The Special Education Department goal is to improve the educational experiences of students through collaboration with families, schools, students and community parents. An array of comprehensive supports are coordinated to support the academic, social emotional and behavioral success for every child. The Special Education Department encompasses Pre-K, Early Childhood, Special Education, Student Health Services, and Multi-Tiered System of Support.

Pre-K Program

The Pre-K program consists of the following components designed to help each child develop readiness skills necessary for success in Kindergarten.

Pre-K Screenings: Purpose of screenings is to assist with the identification of children ages 3-5 years old who may qualify for the District Pre-K evaluation for special education.

The Pre-K Program Design: The Pre-K program is designed to provide children with a structured classroom environment that is rich in language and literacy.

Early Childhood Program

The Early Childhood Program provides specially designed instruction to eligible students ages 3 through 5. Integrated related services are provided by a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist.

Special Education

District 161 provides appropriate and effective educational programs for students with disabilities. Students must meet specific eligibility criteria to be identified as a child with a disability. Once a child is eligible, an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is written.

Student Health Services

The District Nurse and School Health Coordinators work closely with families, students, teachers, and administrators to ensure quality individualized and responsive health services are provided to students.

Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS)

MTSS is a data-driven, problem-solving framework to improve outcomes for all students. MTSS relies on a continuum of evidence-based practices matched to student needs both academically and behaviorally. 

504 Information

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 establishes a student’s right to full access and participation to education and all school-related activities and require schools provide appropriate services to meet the individual needs of qualified students.

A student is considered “qualified” under Section 504 if the student is between the ages of 3 and 22 years of age and has a disability, which is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks, and learning. Some examples of impairments that may substantially limit major life activities, even with the help of medication, aids or devices are: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, allergies, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and mental illness.

In addition to providing required services and program modifications, school districts are also required to have written procedures regarding their administration of services under Section 504. These procedural safeguards include notice of the law and its applicability, an opportunity for students and their parents or guardians to examine relevant records, an impartial hearing with the student’s parents or guardians and representation by counsel, and a review procedure. The procedural safeguards used to comply with IDEA are one means of meeting this requirement.  If a child does not meet the entitlement criteria for IDEA then a 504 should be considered. 

Jackie Janicke, Director of Special Education