Regular Classroom Teachers
1. When should I refer a student for
special education services?
2. With how much of the IEP should I be familiar?
3. How can I manage accommodations,
modifications, and standards?
4. What notes and documentation do I need to maintain?
5. When should the regular classroom teacher call
an IEP meeting?
6. What is my legal liability in special
7. Where can I find an explanation of IDEA
8. What does inclusion mean to me?
When should I refer a
student for special education services?
Regular classroom teachers should refers students
with suspected disabilities for assessment to determine if special
education services or programs would be necessary for them to progress
in the general curriculum. Students who should be referred include
those suspected of having cognitive, academic, social, emotional,
language, motor, or visual impairments. Other indicators that
suggest a child may benefit from special education services are
presented in this Suspected
Disability Indicators checklist. (Back to Top)
With how much of the IEP
should I be familiar?
As a regular classroom teacher, you are required
by law to have knowledge regarding the contents of the IEP for each
special education student enrolled in your classes, and you are
legally obligated to implement any portions of an IEP that apply to
you. To successfully meet this obligation, you should read the
IEP for each special education student for whom you deliver
instruction in order to fully understand the student's education
condition, their instructional needs, any specific activities that
have been assigned to you and your classroom, and what, if any,
accommodations or modifications you should be implementing. (Back to Top)
How can I manage
accommodations, modifications, and standards?
IDEA requires regular classroom teachers to implement accommodations
and modifications as prescribed by the student's IEP.
Accommodations enable the student to access the general curriculum
and demonstrate his or her knowledge of course-content by making an
adjustment to the way the student shows his or her
understanding. Accommodations are designed to reduce the
impact of the disability and increase the likelihood that the
students' performances accurately reflect their knowledge of the
academic material. Modifications allow students with
significant limitations in their academic skills to participate in
the general curriculum by altering the course content, assignments,
or assessments. Modifications that fundamentally alter or
lower the standards for a class are typically reserved for students
whose disabilities are so significant that there is no expectation
the student will be pursuing a regular high school diploma.
See our Teacher's
Tool Kit page for disability specific resources and
strategies. (Back to Top)
What notes and documentation
do I need to maintain?
Regular education teachers working with special
education students should document their efforts to implement the
student's IEP. Upon reviewing the IEP, regular classroom
teachers should make a list of any goals, accommodations and
modifications, behavior intervention plans, and supplementary aids
and services that apply to the regular classroom setting. If
the student's IEP includes accommodations or modifications of
assignments or tests, it is a good idea to keep a copy of those
assignments or tests that show the accommodations or modifications
that have been made to the original assignments. Likewise, if
students in the regular classroom have a behavior intervention plan,
it is a good idea to keep a running record of the interventions that
have been made based on the plan. Additionally, any
discussions with the student's case manager, guidance counselor
(and/or special education counselor), school psychologist, other
support personnel, and parents should be noted and maintained.
Finally, anything written regarding a special education student
will, if there is a dispute, become part of the body of evidence in
a hearing or legal proceeding. (Back to Top)
When should the regular
classroom teacher call an IEP meeting?
Regular classroom teachers should request an IEP
meeting whenever there are concerns regarding the content or
implementation of the IEP. It is important to note that the
IEP is a proposed program that can, and should, be modified if there
are questions regarding either the meaning or accuracy of the document.
There may be times when implementation of the IEP is hindered by the
student's own actions. For example, truancy or refusal by the
student to complete homework or participate in required classroom
activities are barriers to the implementation of the IEP. It
would be appropriate to ask for an IEP meeting to discuss these
problems and develop some strategies to improve cooperation and
compliance. Furthermore, if the child's behavior in the
regular classroom is creating classroom disturbances that interfere
with teaching, it would be appropriate to convene an IEP meeting to
determine if the current placement is viable. (Back to Top)
What is my legal
liability in special education?
Regular classroom teachers employed by a school
district will have very limited liability exposure in special
education so long as the duties assigned to them regarding
implementation of the IEP are executed in a legal and appropriate
manner. Failure to implement the IEP as specified could result
in disciplinary action, criminal charges, and civil lawsuits that
could result in personal liability exposure. Accommodations,
modifications, behavior intervention plans, and supplementary aids
and services are examples of IEP items that are typically the
responsibility of the regular classroom teacher. IF a parent
believes these items have not been implemented, they may file a
complaint with the state department of education alleging
noncompliance with the IEP. The state department will launch
an inquiry and possible investigation. Typically, if the
school district is found to be in noncompliance, a corrective action
plan will be developed and the matter is resolved. If,
however, the parent elects to pursue a due process hearing, one will
be held to determine if the district did, in fact, fail to implement
the agreed-upon IEP and denied the special education student the
entitlement to a "free, appropriate public education" (FAPE).
If the hearing officer decides that the school district denied the
student FAPE, the district will be required to implement the IEP as
written, pay attorney's fees and other costs the parent may have
incurred and may be required to pay the cost of compensatory
services. (Back to Top)
Where can I find an
explanation of IDEA regulations?
Federal regulations can be found at the following
(Back to Top)
What does inclusion mean to
Federal law requires that a full continuum of
placement options be available to each special education student and
that placement decisions be made by the IEP Team based on the
student's needs. Congress and the courts, however, have
affirmed the legal right of children with disabilities to be
educated in the least restrictive environment possible. Some
schools have interpreted this to mean "full inclusion" and
have advocated for all students to be educated in regular
classroom. For most, the decision to "include" or
"exclude" students from the regular classroom is still
based on the individual and unique needs of the student.
Regular classroom teachers play a vital role in determining the
extent to which students with disabilities can be successful in the
general curriculum because of their expertise in the curriculum area
for which they teach. For a detailed explanation of the
origins of inclusion, related research, and specific suggestions on
how to effectively implement inclusion, see "Planning
for Inclusion," a NICHCY News Digest. (Back to Top)