The Short Version:

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 12.17.39 AMThe list of rights (the PNPS) that is given to parents regarding special education was updated August, 2013. For students in special education that are also receiving MassHealth or Medicaid, the school is allowed to use public health insurance to pay for some costs of tests/services provided. To do so, they must follow a specific procedure, one that is meant to protect the rights of parents and their children. These procedures have been added to the new PNPS. Unfortunately, the updated PNPS has not been translated. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has advised districts that they must take additional steps to ensure that parents have the information that school districts are required by law to provide to them. This means that they may need to obtain interpreters or prepare additional translated materials describing the procedural rights of parents and students.

The Longer Version:

Thirty-eight years ago congress passed the public law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act. This law was designed to insure all children were afforded an equitable education. This law included a list of procedural safeguards designed to protect the rights of parents who have children with disabilities. Through the years the law has evolved (IDEA), and so have the procedural safeguards. In summary, these safeguards include a parent’s right to participate in all meetings, to examine all educational records, and to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of the child. Parents also have the right to written notice when the school proposes to change or refuses to change the identification, evaluation or placement of a child. The law also includes several ways to resolve a dispute, timelines, and requirements about parent notice and reimbursement for private placements.
These are the Parents’ Notice of Procedural Safeguards (PNPS) that are given to parents whose children are in the special education system, or whose children are being evaluated for the special education system.

From the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

Under IDEA 2004 school districts must give this PNPS once per year to all parents of eligible students with disabilities. The Department recommends that school districts identify a specific date each school year when the parents of every eligible student enrolled in the district, including those in out-of-district placements, will be sent a copy of the PNPS. Districts may distribute the PNPS by mail or, if the district makes information available electronically, the parent may choose that option. In addition to the annual distribution of the PNPS, school districts must give the PNPS to parents when an initial evaluation of a student is requested by the parent or another person; upon the parent’s request for a copy; and when a student with a disability is removed from his or her placement to an interim alternative education setting as a result of discipline.

In August, 2013, The PNPS was updated to include information regarding the rights of parents whose children receive MassHealth or Medicaid benifits. Here is the change, taken directly from the latest version (Mass DESE, 8/2013) of the PNPS:

To access public health insurance (MassHealth or Medicaid) benefits for the first time

 The school district is allowed to use public health insurance (MassHealth or Medicaid) to pay for some special education services included in a student’s IEP for students covered by public health insurance. Before the school district accesses MassHealth for the first time, the school district must give you written notice that it is going to seek this reimbursement, and get your voluntary consent in writing for it.  The notice will tell you that special education services are always provided at no cost to you or your family; will make clear that your consent will not lead to any changes in your child’s MassHealth benefits or eligibility; will describe what information about your student will be shared in order to access MassHealth; remind you that your consent can be withdrawn at any time; and make clear that there will be no changes to your student’s special education services or program if you withdraw or do not provide consent. If you move or your student becomes enrolled in another district, then the new school district will ask you to provide consent again (p. 4).

 It is available at http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/prb/, with a cover memorandum posted at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=4038. To date, however, the translations of this updated document have not been completed and so each of the translated versions on the Department’s web site do not have the new language. DESE will be preparing new translations during the school year and posting them at the above link. they have advised districts that they must take additional steps to ensure that parents have the information that school districts are required by law to provide to them, so they may need to obtain interpreters or prepare additional translated materials describing the procedural rights of parents and students.

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