Several New Laws Enacted That Impact Special Education Programs

There were several legislative bills enacted at the end of 2019 that impact local educational agencies (“LEAs”) and the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities.

 1. Assembly Bill 1172 (Frazier) – Nonpublic Schools

This bill adds new requirements for LEAs (including charter schools who serve as their own LEA for special education) that place students in state-certified nonpublic schools (“NPS”) and requirements for the nonpublic schools beginning with the 2020-21 school year. Specifically, LEAs that enter into master contracts with an NPS are required to conduct a site visit before placing a student if the LEA does not have other students enrolled at the school. In addition, LEAs are required to conduct at least one monitoring site visit each school year at each nonpublic school in which the LEA has placed a student and report findings from those visits to the California Department of Education within 60 days of the visit. The California Department of Education is required to create and publish criteria for reporting this information by June 30, 2020.

Also, nonpublic schools are required to provide documentation of annual staff training (and within 30 days for new employees) for employees who will have contact or interact with students on use of evidenced-based practices and interventions for behavior. LEAs will also be required to verify that the NPS has complied with these training requirements.  The new law also requires that the NPS administrator hold certain credentials or licenses, that the NPS certify that it has an individual onsite who is qualified and responsible for behavioral interventions, and that the NPS notify the California Department of Education and LEA within one business day of any student incident in which law enforcement was contacted.

 2. Assembly Bill 605 (Maienschein) – Assistive Technology

This bill requires LEAs (including charter schools who serve as their own LEA for special education) to increase access for students with IEPs to assistive technology (“AT”) (e.g., Chromebooks, iPads, communication devices, etc.)  Effective January 1, 2020, LEAs are required to continue to provide a student access to any AT devices as set forth in his/her IEP for up to two months after disenrollment or until alternative arrangements can be made (whichever occurs first). The new law also expressly requires LEAs to provide devices for use in the student’s home or other settings when determined necessary by the student’s IEP team to ensure a free appropriate public education.

 3. Senate Bill 223 (Hill) – Administration of Medical Cannabis

This bill (called “Jojo’s Act”) authorizes LEAs (including charter schools) to adopt a policy to allow a parent/guardian to possess and administer medical cannabis to a pupil who is a qualified patient at a school site.  The cannabis cannot be in a smokable or “vapeable” form.  The new law requires that the administration of medical cannabis cannot disrupt the educational environment or expose other pupils, that the parent must sign-in at the school site before administering, and requires valid written medical recommendation for the pupil to be kept on file at the school.  The new law provides that school staff will not be required to administer the medical cannabis. Furthermore, the legislation expressly states that any policy adopted by an LEA can be amended or rescinded at any time.

For more information on these bills please contact the author of this Legal Alert or any of the attorneys at Girard, Edwards, Stevens & Tucker LLP.