This written policy outlines the proper procedures for ensuring compliance by Teach Speech Inc. with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Act (“RTKA”), 65 P.S. § 66.1 et seq., as amended, which allows Requesters to inspect and obtain copies of Public Records.
For purposes of this policy, the terms set forth below shall have the following meanings:
“Business Day” shall mean a calendar day in which the administrative office of Teach Speech Inc. is open for business and does not include any school day in which associated administrative offices are closed due to inclement weather, emergencies, holidays, or weekends.
“Financial Record” shall mean any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt of disbursement of funds; or acquisition, use or disposal of services, supplies, materials, equipment or property; or the salary or other payments of expenses paid to an officer or employee of Teach Speech Inc., including the individual’s name and title; and a financial audit report excluding the audit’s underlying work papers.
“Public Record” shall mean a record, including a financial record, of Teach Speech Inc. that: (i) is not exempt from disclosure under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Act (ii) is not exempt from being disclosed under any other federal or state law, regulation, judicial order or decree; and, (iii) is not protected by a privilege.
“Record” shall mean information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a transaction or activity of Teach Speech Inc. and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of Teach Speech Inc.
“Requester” shall mean a person who is a legal resident of the United States and requests a record under the RTKA, or an agency making such a request.
Open Records Officer
Requests for access to public records must be directed to the Open Records Officer of Teach Speech Inc. Any employee of Teach Speech Inc. who receives a request for access to public records under the RTKA shall immediately forward such a request to the Open Records Officer.
The Open Records Officer bears the primary responsibility for receiving requests submitted to Teach Speech Inc. under the RTKA, directing requests to other appropriate persons within Teach Speech Inc. or to appropriate persons in other agencies, tracking Teach Speech Inc.’s progress in responding to requests, and issuing timely interim and final responses under the RTKA.
Upon receipt of a request under the RTKA, the Open Records Officer shall take the following steps in order to track the status of Teach Speech Inc.’s response to the request:
- Note the date on which the written request was received by Teach Speech Inc.;
- Compute the day on which the five (5) Business Day period for Teach Speech Inc.’s response will expire and make a notation of that date on the written request;
- Maintain and electronic or paper copy of the written request, including all documents submitted with the request; and,
- If the written request is denied, either in full or in part, maintain the written request for at least thirty (30) days, or, if an appeal is filed, until a final disposition is reached regarding the appeal.
The Open Records Officer will respond to a written request within five (5) business days after its receipt. During that period, the Open Records Officer will make a good faith effort to locate the requested record, determine if it constitutes a public record, redact any confidential portions to allow for disclosure, and prepare an appropriate response. If the response given within the five (5) business day timeframe is an interim response because additional time is needed to respond to the request for the reasons set forth in the RTKA, Section 902, the Open Records Officer shall provide a final response to the request within thirty (30) days of the date of the letter constituting the interim response.
The person designated to act as the Open Records Officer for Teach Speech Inc. is identified as follows: Magdalena Valentin BS MS MA Regional Director via the Teach Speech Inc. website.
All requests for public records shall be made in writing and directed to the Open Records Officer. Written requests may be submitted by mail or by e-mail.
All Requesters should use the RTKA Request Form Teach Speech Inc. has developed for this purpose and which is available by contacting Teach Speech Inc. through its website. A uniform request form created by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records will also be accepted and is available by accessing the website of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records at: http://openrecords.state. pa.us. All requests should contain sufficient information to identify the records being requested, and should include the name and address to which Teach Speech Inc. should direct its response.
Requests for public records made in person shall be made during regular business hours on Business Days. Regular business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Business Days.
Teach Speech Inc. will not respond to verbal requests or any written request that does not identify the requester.
After determining that a record requested in a Public Record, Teach Speech Inc., will allow inspection and duplication, if requested. The inspection of a Public Record by a Requester shall take place at the Teach Speech Inc. administrative office, during regular business hours unless an alternative location is designated by Teach Speech Inc. Except for duplicates made and delivered to a Requester pursuant to this policy, no Public Record shall be removed from the control or supervision of Teach Speech Inc.
Teach Speech Inc. retains the right to ensure the integrity of its records under inspection pursuant to this policy, including but not limited to requiring supervised or monitored inspection of Public Records.
If a written request for access to a record is denied or deemed denied, a Requester may file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records within 15 business days of the mailing date of Teach Speech Inc.’s response, or within 15 business days of a deemed denial. The appeal shall state the grounds upon which the Requester asserts that the record is a Public Record and shall address any grounds stated by Teach Speech Inc. for delaying or denying the request. The address of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records is:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of Open Records Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North Street, Plaza Level Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Notification of Rights Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
PPRA affords parents certain rights regarding our conduct of surveys, collection and use of information for marketing purposes, and certain physical exams. These include the right to:
Consent before students are required to submit to a survey that concerns one or more of the following protected areas (“protected information survey”) if the survey is funded in whole or in part by a program of the U.S. Department of Education (ED):
- Political affiliation or beliefs of the student or student’s parent;
- Mental or psychological problems of the students or student’s family;
- Sex behavior or attitudes;
- Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
- Critical appraisals of others with whom respondents have close family relationships;
- Legally recognized privileged relationships, such as with lawyers, doctors, or ministers;
- Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or parents; or
- Income, other than as required by law to determine program eligibility
Receive notice and an opportunity to opt a student out of:
- Any other protected information survey, regardless of funding;
- Any non-emergency, invasive physical exam or screening required as a condition of attendance, administered by the school or its agent, and not necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of a student, except for hearing, vision, or scoliosis screenings, or any physical exam or screening permitted or required under State law; and
- Activities involving collection, disclosure, or use of personal information obtained from students for marketing or to sell or otherwise distribute the information to others.
Inspect, upon request and before administration or use: 1. Protected information surveys of students; 2. Instruments used to collect personal information from students for any of the above marketing, sales, or other distribution purposes; and 3. Instructional material used as part of the educational curriculum.
These rights transfer from the parents to a student who is 18 years old or an emancipated minor under State law.
Notification of FERPA Rights for Elementary and Secondary Schools
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law, affords parents and students over 18 years of age (“eligible students”) rights with respect to the student’s education records. These are:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the School receives a request for access. Parents or eligible students should submit to a School principal, or appropriate school official, a written request that identifies the record(s) they wish to inspect. The School official will make arrangements for access and notify the parent or eligible student of the time and place where the records may be inspected.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent or eligible student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. Parents or eligible students who wish to ask the School or associated school official to amend a record should write a School principal, or appropriate school official, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the School or associated school official decides not to amend the record as requested by the parent or eligible student, the School or associated school official will notify the parent or eligible student of the decision and advise them of their right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the parent or eligible student when notifies of the right to a hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the students education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the School as an administrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff member (including heath or medical staff and law enforcement unit personnel); a person serving on a School Board; a person or company with whom the School has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of suing its own employees or officials (such as attorney, auditor, medical consultant, or therapist);or a parent or student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. Upon request, the School discloses education records without consent to officials of another school district in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the School District to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
Special Education Policy
Annual Public Notice of Special Education Services and Programs and Rights for Students with Disabilities And Notifications of Rights Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
It is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the Commonwealth, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated. This responsibility is required by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. 1200 et. seq. (“IDEA 2004”). IDEA 2004 requires the publication of a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, before any major identification, location, or evaluation activity. IDEA 2004 requires this notice to contain certain information.
In addition, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which protects confidentiality, requires educational agencies to notify parents annually of their confidentiality rights.
Teach Speech Inc. fulfills its duties with this online notice. Teach Speech Inc. also directs parents to the procedural safeguards notice made available via the State Department of Education and the Teach Speech Inc. website.
The purpose of this notice is to describe: 1. the types of disabilities that might qualify the child for such programs and services, 2. the special education programs and related services that are available, 3. the process by which the public schools screen and evaluate such students to determine eligibility, 4. the special rights that pertain to such children and their parents or legal guardians and 5. the confidentiality rights that pertain to student information.
Qualification for Special Education and Related Services
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, or “IDEA 2004,” children qualify for special education and related services if they have one or more of the following disabilities and, as a result, need such services: 1. intellectual disability; 2. hearing impairments, including deafness; 3. speech or language impairments; 4. visual impairments, including blindness; 5. serious emotional disturbance; 6. orthopedic impairments, or physical disabilities; 7. autism, including pervasive developmental disorders; 8. traumatic brain injury, or neurological impairment; 9. other health impairment; and 10. specific learning disabilities.
Children with more than one of the foregoing disabilities could qualify for special education and related services as having multiple disabilities.
The legal definitions of the above-listed disabilities, which the public schools are required to apply under the IDEA 2004, may differ from those used in medical or clinical practice. The legal definitions, moreover, could apply to children with disabilities that have very different medical or clinical disorders. A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for example, might qualify for special education and related services as a child with “other health impairments,” “serious emotional disturbance,” or “specific learning disabilities” if the child meets the eligibility criteria under one or more of these disability categories and if the child needs special education and related services as a result.
Under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, some school age children with disabilities who do not meet the eligibility criteria outlined above might nevertheless be eligible for special protections and for adaptations and accommodations in instruction, facilities, and activities. Children are entitled to such protections, adaptations, and accommodations if they have a mental or physical disability that substantially limits or prohibits participation in or access to an aspect of the school program.
If Teach Speech Inc. enrolls children below school age, the Commonwealth provides early intervention services to eligible children with special needs who are at least 3 years of age but younger than the age of beginners through agencies which hold Mutually Agreed Upon Written Agreements (MAWAs).
Screenings and Evaluation Process to Determine Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services
Each educational agency must establish and implement procedures to locate, identify and evaluate children suspected of being eligible for special education. These procedures involve screening activities which include but are not limited to: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, and report cards); hearing screening (at kindergarten, first, second and third grades); vision screening (every grade level); motor screening; and speech and language screening.
Except as indicated above or otherwise announced publicly, screening activities take place in an on-going fashion throughout the school year. Screening is conducted by Teach Speech Inc. unless other arrangements are necessary. If parents need additional information regarding the purpose, time, and location of screening activities, they should call or contact the Regional Director of Teach Speech Inc., Magdalena Valentin BS MS MA via the Teach Speech Inc. website.
When concerns raised either by school staff or parents warrant screening, the child is referred to a Teach Speech Inc. Speech Specialist and when necessary in conjunction with School District’s “instruction support team” (“IST”), sometimes called the “child study team.”
The IST is responsible for assessing the current achievement and performance of the child, for designing school-based interventions to address concerns raised, and for assessing the effectiveness of those school-based interventions. If the concern that resulted in the referral can be addressed without special education services, or is the result of the lack of English proficiency or appropriate instruction, the IST will recommend interventions other than multidisciplinary team evaluation. Parents nevertheless have the right to request a multidisciplinary team evaluation at any time, regardless of the outcome of the screening process.
When screening indicates that a student may be eligible for special education, Teach Speech Inc. will seek parental consent to conduct an evaluation. Evaluation means procedures used in the determination of whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services needed by the child. The term evaluation refers to procedures used selectively with an individual child and does not indicate basic tests administered to or procedures used with all children.
Before Teach Speech Inc. can proceed with an evaluation, it must notify the parents in writing of the specific types of testing and assessment it proposes to conduct, of the date and time of the evaluation, and of the parents’ rights. The evaluation cannot begin until the parent has signed the written notice indicating that he or she consents to the proposed testing and assessments and has returned the notice to the public school. Once parental consent for evaluation is obtained, the school has timelines and procedures specified by law that it must follow. The law contains additional provisions and due process protections regarding situations in which parental consent for an initial evaluation is absent or refused discussed more fully below and in the Procedural Safeguards Notice.
This evaluation is conducted by Teach Speech Inc.’s Speech Specialists and in conjunction with the child’s Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) which includes a teacher, other qualified professionals who work with the child, and the parents. The MDE process must be conducted in accordance with specific timelines and must include protection-in-evaluation procedures. For example, tests and procedures used as part of the Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation may not be racially or culturally biased.
The MDE process results in a written evaluation report called an Evaluation Report (ER). This report makes recommendations about a student’s eligibility for special education based on the presence of a disability and the need for specially designed instruction.
Parents who think their child is eligible for special education may request, at any time, that Teach Speech Inc. conduct a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation. Requests for a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation must be made in writing to Teach Speech Inc.’s Regional Director.
If a parent makes an oral request for a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation, Teach Speech Inc. shall provide the parent with a form for that purpose. If an associated public school denies the parents’ request for an evaluation, the parents have the right to challenge the denial through an impartial hearing or through voluntary alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
The determination of whether a student is eligible for special education is made by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. A single test or procedure may not be the sole factor in determining that a child is exceptional.
The IEP team includes: the parents of a child with a disability; not less than one regular education teacher, if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment; not less than one special education teacher, or when appropriate, not less than one special education provider; a representative of the school who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum, and is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the School; an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described above; other individuals, at the discretion of the parent or the agency, who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and whenever appropriate, a child with a disability. If the student is determined to be eligible for special education, the IEP team develops a written education plan called an IEP. The IEP shall be based in part on the results of the Multi- Disciplinary Evaluation. The IEP team may decide that a student is not eligible for special education. In that instance, recommendations for educational programming in regular education may be developed from the ER.
An IEP describes a student’s current levels, goals, and the individualized programs and services, which the student will receive.
IEPs are reviewed on an at least an annual basis. The IEP team will make decisions about the type of services, the level of intervention, and the location of intervention.
Placement must be made in the least restrictive environment in which the student’s needs can be met with special education and related services. All students with disabilities must be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who are not disabled.
Dispute Resolution Systems
When disputes arise between the parent and Teach Speech Inc., the following two formal systems are available to assist in resolving the dispute:
Mediation is a voluntary process in which the parent, Teach Speech Inc. and associated school districts involved in a dispute regarding special education both agree to obtain the assistance of an impartial mediator to resolve the conflict. Mediation is available for parties to special education disputes involving any special education matter, including matters arising prior to the filing of a Due Process Hearing Request.
Mediation can be requested alone, or in conjunction with due process. Mediation cannot be used to deny or delay the parent’s right to a due process hearing or to deny any other rights of the parent.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education, through the Office for Dispute Resolution, maintains a list of individuals who are qualified mediators and knowledgeable in laws and regulations regarding the provision of special education and related services. Mediators are not employed by any local or state agency providing direct services to the child, and the mediator must not have a personal conflict of interest. The mediator’s services are paid for by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Mediations are scheduled in a timely manner and are held in a location that is convenient for the parties to the dispute. Discussions that occur during the mediation process are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or court proceeding. The mediator may not be called as a witness in future proceedings.
In the event the parties resolve the dispute through mediation, they are required to execute a legally-binding agreement that sets forth the resolution terms; states that all discussions that occurred during the mediation process must be confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or civil proceedings; and is signed by both the parent, Teach Speech Inc. and a representative of an associated school district who has the authority to bind the school. This agreement is enforceable by a court.
- Due Process Hearings
The parent, Teach Speech Inc. and or associated school district may request a due process hearing with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by filing a “Due Process Hearing Request”. A due process hearing will not proceed until all required information is provided and procedures followed.
Timeline for Requesting a Due Process Hearing
The parent, Teach Speech Inc. and or associated school district must request a due process hearing through the filing of a Due Process Hearing Request within two (2) years of the date the parent, Teach Speech Inc. and or associated school district knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the Due Process Hearing Request. There are limited exceptions to this timeline. This timeline will not apply to the parent if the parent was prevented from requesting the due process hearing due to the specific misrepresentations by Teach Speech Inc. and or associated school district that it had resolved the problem forming the basis of the Due Process Hearing Request; or if Teach Speech Inc. and or associated school district withheld information from the parent which was required to be provided to the parent.
Contents of Due Process Hearing Request
The Due Process Hearing Request must contain the following information: 1. The name of the child; the address where the child lives, and the name of the school the child is attending; 2. If the child or youth is homeless, available contact information for the child and the name of the school the child is attending; 3. A description of the nature of the problem, including facts relating to such problem; and 4. A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party filing the Request.
Challenging Sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request
The Due Process Hearing Request will be considered to be sufficient unless the party receiving it notifies the Hearing Officer and the other party in writing within fifteen (15) days of receipt that the receiving party believes the Request does not meet the requirements listed above.
Within five (5) days of receiving a party’s challenge to the sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request, the Hearing Officer must make a determination based solely on the information contained within the Request, whether the Request meets requirements. The Hearing Officer must immediately notify both parties in writing of his or her determination.
Amended Due Process Hearing Request
Either the parent or a Charter School may amend its Due Process Hearing Request only if: 1. The other party consents in writing to the amendment and is given the opportunity to resolve the issues raised in the Due Process Hearing Request through a preliminary meeting/resolution session; or 2. The Hearing Officer grants permission for the party to amend the Due Process.