By Camy Kobylinski

The NJEA Exceptional Children Committee is charged with overseeing and promoting NJEA actions related to the needs of exceptional children and the NJEA members who serve them. The committee members welcome your suggestions and concerns as they endeavor to represent you. Log in to njea.org and slide over to “My NJEA” to identify your county representative on the committee. Here are just a few of the current special education issues that the Exceptional Children Committee is considering.

Restraint

Questions are coming in from districts around the state regarding the practice of using physical restraint with students with disabilities. In January 2018, then-Gov. Chris Christie signed Public Law 2017, Chapter 291, defining restraint and seclusion and establishing requirements for their use. As a result, most school districts created or updated existing board policy. Below are the highlights about the use of restraint in the law. Similar language pertains to the use of seclusion.

  Physical restraint is used only in an emergency that places the student or others in immediate physical danger.

  A student is not restrained in the prone position, unless authorized in writing by the student’s primary care physician.

  Staff members involved in the restraint of students receive training in safe techniques from an entity determined by the board of education to be qualified to provide such training, and that the training is updated at least annually.

  The parent or guardian of a student is immediately notified when physical restraint is used. A full written report of the incident shall be provided to the parent or guardian within 48 hours of the occurrence.

  Each incident in which a physical restraint is used is carefully and continuously visually monitored to ensure that it was used in accordance with established procedures set forth in a board policy.

  Each incident is documented in writing to enable the staff to develop or improve the behavior intervention plan.

  School districts shall attempt to minimize the use of physical restraints through inclusion of positive behavior supports in the student’s behavior intervention plans developed by the individualized education plan team.

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has developed guidance about the use of restraint and seclusion. That guidance may be found by searching online using the terms “NJDOE guidance restraint.” Exceptional Children Committee members look forward to bringing your feedback to the next committee meeting about any challenges you are encountering with the application of the law and NJDOE guidance.

The members of the NJEA Exceptional Children Committee welcome your suggestions and concerns.Visit njea.org/njea-committees to identify your county representative on this committee and every NJEA committee.

Professional development assurances under IDEA, Part B

Districts receive IDEA, Part B funds to provide special education services to students. These dollars are reported as revenue in district user-friendly budgets. To receive these funds, districts must assure that they are complying with 19 conditions in NJAC 6A:14-1.2(a). Among those requirements is the delivery of in-service training to professional and paraprofessional staff who provide special education, general education or related services. The requirement emphasizes inclusion of content knowledge, collaborative skills, behavioral intervention strategies and use of educational research to adopt promising practices, materials and technology.

While districts are required to provide professional development, NJEA aims to supplement and exceed the requirements through local, county and statewide program offerings throughout the year. The NJEA Exceptional Children Committee provided valuable input for the planning of the May 2, 2020 Exceptional Children Conference. Register for the conference at njea.org/ecc2020.

Special education parent advisory groups

Under the same subchapter of the special education regulations NJAC 6A:14-1.2(h),  districts are required to ensure that a special education parent advisory group, or SEPAG, is in place in the district to provide input on issues concerning students with disabilities.

Among the many benefits to districts of an effective SEPAG is the development of positive and collaborative relationships.

When parents and community members are informed and empowered, they can influence improvements and enhancements to programming and services. Local associations have partnered with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) to provide training and support to parents. More information about effective SEPAGs will be offered at the NJEA Exceptional Children Conference.

These are just a few of the areas that the Exceptional Children Committee is studying. NJEA members can access committee agendas and minutes on the committee’s web page at njea.org/njea-committees. Become an active participant in the process by contacting your representative to provide your input and information about your needs.

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