All too often parents are told that things have to be done a certain way because of policies; policies contained in guidebooks or other documents that are unknown to the families and that the school is unwilling to share.
AJE is glad to announce that copies of the DCPS Staff Guidebooks and Manuals are available here to parents, families, and other interested parties. AJE’s acquisition of these guidebooks comes after another successful step in our efforts to increase transparency in DC public education. For example, recently, the Open Government Coalition received a favorable response to its request that Letters of Decision (LOD) from state complaints be automatically published online, something that AJE and advocates had been seeking for years.
The DCPS guidebooks we obtained are listed and linked to below:
- Audiology Program Guidebook
- Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Guidebook
- School Mental Health-Social Work Provider Guidebook
- School Psychology Program Guidebook
- Speech and Language Program Guidebook
- Missed Related Services and Untimely Assessment Guidelines
The guidebooks provide insight into how members of IEP teams are to conduct IEP meetings and fulfill their required responsibilities to students with disabilities. This information is essential to these students and their families as they navigate the special education decision-making process.
Specifically, access to these guidebooks promotes collaboration between DCPS and the students’ families by ensuring that all parties have the same expectations about their roles and obligations. Parents will be able to better familiarize themselves with the special education process and how the professionals tasked with supporting students with disabilities are meant to do their work. Publication of these materials increases parents’ ability to recognize the faithful implementation of policies by DCPS employees, and parents’ meaningful participation in their children’s education.
AJE received these documents by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, however, DCPS was required to make them available to members of the public without a FOIA request, but did not do so. DCPS is required to make all policies impacting members of the public, publicly available, and that includes these guidebooks and other DCPS policies too. You can find most DCPS policies here, but not all. For example, DCPS has not posted its Physical Restraint and Seclusion policy online as required. AJE also obtained a copy of that policy via FOIA, and you can view the policy here. We encourage all DCPS families concerned about student safety to review this policy, and especially encourage parents whose children may not be able to communicate that they were restrained to look at it.
Nearly all government information is available through FOIA and DC agencies often have an obligation to share much of that information without requiring that a parent file a FOIA request. If there is information you would like to access, you should ask for it, and remember that you can submit a request through the DC FOIA portal.
Parents of DC students have a right to know how their children are being educated and should be able to participate in meetings as full and equal partners. AJE is glad that we were able to help DCPS parents obtain access to this information and we are honored to be empowering parents all across DC with the information and skills they need.