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New Information: What You Need to Know About IEPs and Open-Transfer Laws

New Information: What You Need to Know About IEPs and Open-Transfer Laws

What’s Happening Now in Education?

Right now, Oklahoma students who are on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) are afforded less opportunities to get the quality education they deserve. 

Specifically, students on IEPs have less access and information than other children regarding public schools’ open-transfer system. 

IEPs are plans developed in collaboration with parents and district staff to ensure students in elementary or middle school with disabilities receive the necessary instruction and services. They are designed to support the learning styles of students with special needs that range from dyslexia to autism and beyond. 

Under Oklahoma’s existing open-transfer law, schools must report the number of students they are able to accept, and families refused a transfer can appeal the decision to their local school board, then the State Board of Education. However, public schools are currently allowed to deny students with special needs access to another public school. They can also withhold information regarding available spaces or reasons for the denial of a transfer request. 
 
Lucia Frohling, Director of Parent Services at OPSA, is a former public school teacher with a background in non-profit development and the mother of three children, two of whom were diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Lucia has experienced firsthand how students with learning differences can be treated differently by the current system. 

What Families Are Seeing

While most children applying under the open-transfer law only have to get approval from the district they want to transfer into, children on an IEP must get their transfer approved by both their current school and their prospective school. 

“The two teams have to meet and they make the decision, which then leaves the kids with no appeals process,” Frohling said.

This often leaves parents of children who have specific educational needs with a lack of access to schools that may be a better fit to help their student be successful. 

“They want to go somewhere else, but there’s just not any options because they’re blocked because their children are on an IEP,” Frohling said. “So some of them have even gone so far as to take their child off an IEP, then try to transfer them, and then have them re-evaluated.”

This method comes with a cost: students lose services that are essential to their education for at least 45 days.

Lucia has a heart for families facing these circumstances, and is deeply committed to empowering parents across the state of Oklahoma to champion their child’s education. Part of her day-to-day job is helping families navigate the state system when parents feel their child is being neglected in their current district. And right now, many families feel like they are in that boat. 

“They feel like their kids aren’t being served properly, or for some kids they’re not providing the specially designed instruction that would enable them to make ambitious progress in light of their unique circumstances,” Frohling said. “Essentially, they’re not being prepared for further education, employment and independent living, which is the whole tenet of IDEA (the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).”

What’s On the Horizon?

So, how do we prepare our students for further education and life after school, when there are factors out of our control?

The good news is that there is a push for correction of this problem. As of April 3, 2024, House Bill 3386, written by House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat, passed the Senate Education Committee on a 9-3 vote. This bill aims to streamline the intra-district transfer process for students in IEPs, requiring transfers be accepted — with a few  exceptions for students with disciplinary or attendance-related issues. The bill will now proceed to the floor of the Oklahoma Senate.

OPSA and other like-minded educational organizations are also constantly working to empower families and increase support for students who may be experiencing problems like these in their current school environment. 

Resources Through OPSA

Oklahoma Parents for Student Achievement (OPSA) is here to support parents and families on their educational journeys, every step of the way. We work to help meet the unique needs of each student, so every student can have access to the quality education they deserve. 

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into more information about potential next steps for your student, check out these OPSA resources, including videos covering IEP basics, a guideline to starting the IEP process, and open transfer district openings and guidelines. You can also contact Lucia directly at lfrohling@okpsaedu.org. 

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