Bills aim to improve clarity in discipline and special ed.

Bills aim to improve clarity in discipline and special ed.

(Calif.) Schools will have to provide more transparency in both suspension policies and development of individualized education plans under a flurry of bill’s moving through the state Assembly.

One bill would ensure parents can view IEP documents five days prior to signing them, while another requires students receive information regarding any steps taken prior to being recommended for suspension.

A third bill that would require students enrolled in a juvenile court school receive notification when they become entitled to a diploma.

These are among the bills that passed out of the appropriations committee in the lower house as the California Legislature faces hundreds more ahead of a key legislative deadline later this month.

One bill that received unanimous support–AB 1264–aims to allow parents to make more informed decisions about their child’s IEP by requiring school districts to notify parents of their right to preview the documents prior to an official meeting and, if requested, provide those reports five days prior to the scheduled meeting.

Parents and advocacy groups who have testified on behalf of the bill said it would contribute to a more successful IEP process because everyone can come to the table fully informed.

“The objective is to increase transparency and opportunities to engage parents to take a more active role in their child’s education plan,” professed Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, author of AB 1264. “Each IEP child is unique and deserves their best chance to succeed. This bill seeks to enhance the educational experience for our students with special needs by granting parents access to information to ensure they make the best choice for their child.”

Although schools are already required to provide families with complete copies of any IEP documents within five business days after a request is made, many parents do not know that they are able to make such a request in the first place, according to Garcia’s office.

The second bill, AB 667, authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, aims to ensure that other means of correction are being pursued in advance of a decision to suspend a student from school by requiring that the child is informed of previous attempts at behavior correction prior to the suspension.

According to Reyes, an estimated 210,000 students 11 years old and younger missed 10 percent of the school year in 2015-2016–an issue that is only exacerbated when suspension is used as a primary tool for disciplining students.

“Given California’s attendance crisis, transparency around this issue is critical,” Reyes said in a statement. “AB 667 ensures students are notified of other means of correction attempted and provides clarity around suspension procedures.”

Hers is part of a trio of bills moving through the Senate and Assembly seeking to ensure students at risk of being suspended from school undergo a more transparent disciplinary process.

The third bill, AB 1124, would require a student enrolled in a juvenile court school of their guardian to receive noticed once the child is entitled to a high school diploma. It also would require the county office of education to provide information on transfer opportunities available through the state community college system, and how the student’s ability to gain postsecondary admission will be affected by taking juvenile court school classes or continuing education upon release.

The intent of the bill, according to author Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, is to align statutory requirements for issuing diplomas for students in juvenile court schools with requirements and exemptions for students who are foster youth or who are former juvenile court school students.

“The statutory provisions for students in juvenile court schools do not allow for consideration of an individual student’s situation and whether the student is reasonably able to complete the additional local or county high school graduation requirements,” Cervantes said.

All three bills will be scheduled for a vote on the Assembly floor.

There were also a handful of bills that failed to make it out of committee–including one that would have required students enrolling in elementary school to either provide results of an eye and vision examination or undergo an exam provided by the school.

Current law requires families to provide a certificate from a medical professional verifying that the child has received a health check-up that includes a vision test within the prior 18 months, but parents can also submit a waiver stating they are unwilling or unable to obtain a health screening for the child.

According to Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, author of AB 1110, her bill would have helped to ensure that students didn’t go through school thinking they couldn’t understand the material being taught when in reality they couldn’t see it.

“Children can’t learn when they can’t see the blackboard clearly,” Burke said in a statement prior to the committee hearing.  “This bill helps connect children with care to prevent or correct eye and vision problems that are the number one cause of childhood disability.”

Other bills that did not move out of committee last week include AB 858, which would have expanded the availability of instructional materials and programs to help students understand how to manage their finances and protect their financial privacy; and AB 1217, which would have provided $60 million in one-time Proposition 98 funding for matching grants to local school districts to create or expand teacher residency programs.