On April 6, 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) published amendments to regulations in Part 401 – Special Education Facilities under Section 14-7.02 of the School Code.  Though these regulations were published April 6, 2018, their effective date is March 31, 2018. The goal of the amendments were to provide additional guidance to school districts placing students in nonpublic special educational programs.

The amendments added a regulatory intent section, which clarified that these programs are highly restrictive and appropriate when other less restrictive placements on the continuum will not meet the needs of the student. Additionally, throughout the Part, references to days were changed to “business days.”

Further, the regulations are now clear that school districts are responsible for monitoring the programs in which they place the students and ensuring the students receive the programming and services detailed in each student’s IEP. The regulations now require the facilities to notify the district of residence immediately after they become aware of a change in residence or guardianship for the student at the facility.

Most importantly, some changes to the regulations have an impact on placement of students. The regulations now provide that if a facility in Illinois is not currently certified or licensed, it may continue to take placements until July 1, 2018. After July 1, 2018, no new placements may be made; however, the current placements will remain unless the IEP team determines another placement is more appropriate or the student reaches an age he or she is no longer eligible for special education and related services. Further, if an out-of-state facility is not regulated by the state in which it is located, it cannot enter into contractual agreements on or after July 1, 2018. Contracts in effect prior to June 30, 2018, are not affected. Further, siblings of students placed at a facility that is not regulated by the state prior to June 30, 2018, may attend the same facility should the IEP team determine it is the most appropriate placement.

The regulations also now provide that if a program is deemed to be “Pending Further Review,” a school district may not make new placements in the facility. Further, the school district must identify placements for students at the facility in the event the facility’s status changes to “Nonapproved.”

With the new regulations, it is even more important for IEP teams to know the status of facilities prior to making a recommendation for placement at the facilities.