New to New Jersey?
By Nicole L. Crincoli, Esq. and Theresa Sullivan, B.S, A.A.S.
Welcome to the Garden State! Our lovely state features 130 miles of coastline, natural, suburban, and city-regions, and, according to U.S. News & World Report, the best schools in the country.
If your child is transferring into the state with an IEP, you may be anxious to learn about the process of sharing that IEP with your new district. Just because a child moves does not mean that their needs have changed. So, what does that mean for their program? The first thing to know is that all states and public schools must meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to all eligible children.
In New Jersey, school districts must also comply with New Jersey state law. The New Jersey Administrative Code governing special education provides that when a student moves from an out-of-state school district to a New Jersey school district, the child study team of the school district into which the student has transferred shall conduct an immediate review of the evaluation information and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The school district must also, without delay, in consultation with the student’s parents, provide a program “comparable” to that set forth in the student’s current IEP.
For some families, an issue may arise when there is a difference of opinion about what is comparable. Fortunately, guidelines for comparability have been set forth in case law and largely defer to the program described literally in the IEP. While a new district cannot be expected to provide the exact same program, the district must provide a program and services that are “similar” or “equivalent” to those described in the IEP.
If there is a difference of opinion regarding the child’s needs, the appropriate school district staff shall conduct any assessments determined to be necessary and develop and implement a new IEP for the student within 30 days of enrollment. If you plan to move during the summer, the process of enrollment should begin as early as possible.
What does all this mean? If your child is already classified as eligible to receive special education and related services, you likely already have an IEP from your previous school district. The new school district may require new evaluations to determine eligibility and develop an appropriate program. However, while your new school district is evaluating your child, the district is required to provide a comparable program for the first 30 days after your child’s enrollment and, in consultation with the parents, may choose to continue the comparable program for the entirety of the child’s school year.
Moving is a stressful process, but ensuring that your child receives a free, appropriate public education in their new school district should not be. If you are thinking about moving to New Jersey with a child who has an IEP, the attorneys at Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler are available to help. Please give us a call to schedule a consultation if you plan to move and have questions about transferring your child’s IEP.