Miriam PearlmutterAs the year draws to a close, many special education teams conduct their annual reviews and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings in April and May. Teams should keep in mind that IEP accommodations and modifications should be documented throughout the year. Many school districts skip this step, because documenting each time a child receives extra time or is offered preferential seating, for example, can be tedious and time-consuming. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE), however, will likely find a violation if a district cannot demonstrate that its staff provided IEP accommodations and modifications. In other words, if a parent files a complaint alleging that her child has not received extra time, class notes, or any other accommodation listed on the IEP, ODE will open an investigation. In doing so, ODE generally requests that the district submit proof that the accommodation in question was actually provided, and – in the absence of any records to that effect – will most likely find a violation. School districts can avoid this issue by following these steps:

  • As a team, determine which accommodations and modifications each student needs for a free appropriate public education. The annual review is a perfect time to make this team decision.
  • Assess the best way to document implementation for each child. Options include:
  • A separate chart or checklist initialed and dated each time an accommodation or modification is implemented
  • Periodic summaries provided with progress reports
  • Notes in a home-school journal
  • Any other user-friendly and clear system
  • Determine and document which staff member(s) will be responsible to record when a particular accommodation is provided.
  • Retain these records for a minimum of two years

By preparing and planning how IEP accommodations and modifications will be documented, your district will be in a better position to demonstrate compliance and successfully navigate an ODE investigation.

Miriam Pearlmutter is an attorney at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on education law. She can be reached at mpearlmutter@walterhav.com or at 216-619-7861.