Special Education Legality Question HELP!

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Agt_Michael_Scarn, Aug 27, 2016.

  1. Agt_Michael_Scarn

    Agt_Michael_Scarn New Member

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    Aug 27, 2016

    Ok, so I recently moved to MD, and while I realize that special education systems are different depending on state and even county regulations, I assume they still must follow the same federal guidelines. Anyway, at my new school, after reviewing my caseload, I noticed several students had very high amounts of service time (i.e.-minutes). For example, one student is currently receiving 15 hours of services a week in the general education classroom with the primary provider as "Special Education Classroom Teacher." My problem lies with his schedule, as he is only in one co-taught class (90 minute block, every other day) and one resource class (same thing). When I brought this to the attention of my department chair, I was informed that paraprofessionals are in his other three content area classes providing services. I explained that they cannot count towards the minutes of an IEP, much less, it specifically states a special education classroom teacher is the person accountable for documentation as well as delivery (definition of provider). What do I do? I just moved here and am already shaking things up in the school, but I feel like am I being asked to be not only unethical, but falsify documents (as I would have to sign IEPs with minutes I knew were incorrect). I don't know what to do or who to go to. I've only been here a week, so I'm scared of being blacklisted. But I also feel like I cannot possible do my job effectively if this child requires this amount of service and I'm not there providing it. Please some one tell me I am wrong and paraprofessionals can in Maryland...? I have looked for regulations but have come up short. And if I am right, where should I go from here?
     
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  3. Teachertimes

    Teachertimes Rookie

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    Aug 27, 2016

    I'm interested to know which county you're in. Aside from that have you talked with the person who is in charge of SPED at your school? Isn't there a slexical education chair or something similar? If the hours are to be specifically provided by the special educator than they have to be. No way around it. If that person can't help you then I would seek out administration. If they won't help you then keeping going up.
     
  4. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 27, 2016

    You're correct. Paras cannot legally provide direct instruction service minutes. The school is not following the law. Unfortunately, there is probably not much you can do to change it without getting on the bad side of your admin. So, you have three choices: 1) slyly (or not so slyly) inform the parents of the students, 2) make an anonymous (or not so anonymous) report/complaint to your state education department, or 3) just continue to the status quo, knowing that it's really out of your control and that you need to keep your job.
     
  5. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 27, 2016

    I'm not in Maryland so it may be different, but paras can provide services "under the direction of the sped teacher" here. In our service delivery statements, we're instructed to put "services may be provided by a paraprofessional under the direction of the special education teacher." In the drop down menu where it lists which provider will meet the minutes (I'm not sure if your IEPS look the same), "special education teacher" is the only option for academic minutes, so that's why it would say that there. I've been in a district twice during an audit, so I know this is legal, at least in my state.

    However, within the past two years my district has decided that "in class support" provided by paras is now an accommodation and not a specialized service. I honestly don't know if this is a state thing or just something my district came up with. The crazy thing is that if I as the sped teacher provide "in class support," it counts as IEP minutes/specialized instruction even though I'm doing the exact same thing a para would. We don't do a lot of push-in (although unfortunately I think that's changing), but I don't like this "new rule" because IMO in class support is more in line with something a para should be doing, not a certified teacher. Yet if my para pulls kids out and gives a lesson ( her own group, not helping me with my group), it does count as "specialized instruction/minutes met." Our math program is really straightforward and scripted, and most kids are really successful with it, so currently I mostly have my para teach math and I teach literacy.

    If it were me, I'd be asking other sped teachers before I make any big moves. If you're the only sped teacher in your school, ask if you can be connected with some teachers from other schools in the district. They should be able to give you more of the "real story" before you make a big fuss and find out later that the school isn't doing anything wrong. I had a similar situation when I started working in this district. I received no training about giving formal assessments (like Woodcock Johnson, WIAT, etc.) in my college program and in my first district we were told only school psychs could give these. In my second district, I taught gen ed but I know only the psychs gave tests there also. When I started working here, I learned that I was expected to give them and I thought they must be asking me to do something illegal. I later learned from other sped teachers that many districts have teachers give the academic assessments and that it's perfectly legal as long as you've received training (since I hadn't, my district had to train me). After talking to others that had worked in various districts, it turns out that my current district is more aligned with what most others are doing and that I just happened to be in two of the few districts that do things differently before.
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 27, 2016

    That's similar to how it is in my state. Paras can provide instruction under the direction of a sped teacher, but the sped teacher has to be in the same room. I always asked how it was legal that my paras were teaching groups while I was on lunch, and I got a shrug of the shoulders. We also couldn't have paras do any push-in minutes. They could provide support outside of what was written into an IEP, collect data, or, in rare cases, be assigned 1:1 in an IEP, but they could not be responsible for any minutes whatsoever. We didn't have to write that into the IEP the way you do, but those were the guidelines by the state, which based the guidelines on IDEA. It wasn't strictly enforced when I first started, but someone must have gotten in trouble because they started to make a big deal out of it my second year there. We also didn't have to assign people to specific goals. That was something that we just worked out internally.
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Aug 27, 2016

    I've always been told that the para can provide the instruction as long as I planned it. No one has ever said I had to be in the same room. My para and I usually have opposite lunch schedules (so we can meet with students the entire day between the two of us). My school used to this complicated intervention model called "flooding" where all of the intervention people would "flood" one grade level at the same time. I would often be seeing my small group in a gen ed room while several other teachers taught their small groups in that same room. Meanwhile, my para would be teaching a math lesson to a different grade level in my room. We're not doing the "flooding" thing this year and I finally have my own room back (was sharing last year) so I should be doing all of my services there except for during lunch of course. I also just don't like the "in class support as an accommodation" thing because I think it significantly downplays the needs of some of our students. I have a K student who is very bright (already above K expectations academically) but needs almost constant support in his room for pretty much everything else (picture schedules, if/then charts, 1:1 support for completing basically anything, modified activities for fine motor tasks, which is practically everything in K, tons of visuals and cues for following the routine and being where he's supposed to be, and "safety monitoring" because he's a runner and is great at sneaking off unnoticed). We had to schedule my para to be with this student for almost 3 hours a day (and I'm concerned that won't be enough), yet we can't count these as IEP minutes, so it looks like his needs are very mild and like he's not a big impact on our program at all. A few years ago I had a similar student and we changed his in class hours so he had a total of 20 per week, which made it really obvious that he was a high needs student.
     
  8. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Aug 27, 2016

    Interesting... We did "flooding" too, only we called it "swarming"... Funny all the names they come up with! :)

    Technically the regulations didn't say that teachers had to be in the same room, but the sped coordinator who oversaw my school made the claim that I couldn't be directing and overseeing the instruction if I was not in the same room. Yet, when I asked about my para providing instruction in my classroom while I was at lunch or doing push-in minutes, she didn't have an answer.

    I wonder if, for your high needs students, could you put para support minutes in their IEPs to show that they really do have significant needs? We really weren't allowed to do this without prior approval, and it was usually only done if the district was concerned about due process... But, it was technically a legal option in our state. My district just didn't want to commit to para minutes because they didn't want to be held to it. They'd rather just assign x number of paras to our buildings and have the sped teachers randomly assign them to certain students or groups throughout the day. I imagine that it could be similar in your district/state.
     
  9. Agt_Michael_Scarn

    Agt_Michael_Scarn New Member

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    Thank you for the responses. I've asked other SpEd teachers in the building, but 5 out of 7 of us are new to the county. I'd rather not say which county, but the reaction I got was instant hostility for questioning anything. I didn't do it in a rude manner, but just asked if the provider is listed as a special education classroom teacher, how could three of a students classes only contain a para yet have the entire time count towards an IEP. I don't even know the paras that will be there, so I seriously doubt they will be planning with me. I was told they have a full schedule during the day. The only adults I plan with are the co-teachers I specifically work with. When I brought up that I thought the minutes were wrong, I was told I only needed to worry about Present Levels, Goals, Progress Reports, and that accommodations were followed in the rooms I was in. I didn't say anything, but my feeling is, as the student's case manager, I am responsible for the implementation of the IEP in its entirety. I was also asked not to say anything if it was going to make everyone's job harder. I guess coming from another place, that level of work was the norm, so it seems like everyone is being extremely lazy. Because more than 70% of the school failed state assessments, the school is going through a "restructuring phase," but I haven't found any documentation that allows for different regulations for paras during this time. (Only real regulations I've found are that we don't have to report AYP at this time). The only thing I know for sure, is if it says special education teacher, then I, or whoever should be in the classroom, is responsible for the data and direct instruction of the goal area for that student. I spent much of the day researching, and I feel very unethical at the moment. If I'm not mistaken, what we claim as minutes on an IEP kinda sets the bar for the amount of money the school receives for hiring special educators. I even tried to explain that if paras could provide all the same services, what would be the motivation then to hire SpEd teachers instead? I keep getting the run around for answers, but am just given the explanation, "It's been like this for years at this school." I replied that longevity and validity are not synonymous, but I get the blow off and a "Just don't worry. You'll have a lot less work now." Should I just ask to sit down with the dept chair and an admin to explain this thoroughly? I also know I cannot go into to an IEP meeting and sign-off stating this student will be receiving X amount of services if I know that's not true. Thank you all for the help! It really helps to discuss this with people more knowledgeable about the process.
     
  10. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Based on what you've said here, I think your best move is to just comply. I don't think that asking for a sit down meeting with the dept chair and admin will help your case. If they've been doing it that way for years, it's unlikely the newbie subordinate is going to change their ways. Just do what you can do this year, and, if you just can't live with it, then look for a new job next school year.

    I'm not a religious person, but I always think of the Serenity Prayer in times like this:
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.
     
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  11. Agt_Michael_Scarn

    Agt_Michael_Scarn New Member

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    Aug 28, 2016

    Ok, thank you. Looks like I'll comply and leave if next year. Thanks again for all your help. And I'm not a very religious person either, but the Serenity Prayer really spoke to me. I'm going to just accept I can't change this and move on to some where else. Thanks and have a great rest of the weekend!
     
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