Monthly Archives:' February 2019

Schools Must Notify Both Pupils and Parents Twice a Year on How to Access Available Pupil Mental Health Services

Author: Eric Stevens, Attorney at Law

Summary:

With AB 2022 now in effect, schools of school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools are required to regularly notify pupils and their parents or guardians “on how to initiate access to available pupil mental health services on campus or in the community, or both.” To reduce the likelihood that this information is overlooked amidst the numerous annual notifications provided at the start of a school year, AB 2022 requires schools to provide this mental health services information at least twice a year by at least two different methods. The law is intended to help bridge the gap between the need for pupil mental health services and pupils’ lack of awareness of the available mental health resources, especially amongst youth in poverty or with non-English speaking parents.

Specifically, section 49428 was added to the Education Code, requiring a school to use multiple methods to inform both pupils and their parents or guardians each year.

At least two of the following methods must be used to notify parents or guardians:

(1) Distributing the information by hardcopy letter or email;
(2) Including the information in the parent handbook at the beginning of the school year; or
(3) Posting the information on the school’s web site or social media web page.

At least two of the following methods must be used to notify pupils:

(1) Distributing the information in a document or school publication electronically or in hardcopy;
(2) Including the information in pupil orientation materials at the beginning of the school year or in a pupil handbook; or
(3) Posting the information on the school’s web site or social media web page.

While posting the information online may be one of the required methods for contacting both pupils and parents/guardians, the law as written implies that the information should be posted on the website for a particular campus to the extent individual campuses have their own web sites.

Section 49428 does not specify what information should be provided “on how to initiate access” to available services, or on what services should be available “on campus or in the community, or both.” This provides schools with discretion and flexibility. For example, schools may wish to include information on how to request and schedule counseling appointments or how to request a special education evaluation if a parent believes his or her child may have a disability. If a school wishes to include information on third-party services available “in the community,” local county mental health departments can help identify such services and how pupils or parents can access them. When deciding what information to include in required notices, remember that the law is intended to raise awareness regarding available services, especially amongst youth in poverty or with non-English speaking parents.

To help implement section 49428, counties are explicitly authorized to grant Mental Health Services Act funds to school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools.

State Legislature Makes Changes to Home-Hospital Instruction for Students with Temporary Disabilities

By Anisa Jassawalla, Attorney at Law

Summary:

On January 1, 2019, Assembly Bill 2109 took effect, making several changes to the laws governing home-hospital instruction for students with temporary disabilities. According to the bill’s author “Unfortunately, unclear statutes have led some school districts to dis-enroll students once they become students of a hospital school.

This means parents have to re-enroll their students, which can lead to delays in students attending school, or students being unable to return to their prior school.” AB 2109 seeks to remedy this situation.

The new provisions particularly effect general education students with temporary disabilities. A “temporary disability” is defined as a physical, mental, or emotional disability incurred while a pupil is enrolled in regular day classes or an alternative education program, and after which the pupil can reasonably be expected to return to regular day classes or the alternative education program. Typically, the district of residence or school attended prior to the hospitalization may disenroll the student with a temporary disability, leading to delays once discharged from the hospital and seeking to reenroll in the district of residence or school of last attendance.

However, a pupil with a temporary disability who is in a hospital located outside the school district in which the pupil’s parent or guardian resides is deemed to have complied with the residency requirements for school attendance in the school district in which the hospital is located. As a result, the law shifts responsibility for providing such a pupil with hospital instruction to the school district in which the hospital is located.

AB 2109 authorizes, but does not require, a school district or charter school to continue to enroll a pupil who is receiving individual instruction in a hospital, in order to facilitate the pupil’s timely reentry in his or her prior school after the hospitalization has ended, or to provide a partial week of instruction to a pupil who is receiving individual instruction in a hospital for fewer than five days per week.

AB 2109 requires school districts and charter schools to allow a pupil with a temporary disability receiving individual instruction in the home or hospital setting to return to the school or charter school that the pupil attended immediately before receiving individual instruction, as long as the pupil returns during the school year in which the individual instruction was initiated.

This bill also provides that a pupil who is receiving individual instruction in a hospital setting for a partial week is entitled to attend school in his or her school district of residence, or receive individual instruction provided by the school district of residence in the pupil’s home, on days in which the pupil is not receiving individual instruction in a hospital.

For purposes of computing average daily attendance (ADA), a pupil may only be counted by the school district of residence or the charter school, or the school district in which the hospital is located, on days when the pupil is in attendance in that school district or charter school, or is receiving individual instruction in the hospital, respectively. The total attendance shall not exceed five days per week.

Given these changes to the law, local educational agencies will want to review their board policies and administrative regulations to ensure that they reflect current law consistent with the provisions of AB 2109.

It is also important to mention that AB 2109 applies to students with temporary disabilities. Any decision regarding the appropriateness of individualized instruction for students receiving special education services pursuant to an IEP must be made by the student’s IEP team.