On June 18, the District 65 School Board considered a proposed amendment to Board Policy 6:120, relating to the education of students with a disability. The proposed amendment, recommended by the Board’s Policy Committee, is intended to address concerns about the timing of changes made to an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a student with a disability and to specify that such changes must be based on the student’s needs.

The current policy provides, in part, “[T]he District shall follow procedures for identification, evaluation, placement, and delivery of services to children with disabilities provided in the Illinois State Board of Education’s Special Education rules.”

The proposed amendment would add the following sentence to the policy statement: “Once determined by an IEP team, decisions regarding placement as well as the nature of services and supports will not be altered unless necessitated by a documented change in the child’s needs.”

Board member Richard Rykhus said the proposed change addresses a timing issue that has arisen in the last three summers, during which decisions were made to change a service delivery model or to move a program after IEPs were adopted and after the school year ended. He gave as an example the administration’s recent decision to move the program for K- through third-grade students with an emotional disability from Lincolnwood to Kingsley beginning this fall. He said the Board decided not to move the ED program several months ago. non the less, at the June 18 Board meeting District administrators outlined their plan to move the program.

Mr. Rykhus said parents were not told of this move when the IEPs for their children were prepared, and they were not told about staffing changes. He said parents need predictability.

Mr. Rykhus also told the RoundTable, “I’ve heard too many examples about changes being made to IEPs and I’m not always convinced the changes have been made based on the child’s needs or that the parents and IEP team have been involved in the process.

Mr. Rykhus said several Board member began discussing this issue starting three and one-half months ago, and they asked the administration to come up with language to address their concerns. Superintendent Hardy Murphy declined to do so, Mr. Rykhus said, so he put together the language himself.

Dr. Murphy said he thought the proposed change to Policy 6:120 was redundant and not necessary.

In a memo dated June 18, Dr. Murphy said, “Both the administration and the school board legal counsel believe that the current policy language complies with the state code and meets the need of students with disabilities. Further, it is the opinion of the District’s legal counsel, that the proposed language change may have the effect of limiting the District’s ability to provide services for students with disabilities.”

To address concerns raised by the District’s attorney, Mr. Rykhus proposed additional language at the June 18 Board meeting. Under that language, a student’s placements, supports and services could be altered if an IEP team reconvenes with the parents and agrees that a new program, service, facility or method of service would better meet the needs of a child. The additional language would also require that IEPs be finalized before the close of the current school year.

Board member Tracy Quattrocki supported the amendment, saying it would clarify the process to make changes to an IEP.

Board member Andy Pigozzi cautioned that amendments to policies in complex areas may have “unintended consequences.” Kim Weaver said she would like to see an analysis of the impact the proposed amendment would have on the District’s operations.

Board president Katie Bailey said she would like the benefit of a legal opinion on the proposed amendment, as revised, before voting.

The Board decided to table the motion to amend Policy 6:120 and to schedule it for further discussion after receiving a legal opinion.

A recent administrative decision by an independent hearing officer found that the District inappropriately required a student to adapt to the inclusion program that had been adopted by District 65, rather than developing a program and services that adapt to the student’s needs. This decision may be a factor in the continuing discussion.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...