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Dear Colleague Letter on Special Education in Juvenile Facilities, Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

This December 2014 Dear Colleague letter from the Office of Special Education Programs and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services emphasizes that students with disabilities in correctional facilities are entitled to all the rights and protections provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This includes ensuring that students receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment and requires that records be transferred and IEPs be updated as soon as possible following a student’s placement in a correctional facility. The letter also stresses the importance of interagency collaboration to ensure clarity regarding responsibility for providing for and paying for services needed to provide students with FAPE.

This letter outlines the responsibilities of different actors in ensuring IDEA compliance for youth with disabilities in correctional facilities. The state and local educational agencies play a significant role in providing for FAPE, including maintaining accountability through data collection and reporting, ensuring appropriate qualifications of personnel, finding and assessing eligible children, appointing surrogate parents as necessary, and utilizing advisory panels to promote interagency collaboration. Public agencies, including local educational agencies, correctional facilities, and other non-educational public agencies, also play a vital role in providing for FAPE through ensuring prompt and complete transfer of student records, finding and assessing eligible children, conducting trainings to ensure that personnel have necessary qualifications, developing IEPs, providing education in the least restrictive environment, engaging parents, protecting due process for students, supporting transition into and out of placement, and developing disciplinary procedures that comply with the requirements of the IDEA.