decisions that are in each student’s best interest. 

 

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