What is a 504 plan in Arizona? 504 plans fall under a federal statute, specifically, section 504 of the rehabilitation act. Schools can develop a 504 plan to give students with disabilities the support they need. 504 programs also focus more on accommodations.
How a 504 Plan is Implemented
To create a formal 504 plan, students do not need to participate in evaluations or screening processes. And these students might not even qualify for special education. 504 programs, as I said, focus more on accommodations, which can be within the regular classroom. So, this might mean accommodations to the environment and how they present the curriculum to the student. The list goes on from there, whatever the student needs to participate in the classroom.
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Also, underneath the 504 plans, parents are not mandated to participate in the process. So, the department might not invite them to the meetings or the creation of the 504 plans. However, they need to notify parents if their child will participate in any evaluation. If you’d like more information on this process, we’re happy to help.
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What is Special Education Law in Arizona?
Hi, I’m attorney Renee Osipov with Chelle Law in Scottsdale, Arizona. And today, I’m answering the question: what is special education law? Special education law originates in the United States constitution. There are also Supreme Court case laws and federal statutes. Such as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And depending on your state, there might also be state statutes or regulations addressing special education and laws within your state. Still, this large body of law mandates that any student ages 3 to 21 with a disability are provided free and appropriate public school education providing special education. Including any services needed to meet those students’ individual needs. The purpose of this is to integrate students with disabilities into society and not to segregate them in any way.
Benefits of Special Education Services in Arizona
At the district level, this typically looks like students can be screened or tested for certain learning disabilities. A physician may already have diagnosed them with a disability. And then, within the school district, they’re provided special education or services related to their unique needs. These can be instructions in the classroom like a normal classroom. It can be, instead of taking notes, they provide the students with an outline of test-taking. They can have the test read to them or have extended time or take it in a quiet area. They can have students pulled out for services such as occupational therapy.
Different Education Plans
They may address special discipline concerns within an IEP or a 504 education plan. So, this can get a little bit overwhelming. There are a lot of laws out there. There are IEPs, and there are 504s. What’s the difference? It can get a little confusing and overwhelming for parents. Suppose you live in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area and you would like a consultation with me. I am happy to address all of your rights within special education services. I was also a teacher for eight years prior to becoming an attorney. So, I am well versed in special education services and what this looks like at the district level of each school.
What is an IEP in Arizona?
What is an IEP in Arizona? An IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. Students to be eligible to receive an IEP must attend public school or charter schools. A federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act covers IEPs.
How is IEP Started?
The process of getting an IEP in Arizona starts with either the parents of the student or the school district themselves. They may require or request that the student be screened or tested. After that testing process, there’s a clear picture of the student’s strengths and challenges. Once they have gathered that information, creating an IEP begins. An Individualized Education Plan is a legally binding document that finds all parties to the terms of the agreement. IEP addresses any programs, services, or support needed for that student or to meet any of their unique needs.
Parents Can Get Involved
Parents can also get involved in this process. They can ask for services or an IEP, or they can ask to have their child screened. They can sit in on the annual IEP meeting. Also, they can advocate for their child regarding what services need to be provided. Also, attorneys and special education attorneys may sit in on those meetings and can advocate for parents and their children. Call us and set up a consultation, especially if you are in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area.
We are happy to set up a consultation with you here at Chelle Law. We will explain your rights to not only parents but also children. And then also explain the whole Individualized Education Plan process. If you also disagree with the school district’s findings or the programs they have put in place. You also have rights underneath federal law to fight the findings from the school.
What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan in Arizona?
What’s the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? First, they come from different federal statutes. The individualized Education Plan comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And the 504 education plans come from section 504 of the rehabilitation act.
A 504 plan focuses more on accommodations. Students who qualify for a 504 education plan can have any disability that interferes with their ability to learn within the classroom. 504 plans are valid not only during K-12 education but also in college education settings. Parents are also involved less in a 504 or plan legally. However, most schools do include parents in the 504 processes.
IEP and 13 Disabilities Listed in the IDEA Act
In the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), however, to qualify, a student must have one of 13 disabilities listed in the IDEA act. If they don’t have one of those disabilities, unfortunately, they do not qualify for an individualized education program. An IEP addresses accommodations and specific services such as special education that the child may need during their education process. And parents are more involved in an IEP. Parents are also required to attend annual meetings. They must be notified too if students are evaluated for an IEP or a 504 plan.
Lastly, IEPs are different from 504 plans. It is because IEPs have specific goals and benchmarks that students are monitored if they’re reaching those. A 504 plan just simply gives accommodations to the children within that setting. And they’re not monitored. There are no goals that they must be hitting. Both create legally binding education plans. And both creations of an Individualized Education Plan and a 504 have multiple team members and staff at the school. As I said, most of the time, parents are involved.
How Does a DUI Affect Your Arizona Teaching Certificate?
What happens when a teacher in Arizona gets a DUI? Let’s first talk about that at the school level. It’s likely in your employment contract and may address this. If you get convicted of a crime, they may be able to terminate your contract for-cause. If it’s not in your contract, there may be provisions in your handbook or teacher’s policy book that you sign as well. So, you’ll want to look at those two places. Also, the policy book or the contract typically states that you must report any arrest or criminal offenses, if not immediately, to the school.
You want to ensure you read those carefully and know your requirements at the school level. It is your requirement to self-report at the state level with your license. If not, it would get reported by the other agencies. And so, what happens? Being arrested for a DUI and charged for a DUI are two different things. You’ll want to know where you are in the process, but if you’re arrested and then charged, the State Board of Education has a DUI discipline matrix. It talks about what happens if you get a DUI.
Varying Levels of DUIs in Arizona
It goes through the different scenarios and doesn’t state what type of DUI. In the state of Arizona, there are a couple of varying levels of a DUI. But the metrics do not address that. However, it addresses if this is your first DUI, they may investigate. Suppose they don’t find any substance abuse issues. In that case, you can have a negotiated settlement, and there may not be any discipline for your first DUI. However, it is flagged.
And what that means is that if you were to get an additional DUI within the next three to five years. You’re looking at suspension or suspension with conditions, which might mean a required counseling or rehabilitation program. They’re also probably going to investigate to ensure you are not under the influence while teaching. And then also, is it under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or substances? So, that’s all the things that they’re going to consider. If you have three DUIs, you’ll likely either be suspended or have your license revoked here in Arizona.
Mitigating Your Circumstance
Now, they also look to mitigating circumstances. Like I said, is this your first DUI? Do you have any other criminal history? Have you ever been disciplined before by the State Board of Education? Aggravating circumstances become counted against you. Was there a child in the car? Was there any property damage? Have you had multiple DUIs, or is there a history of substance abuse? Things like that will count against you, so your discipline may be a little bit more. But if it’s your first DUI, like I said, it will be flagged by the State Board of Education. And they will watch that to ensure that within the next three to five years. You do not receive any other DUIs, criminal charges, or discipline.
And now, as I said, at the school level, unfortunately, you would have to report it. Look at your employment contract or in your teacher’s handbook to see what the requirements are and what the discipline is. Are you going to be terminated or suspended? Do you have to provide proof of rehabilitation or counseling? All those things you want to take into consideration.
What Happens If I Break My Teaching Contract in Arizona?
What happens if a teacher breaks their employment contract? I’m speaking about educators K-12 in the public school setting here in Arizona. Normally, you receive your employment contract before the school year starts or before February. You’ll sign the contract, and then you’re locked in for the next school year. So, what happens after you sign it if you need to break it? If you need to break that contract, there’s normally no way out of it. There’s no without-cause termination. You must provide services for the following school year because there’s a mass exodus of educators. And there’s a lot of tension between educators and the school district.
Legal Consequences of Breaking Teacher’s Contracts
It’s very hard to break your contract without getting any consequences. The consequences I’m talking about could be at the school district level. This means that sometimes teacher employment contracts have a liquidated damage clause. If you break your agreement and leave or choose not to fulfill your contract after signing it, you may be required to pay back a portion or a percentage of your salary. Sometimes there’s a specified amount, which can even be about $10,000. Always read your employment contracts carefully to ensure those clauses aren’t there. So, one, there could be financial consequences. Two, your school board or governing board may report or file a complaint against you with the state board of education.
A teacher breaking their contract mid-year can be considered unprofessional conduct, and there may be consequences against your license. There are some exceptions. Some school districts specify that if a family member has become ill. You need to take a family leave. Sometimes, if you move out of the state, they give examples. And if you fall within one of those categories, you may be able to break your contract. If not, you are at the mercy of your school district. They must release you from your contract. Otherwise, it would be something that would be reportable to the state board of education. And therefore, there could be action against your license to teach.
Now, again, I’m speaking in general about the public school district. Sometimes charter or private schools are a little different, depending on your contract. It also depends on when you break your contract. If you sign it and they have plenty of time to fill your position or offer to stay until they fill it, sometimes that can be slightly different. It’s called mitigating damages. You’re helping the school district, so they are not out, and you’re not abandoning their classroom. There are lots of different factors and things in play. Timing is very important. Also, if the school district is breaching their contract, they’re not providing the services they agreed for you. They’re making you do things that you have not signed into. They’re not paying you. Things like that may be considered a breach of contract.
And that’s another way you may be able to end your employment with them in mid-school year. But again, these things are very fact sensitive. And there’s a lot of tension between educators and school districts. I always recommend that you advise an attorney familiar with these situations. That is to prevent yourself from having any restrictions on your license so that you can continue being an educator.
How Employment Contracts Can Be Terminated | Employment Contract Termination
In any employment contract, their whole purpose is to dictate the terms of the employment relationship. And one of the essential parts of that relationship is figuring out how the contract ends. It can end in several ways. First, generally, most employment contracts are for a fixed term. So, that could be one year, two years, or three years. And then, there may be language that states at the end of that fixed term. It automatically renews for another year, and then another year continues until terminated. That’s one way that the contract ends. The second could be for-cause.
When somebody breaches the contract, there will be a list of things for which the employer can’t terminate the employee. Suppose they’re in an industry that requires licensure, insurance, or special certifications. And then the employee loses those. The employer can terminate the agreement because they can no longer function in that job. There will also be broad language about moral turpitude, criminal activity, and convictions. So, in a scenario where a professional is in breach of contract, generally, the employer would give them notice. Then it’s called a cure or period. The employee would then have a certain period to fix whatever the problem is.
Usually, it’s between 15 to 30 days. If you lose a professional license, you won’t fix that in a month. It’s not going to happen. In that scenario, the employer can terminate the contract immediately. But if the employer is saying they’re in breach of something unfixable. Maybe they’re not working the hours they agreed to, or there’s a call that they’re refusing to take something like that that is fixable. Those are the things where the employer would give the employee written notice. Then allow them that period to cure whatever breaches. The opposite can be valid for the employee. Suppose the employer is in breach of contract. Let’s say they’re not paying the agreed-upon price. They’re not paying on the agreed schedule or miscalculating bonus compensation.
In those scenarios, the employee can do the same thing. They can give the employer written notice and say, hey, you’re in breach of contract. You’re not paying me what we agreed upon. You have 15 days to fix the problem and pay me correctly. And if you don’t, I can terminate the contract immediately. And then the last way for a contract to get terminated is without-cause termination. In most employment contracts, there will be a notice period required. You can’t just say to them, hey, I’m leaving tomorrow, and that’s it. I’m terminating the agreement tomorrow.
What Is a Notice?
There’ll be at least a notice period to allow, maybe not a smooth transition from an employee leaving the employer. It provides a little time for both parties to get things together. To wrap up relationships with patients, clients, customers, or if for the employer. It allows them to look for a replacement or provide continuity of care. Like in the healthcare industry, patients are transitioning to a new provider.
Most of the time, it will be somewhere between 30 to 90 days without-cause termination. And so, in that scenario, the employee would give written notice to the employer. The letter contains, under the contract, that I must provide 60 days written notice for without-cause termination. Here’s my notice, my last day of work will be this date. And then, that’s it. The initial term can either expire. You can terminate the contract for-cause if there’s a breach or without-cause termination. And there’s no reason. And so, if you terminate without-cause, you can do it at any time with the correct notice for any reason. You don’t need to provide a long explanation as to why you’re terminating the contract without-cause.
Keeping the Notice Simple
When I talk to people unhappy with the job, they’re like, alright, well, how do I get out of this contract? What are my options? And then it’s determined that. Just give them without-cause notice and move on. I at least think most of the time, the professional wants to explain all the reasons why they’re deciding to leave. And I think that’s a bad idea. There’s just no benefit to that. You say, here’s my notice that I’m providing, appreciate the opportunity and move on. That is an opportunity to air grievances or point out all the problems with the employer.
There’s just no upside to doing that. You’re going to cause bad feelings, and you never know when a relationship can swing back around. So, maybe under new management or something like that, the job that turned out to be not that great can be another great opportunity. And if you burned a bunch of bridges, you’re losing a potential opportunity down the road.
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