The end of the school year can bring relief for many students and parents, but also uncertainty and trepidation about the summer months. The new school year technically beings on July 1, 2015, although most students will not begin school until September. Many students do regress academically, behaviorally or emotionally during the summer months and require Extended School Year (“ESY”) services over the summer.
Only certain students with disabilities qualify for ESY or summer services, which generally run for six weeks from July 6th through approximately August 14th this year, although some districts may have different dates and shorter programs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and New York State Regulations technically allow Extended School Year services for students likely to experience substantial regression, as measured by whether the student has regressed academically during breaks during the school year. The CSE may allow ESY services for students who regress emotionally or behaviorally, if appropriate. Specifically, the law provides that the CSE must consider ESY services to prevent substantial regression for students:
• In special classes with management needs that are highly intensive and require a high degree of individualized attention;
• in special classes with severe multiple disabilities, whose programs consist primarily of habilitation and treatment
• who are recommended for home and/or hospital instruction whose special education needs are determined to be highly intensive and require a high degree of individualized attention or who have severe multiple disabilities;
• whose needs are so severe that they can be met only in a seven-day residential program; or
• receiving other special education services who, because of their disabilities, exhibit the need for twelve-month special service and/or program in order to prevent substantial regression.
An ESY program is very different from summer school which high schools may offer for typical students. Summer school credit recovery programs focus on the needs of students who have failed classes or need support during the summer months.
For students who are in summer ESY programs, it is important for parents to monitor closely and take immediate steps to rectify any concerns, as the six weeks passes quickly . Too often, school districts throw ESY programs together too quickly and do not ensure appropriate groupings or activities. Be sure to monitor your child’s progress and put all complaints in writing.
Here are some questions our parents have asked about summer programs:
Q: My child’s program only has very disabled peers and looks very different from her school year program. Is this appropriate?
A: Your child’s summer program should allow her to progress in the Least Restrictive Environment. Consider what type of public program your child needs to have interaction with non-disabled peers. The CSE should offer a continuum of placements and the program should have essentially the same level of inclusion as his or her school year program. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 found that an ESY program was substantively inadequate, as the CSE failed to consider an appropriate continuum of alternative ESY placements and place the student in his LRE on that continuum. The District claimed the program was appropriate and noted that it only offered certain limited programs in the summer months. But the Court held that: “a child’s LRE is primarily defined by the nature of the child’s disabilities rather than by the placements that the school district chooses to offer.” T.M. v. Cornwall Central School District
Q: How can I monitor my child’s progress?
A: Work closely with your child’s teacher to monitor the work and how he is doing. Pay close attention to the level of supervision and monitoring. Make sure any concerns about bullying are addressed promptly. Here are some questions to start with, in a dialogue with your child’s teacher:
• Is my child working on his or her goals?
• Does this class provide an appropriate group of students?
• Is the program addressing the specific areas of weakness?
• Are staff appropriately trained on her area of disability?
• Is there adequate supervision?
• What about field trips?
Q: My child needs a break from school and we have long family vacations. Can I pull her out of the summer program?
Speak with the CSE and the District and notify staff that you are considering removing your child from the summer program because of needed family time or simply down time. You may also decide that your child needs a recreational program to develop social skills. Ask if you think removing her will have an impact or affect her progress. If your child is in a school district program, it is unlikely that this will cause difficulties. However, do keep in mind if you do not access the summer program for your child and complain about lack of progress or regression in the fall, the CSE may consider the fact that she did not attend the summer program. Also, if your child is in a specialized school, this will probably not be appropriate and the school may state attendance is mandatory. If your child is in a twelve month residential program, this will not be an option.
Q: My child’s CSE in May stated my child did not regress during breaks, but I see significant regression. They had no data. What can I do?
Whenever you disagree with any decision of a CSE, you have the right to file for due progress. While it is late in the year to file for summer, you may file for compensatory services. It’s best to talk to an attorney about the options. Also, in the next school year, be sure to ask the teachers before each break to measure regression. Keep your own records as well, as to basic skills your child has before each break and after.
Q: I do not believe that my child’s ESY program is appropriate and am sending him to a private camp. Can I seek reimbursement from the school district?
Yes. You do have the right to file for due process and may seek reimbursement for private services. If the private summer program you chose offered individually tailored special education services, you may prevail in a claim. Keep in mind that it is the law does not allow recovery for camping and recreation programs, however. A hearing officer could order reimbursement if: 1) there has been a denial of a free appropriate public education; 2) the private services are appropriate and 3) equitable considerations support the claim.
In short, ESY services represent an important aspect of your child’s special education program. If you have questions or do not believe the program is appropriate, it is best to speak to an experienced special education attorney about your child’s case.
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