Frequently Asked Questions

Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) involves developing an intervention plan for students with challenging behavior that assesses the classroom and school environment to find a better "fit" between the student and the educational program. PBS is based on the analysis of the function, or motivational factors, behind behaviors and recognizes that students exhibit challenging behavior as a way to get their needs met. PBS attempts to develop new and appropriate ways for a student to get those needs met and be successful in the school environment.

The ADR program is a method of problem resolution that involves getting the two disputing parties (family and school) to talk through a conflict to reach a mutually agreeable solution. A parent or district can access any of the ADR components by calling coordinator Vanessa Riggs on the SELPA ADR Helpline, (707) 524-2764. The program components include: phone consultation and conflict assessment by the coordinator, assignment of resource parents to assist in informing parents of their rights and responsibilities, and the use of Solutions Teams to facilitate formal mediation. All information remains confidential unless permission is given to share it.

The SELPA can refer any parent to local special education advocacy groups. There are many advocates in Sonoma County who can accompany a parent to an IEP meeting. SELPA program specialists can also inform parents of their rights and assist the parent in understanding the IEP process. Call the SELPA office at 524-2750 to request information.

There are times when parents may not agree with the school's recommendations about their child's education. Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child's eligibility, evaluation, placement, and the services that the school provides to the child. If parents disagree with the school's actions-or refusal to take action-in these matters, they have the right to pursue a number of options. They may do the following:

  • Try to reach an agreement. Parents can talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement can be temporary. For example, the parents and school can agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the student does.
  • Ask for mediation. During mediation, the parents and school sit down with someone who is not involved in the disagreement and try to reach an agreement. The school may offer mediation, if it is available as an option for resolving disputes prior to due process.
  • Ask for due process. During a due process hearing, the parents and school personnel appear before an impartial hearing officer and present their sides of the story. The hearing officer decides how to solve the problem. (Note: Mediation must be available at least at the time a due process hearing is requested.)
  • File a complaint with the state education agency. To file a complaint, generally parents write directly to the SEA and say what part of IDEA they believe the school has violated. The agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days. An extension of that time limit is permitted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the complaint.

It is appropriate to first address your concerns at your child's school or that school's district office. The usual process is to discuss your child's educational progress with his or her regular and special education teachers, then with the principal and/or special education coordinator if necessary. If you continue to have concerns, one of SELPA's program specialists can help you explore further solutions.

An accommodation as used in this document allows a student to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. This accommodation does not alter in any significant way what the test or assignment measures. Examples of accommodations include a student who is blind taking a Braille version of a test or a student taking a test alone in a quiet room.

A modification is an adjustment to an assignment or a test that changes the standard or what the test or assignment is supposed to measure. Examples of possible modifications include a student completing work on part of a standard or a student completing an alternate assignment that is more easily achievable than the standard assignment.

Needed modifications and accommodations should be written into a studentís Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan. These changes should be chosen to fit the studentís individual needs. Itís important to include the student, if appropriate, when discussing needed accommodations and modifications.

The Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) is a state-mandated association which oversees and facilitates education services for students with disabilities. The SELPA office for Sonoma County is located at the County Office of Education and its operations are cooperatively governed by the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools and district superintendents. SELPA's role is to ensure that the specialized educational needs of each disabled student in the county are appropriately met. To fulfill this purpose, SELPA oversees the allocation of over $48 million annually distributed to local education agencies for special education. SELPA also offers an array of workshops and trainings for the county.

IDEA '97 promotes high expectations for children with IEPs through access to the general curriculum to the maximum extent appropriate. The general education teacher's input is invaluable in determining, with the other team members, the extent to which a child with disabilities can be involved in the general education curriculum. It is expected that most students can participate at some level in the general education curriculum with accommodations or modifications of the program, supplementary aids and services, and appropriate support to school personnel. In individual cases, the IEP team may determine that it is inappropriate for a child to access the core curriculum, although the student may be included in the general education environment to increase social skill development, etc.

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