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As many school district administrators know, Connecticut recently enacted Public Act No. 23-137, which extends eligibility for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) through the end of the school year during which the student turns twenty-two years old, or until the student graduates from high school with a regular high school diploma, whichever occurs first.  On July 14, 2023, the Connecticut State Department of Education (“CSDE”) released guidance on this issue, entitled “Public Act 23-137 Extends IDEA Eligibility through the End of the School Year during which a Student Turns Age 22” (the “Guidance”). The Guidance provides several steps for districts to take in notifying affected students and/or their parents, as applicable, and confirms that certain students with birthdays in the first three months of the school year will have the option to continue with plans to transition to adult services through the Department of Developmental Services (“DDS”).

Action Steps for School Districts 

The Guidance first clarifies that school districts need not take any further action for students who exited from special education and related services because they turned age twenty-two or graduated with a regular high school diploma prior to June 30, 2023.  However, for students who will turn twenty-two on or after July 1, 2023, the Guidance directs school districts to notify adult special education students (or their parents as applicable) whose individualized education plan (“IEP”) has an end date on the student’s twenty-second birthday that the student remains eligible for special education services until the end of the 2023-2024 school year. School districts must also convene planning and placement team (“PPT”) meetings as necessary to revise the IEP to implement this change.  As appropriate, the Guidance encourages school districts to consider including one or more representatives from the student’s current adult service agency in reviewing­–and potentially revising–IEP goals and objectives.

School districts should contact all students or their parents, as applicable, affected by this legislation and review their IEPs as promptly as practicable, but are explicitly instructed by the CSDE to prioritize doing so for students whose twenty-second birthday falls between July 1, 2023 and September 1, 2023. 

Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Placements 

Consistent with DDS guidance issued on June 28, 2023, for those students turning twenty-two in July, August and September of 2023 who already have a DDS plan in place with a provider identified and start date for the plan, DDS will accept these students as planned, provided that the adult student or parent agrees in writing to decline extended IDEA eligibility through the end of the 2023-2024 school year. DDS is currently in the process of contacting these families. 

If the DDS placement is accepted by the adult student or parent, school districts must collaborate with DDS and continue the IEP until the start date of the DDS placement. School districts must also issue a prior written notice (“PWN”) reflecting that the adult student or parent refused special education services offered through the end of the school year in which the student turns twenty-two and must also include the date of exit from special education (namely, the day prior to the start date of the DDS placement). The Guidance also clarifies that school districts may use the PSIS Exit Code 20 (reachedmaximum age for services) under these circumstances. If, on the other hand, the adult student or parent declines the DDS placement, the school district must follow the general rule and provide special education and related services through the end of the school year in which the student turns twenty-two or until the student graduates with their regular high school diploma, whichever occurs first.

The Guidance does not, however, address the availability of DDS placements for students with twenty-second birthdays after September 2023.  The new legislation provides, and the Guidance confirms, that any student who turns twenty-two is entitled to receive special education and related services through the end of that school year or until they receive a regular high school diploma.  If an adult student with a twenty-second birthday after September 2023 or the student’s parent expresses a desire to continue with a plan to transition to adult services (such as through DDS) prior to the conclusion of the school year, districts should handle those cases on an individual basis in collaboration with DDS or other adult service agencies to see if such a transition is possible.  

Reminders for School Districts

In addition to providing helpful practical guidance addressing this recent legislative change, the CSDE offers two reminders for school districts. As districts know, students who have aged out of eligibility or have graduated with a regular high school diploma must be provided with a summary of performance (“SOP”) summarizing the student’s academic and functional performance upon their exit from special education, including recommendations on how to help the student meet their post-secondary goals. The CSDE also reminds districts that students who exit high school because they completed school with other credentials (and did not graduate with a regular diploma), discontinued school by their own choice, transferred to a GED program, or moved/are not known to be continuing school remain entitled to FAPE and, if they attempt to re-enroll, must be readmitted until the end of the school year in which they turn twenty-two (unless they graduate with a regular high school diploma first).  

For questions about this Guidance, please contact Peter Maher at pmaher@goodwin.com, Julie Jaquays at jjaquays@goodwin.com, or any other member of our School Law Practice Group

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Photo of Peter J. Maher Peter J. Maher

Peter Maher represents boards of education and other entities in all areas of school law, with an emphasis on special education issues, labor and employment matters and, more recently, issues related to school operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A former educator, Peter draws…

Peter Maher represents boards of education and other entities in all areas of school law, with an emphasis on special education issues, labor and employment matters and, more recently, issues related to school operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A former educator, Peter draws on his firsthand knowledge of the needs and goals of school stakeholders to provide practical, community-specific and timely counsel that helps prevent problems when possible and solve them when necessary. Whether navigating sensitive special education matters or advising on day-to-day district operations, he partners with his clients to identify opportunities and pursue a clear path in the face of today’s challenges.

Photo of Julie P. Reznik Julie P. Reznik

Julie Reznik is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues. Julie focuses her practice on special education matters and disputes, student discipline, and…

Julie Reznik is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group. She advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues. Julie focuses her practice on special education matters and disputes, student discipline, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). She also serves on the firm’s Model Policy Committee, which provides a comprehensive set of model policies and administrative regulations, as well as model notifications and forms, for Connecticut boards of education and charter schools.