CCSA Answers: Independent Study and Special Education

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January 7, 2017 Question: I am developing an Independent Study charter school. Can special education students be accepted into my program?

Answer: Like all charter schools, independent study charter schools are public schools that are open to all students who may choose to enroll - including those with special needs. Because public schools, including charters, may not deny admission based on disability, charter schools operating non-classroom-based or independently study programs must accept students with special needs who enroll or are admitted through the lottery. There are, however, special considerations for schools operating exclusively as independent study charter schools. Education Code Section 51745(c) requires that a student's individualized education program (IEP) specifically provides for participation in independent study. If a student enrolls in an independent study charter school and the student's existing IEP does not currently provide for independent study or non-classroom-based instruction, then the charter school must convene an IEP team meeting within the first 30 days of the student's enrollment, to discuss the student's needs and determine whether independent study is appropriate for the student. If the IEP team determines that independent study is appropriate, then the school may offer the program as FAPE for the student by including independent study in the IEP and obtaining parental consent. More information about this process can be found here.

As always, in special education it is important to look at state and federal law, as well as understand what the legal relationship is with the charter school's authorizer for purposes of special education services.