The Superintendent's Report: Special Education
Dr. Jerry L. Oates, Superintendent of Brunswick County Schools
One of the questions that I am frequently asked by parents is about the types of services the school system provides for children with disabilities. I thought I would use this column to share some information that might be helpful to readers. This column will provide general information about special education and related services in addition to the school supports that are implemented to support at-risk learners. Subsequent columns will focus on other facets of this very important part of the work we do to ensure that all students are educated.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), formerly known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was originally enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. Article 9, Section 115C of the North Carolina General Statutes is the State law concerning the education of students with disabilities. Currently, according to the United States Department of Education, there are approximately 14% of public school students that receive services under the privilege of the law. Brunswick County Schools serves approximately 1800 students with disabilities totaling 14.4% of the student population.
Federal law mandates the provision of a free and appropriate public school education for eligible students from ages 3 to 21. Eligible students are those identified by the IEP team which consists of the parent/guardian and a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Eligibility for special education is determined by a three prong approach. First, the individual should meet the criteria for one or more of the fourteen disabling conditions consistent with North Carolina Policy 1500-2. The disability must also have an adverse effect on educational performance and require specially designed instruction.
The categories and percentage of students with disabilities that are served by Brunswick County Schools are as follows:
Specific Learning Disability--36%
Speech or Language Impaired--8%
Other Health Impairment--21%
Traumatic Brain Injury--.4%
Based on data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Brunswick County Schools student population mirrors that of the national average.
To best answer the question regarding the types of services provided for children with disabilities, it is important to understand that services for children with disabilities are truly designed to meet the unique needs of the individual and thus are individualized for each child.
Brunswick County Schools works to identify individuals with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services by utilizing a multi-tiered framework otherwise known as MTSS. When students are exhibiting risk factors in academic, behavior, social/emotional, and/or functional skills, at-risk plans are developed by grade level teams in conjunction with the parent to provide targeted intervention in the regular education classroom. In the event that students are not making progress in the general education classroom in spite of targeted intervention, students are referred to a multi-disciplinary Individual Student Team (IST) to plan for more intensive support and targeted intervention. Individual student teams review data, develop targeted intervention plans based on data and monitor student progress toward goals outlined in intervention plans. The individual student teams convene at consistent and specified intervals to monitor student targeted assistance plans. When students are not making progress in spite of targeted intervention for their identified need(s), students are then referred to the IEP team for further evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services.
In Brunswick County Schools, we believe that all students are general education students first regardless of whether or not the individual may have a disability. The students are entitled to receive their services in the least restrictive environment. It is the vision of Brunswick County Schools to develop a community of well-educated, employable and socially responsible citizens that are college and career ready. We believe that working together as a school and community to support our students with disabilities will only enhance long term outcomes for all of our students. In the event that parents/guardians have concerns about their child’s education, you should reach out to your child’s teacher or school administrators for support. All children can learn when given the right opportunities, and we strive each day to ensure a collaboration that allows for equal access for all children.
To read previous blog entries from Dr. Oates, please CLICK HERE.