New Resources for California LEAs Implementing IDEA Parental Consent Requirements

Earlier this year the federal government made changes to parental consent requirements for school districts seeking access to Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) reimbursement for medically necessary health services provided to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new requirements primarily concern changes to frequency and formatting of parental consent, and are intended to protect family rights while easing access to public benefits for schools.

Under the new regulations, which went into effect on March 18, 2013, schools no longer need to obtain signed written consent from parents each time an eligible service type or frequency is changed in a child’s IEP or IFSP. Now, schools must now obtain a one-time signed consent form from parents and distribute an annual notice regarding parental rights (which does not need to be signed or returned). These regulations are codified in 34 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 300.154(d).

For California LEAs that are looking for assistance in bringing their district into compliance with the new regulations, we have assembled a listing of available resources and some helpful tips below.

Know the Basics – as summarized in a one-page summary written by the U.S. Department of Education, the new federal regulations require school districts (also referred to as ‘public agencies’) to:

•    Obtain a one-time signed written consent from the parent, after providing the written notification described below, before accessing their public benefits (Medi-Cal) for the first time. This consent specifies the personally identifiable information that may be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure, the agency to which the disclosure may be made, and specifies that the parent understands and agrees to the district accessing the child’s or parent’s public benefits. Read the complete regulatory citation for written (signed) consent: 34 CFR 300.154(d)(2)(iv), page 40…

•    Provide written notification to the child’s parents before accessing the child’s or the parent’s public benefits or insurance for the first time and prior to obtaining the one-time parental consent and annually thereafter. The written notification, which does not need to be signed or returned, must explain all of the protections available to parents to ensure that parents are fully informed of their rights before the school district can access their public benefits (Medi-Cal) to pay for services under the IDEA. The notification also must be written in language understandable to the general public and in the native language of the parent. Read the complete regulatory citation for written notifications: 34 CFR 300.154(2)(d)(v)(A-D), page 40…

Brush Up – since the new regulations were first published, additional guidance on compliance and implementation has been published by the federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and, more specific to California LEAs, the California Department of Education (CDE).

•    California-Specific Guidance for School Districts: CDE IDEA Related Services Letter, ‘Access to Public Benefits and Insurance’ for LEAs, dated March 13, 2013

•    Federal Guidance on Implementation: OSERS’ online Non-Regulatory Q&A Guidance; this document is particularly helpful for determining what steps your district may need to take to come into compliance with the new regulations, for example:

•    Steps a district must take to comply with the new parental consent requirements for children currently receiving services under IDEA – see Question 8, page 5

•    Situations under which a district is not required to obtain a new signed consent form from parents of children currently receiving services under IDEA – see Question 7, page 4

•    Federal Guidance for States: OSERS’ Letter to State Directors of Special Education, ‘Suggested Model for Written Notification of Parental Rights Regarding Use of Public Benefits or Insurance’, dated June 11, 2013

Reach Out – individual districts can select or create a form that works best for their population, so long as the forms meet all federal requirements. Your SELPA or a neighboring LEA may be able to provide a sample written and annual consent template. Paradigm clients can also access our sample parental consent forms in News Release No. 036, available on InTouch. We also strongly suggest that districts review any samples or final language with their legal department or equivalent before implementation.

Keep in Mind – a few notes to keep in mind when researching information related to the new parental consent requirements for schools:

•    Read all guidance documents thoroughly and carefully – it can be particularly difficult to distinguish between the language used when a document refers to the one-time written consent form (which must be signed and returned) as opposed to the annual written notification (which does not need to be signed or returned).

•    Neither the federal nor state education agencies have released mandated or suggested consent forms; however, the guidance they provide (see ‘Brush Up’) can be incredibly helpful to LEAs looking to create their own forms or vet any sample forms they may have.

Still have questions? While your SELPA may be the best place for guidance on your compliance strategy, the California Department of Education (CDE) is also available to help: for general questions regarding this subject, LEAs can contact the Policy and Program Services Unit of the Special Education Division by phone at (916) 323-2409.

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Index of information from the U.S. DOE on the new IDEA parental consent regulations…