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Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth

24 P.S. § Articles 19-C and 19-E

DATE OF ISSUE: November 18, 2019
(Replaces Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth, BEC 24 P.S. Article 19-C)

Purpose

This Basic Education Circular (BEC) provides guidance regarding placement of students in Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) Programs approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to ensure that students are placed appropriately, temporarily, and in numbers proportionate to the demographics of the sending Local Education Agency (LEA).  It also provides guidance on AEDY program requirements to ensure that students in these programs are provided appropriate academic and behavioral support services and accommodations, including services or accommodations for students with disabilities (students with Individualized Education Plans or 504 Plans), English Language Development Plans, and general education requirements.

Please review the AEDY Program Guidelines for specific definitions, required approvals, LEA responsibilities, informal hearing information, program guidance, performance measures, accountability, and a guide to academic and behavioral programming.

Pennsylvania's Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth Programs

Articles 19-C and 19-E of the Public School Code authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to approve AEDY programs.  AEDY programs may be implemented by a private alternative education institution (private provider), a LEA, area vocational-technical school, combination of LEAs, intermediate unit, or a qualifying charter school.  The sending LEA is responsible for ensuring AEDY programs comply with all federal and state statutes and regulations, and PDE policies and procedures, including but not limited to those concerning: certification of teachers; standards-based instruction; IDEA/Chapter 14, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); English learners (ELs); and the implementation of a data-driven, evidence-based, and non-exclusionary behavioral intervention program within a multi-tiered support system focusing on positive behavior interventions such as School Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS).  Sites where these programs are located are responsible for providing general education, special education services and English language instruction.  AEDY programs serve the purpose of temporarily removing persistently disruptive students from general education programs.  AEDY programs must provide students with a sound educational course of study that meets or exceeds state standards and allows students to make academic progress toward graduation in their sending LEA.  The sending LEA is also responsible to ensure, on an individualized basis, that students with disabilities or ELs are not placed in programs that do not meet their educational needs.

The education of a student in an AEDY program must include at least twenty hours of instruction per week in the required core subjects of math, English language arts, science, social studies, and health or life skills.  Additionally, programs must offer at least one elective and must implement an evidence-based program within a multi-tiered support system focusing on positive behavior interventions such as School Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS). Such programs shall be data-driven and include non-exclusionary universal supports, targeted supports and intensive supports with routine progress monitoring.  AEDY programs must also provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of counseling a week that is aimed at modifying the disruptive behavior that led to the student placement.  AEDY programs may operate outside the hours of the typical school day and Saturdays. 

LEAs that do not apply for and receive approval from PDE to operate an AEDY program must provide general and special education programs for all students in conformity with all requirements of the School Code and the Pennsylvania State Board of Education regulations, including days, hours, curricula, and teacher certification requirements.

PDE Approval Requirements

Eligible applicants must apply for AEDY program approval as prescribed by PDE.

All eligible public school entities must receive prior PDE approval to operate an AEDY program regardless of whether the program is operated by a private provider or operated in-house by an LEA. In addition, all AEDY programs (both private provider and in-house LEA programs) must independently receive prior PDE approval to operate.  

Eligible public school entities that wish to contract with an approved private provider or place students in an LEA's approved AEDY program must submit an AEDY program application PRIOR to placing students at the approved AEDY program (private providers or in-house programs).  AEDY Program Applications.

Private Alternative Education Institutions (private providers) must seek approval on a renewal basis every three years as required by 24 P.S. §19-1903-E.  PDE approval allows private providers to enter into contractual agreements with eligible public school entities to provide AEDY services. PDE approval does not provide or imply any licensure or accreditation for any private provider entity.  Private provider applications can be completed at AEDY Program Applications. All Private Provider AEDY Programs will be responsible to pay a fee per site to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for each application submitted.

LEAs, area vocational- technical schools, combinations of LEAs, intermediate units, or qualifying charter schools seeking to run an in-house alternative education disciplinary program must obtain approval on a renewal basis every two years. In-house program applications can be completed at AEDY Program Applications.

PDE will not approve any AEDY Program that will operate for less than the number of hours and days required of general education programs under Pennsylvania Law unless the applicant expressly represents to PDE that it will not accept any student with a disability whose pre-referral IEP or 504 Plan demonstrates that the student needs to receive the full number of hours and days required of general education because of a disability.  PDE will require that programs timely consider any requests from students with disabilities for reasonable modifications regarding the length of school day in AEDY.  Programs must establish policies that identify students as ineligible for placement in the AEDY program and clearly communicate these policies to parents, students, and school staff.

AEDY Complaint Process

Programs must create and implement an AEDY local level complaint resolution process and comply with PDE's review process by which the students, parents, and others can submit complaints and concerns to LEAs related to AEDY programs.  The filing of a complaint does not limit any other rights or remedies under federal and state law.  The complaint process will include providing all interested parties with:  the relevant policies for investigation of all complaints including, but not limited to, those related to the provision of services for English Learners or students with disabilities, , including policies regarding interviews and consideration of relevant evidence, as well as possible outcomes of an investigation, timely procedures for responding to the person making the complaint, information about potential means of responding to the complaint; reasonable time frames for response; and information regarding how to determine the status of a complaint.  Programs are responsible for notifying students, parents, and others about the local level resolution and PDE review process in a manner that is accessible to Limited English Proficient ("LEP") parents, parents with disabilities, ELs and students with disabilities given their language needs and disabilities. All LEAs and AEDY programs must submit their complaint process to PDE.

Additional Program Requirements

Programs must ensure that students served in an AEDY program are provided with:

  • a course of instruction sufficient to make normal academic progress and work toward the requirements for graduation as defined by the placing district,
  • clear and measurable academic performance goals, established after administering required academic assessments described in the PDE AEDY Guidelines.  Plans for individual students' academic programs should be formulated in close collaboration with the sending school and school district,
  • a course of instruction that recognizes their special needs and prepares them for successful return to a general education curriculum and/or completion of the graduation requirements established by their home district,
  • interventions, support services, and programming to meet the individual needs of English learners and students with disabilities; and 
  • individual evaluation to measure progress in the core academic subjects in relationship to the academic standards established by 22 Pa Code §4.

Exiting of Students from AEDY

Except for students subject to expulsion for a specific period of time following a formal hearing and due process procedures pursuant to 22 Pa Code § 12.8(b), there is a presumption that the exit criteria for all students can and will be met and that students will be transitioned/returned to their general education program within 45 days of a student's placement in the AEDY Program, or sooner based on the student's individual needs.  The date by which a student is expected to transition/return to the General Education Program is based on the student's individual needs and is referred to as the "Presumptive Exit Date."

The purpose of the Presumptive Exit Date is to ensure that AEDY placements are temporary and that students are transitioning/returning to the General Education Program as soon as a student's behavioral goals are met.

Within five days of placement, clear exit criteria with measurable behavioral goals that can be reasonably achieved by the 45-day (or sooner) Presumptive Exit Date must be established for any students being served in the AEDY program.  The AEDY Program Coordinator, LEA Coordinator, student, parent(s), and other LEA and AEDY program staff as appropriate should be a part of the review/transition team that establishes the exit criteria.  The exit criteria must be clearly communicated to the student and all staff having contact with the student.  Exit criteria may only be used to limit exiting based upon the behavior that resulted in the AEDY placement.  Exit criteria cannot include measures of academic performance, attendance, or standards that may be difficult or impossible for a student with a disability to comply with or that are more arduous standards than would be expected in a general education program.

Programs must develop for each student a behavior plan that has clear and measurable goals.  This plan must address the disruptive behaviors that preceded placement in the AEDY Program. The goal of the behavior plan is to prepare students for return to the general education setting.  AEDY programs are required to use approved behavioral assessment tools, as explained in the AEDY Guidelines, to measure and document student success towards behavioral goals.

Programs must have in place a formal, documented process for periodic review and evaluation of each student's performance relative to their exit criteria to determine the appropriateness for return to the referring district. This review must occur prior to the student's 45-day (or sooner) Presumptive Exit Date.  The purpose of this review is to determine whether the student is ready to return to the general education setting.  The review/transition team should consist of  the AEDY Program Coordinator, LEA Coordinator, student, parent(s), and other LEA and AEDY program staff as appropriate. The review will include an evaluation of the student's academic and behavioral progress. The review must be documented and kept on file in each individual student's record.  

The review/transition team will develop a transition plan for each student meeting his/her behavioral goals to ensure that the student receives the necessary intervention services when returning to the general education program. LEAs must provide opportunities for effective parent and student engagement in transition teams. The parent and student must be given notice and allowed to attend and participate in transition team meetings in anticipation of the student's exit date.

The program shall take the following actions as part of their implementation of SWPBIS or other evidence-based behavior framework:

  1. Establish a data-reporting process and platform for the collection of school-level and AEDY Program data;
  2. Develop an evaluation plan for AEDY to measure context, support, fidelity, and impact on all students.
  3. Engage community stakeholders.

To the extent that an AEDY program uses restraints on students, the AEDY program must:

  • Use restraints only as a measure of last resort and after less restrictive measures, including de-escalation techniques, have been used by personnel.
  • Modify its restraint policy and procedures, when necessary, to accommodate students with disabilities in compliance with federal and state laws, including prohibiting the use of prone restraints and requiring that restraints may only be included in a student's IEP if the student's parent(s) agree and when all other conditions are met by the IEP team as set forth in the Basic Education Circular on the Use of Restraints for Students with Disabilities;
  • Ensure that restraints are being administered by staff appropriately trained to use such procedures;
  • Ensure restraints are used in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability and does not violate state laws prohibiting the use of corporal punishment;
  • Report restraints involving students with IEPs to PDE's Bureau of Special Education, as required by law; and
  • Maintain a log of restraints for PDE review.

LEAs must collect data and submit program reports as required by PDE to document student academic and behavioral progress and the rate of return to the general education setting. Details can be found in the program guidelines issued by PDE. Districts that contract with private providers must make sure that providers are collecting and recording all data that the district will need to satisfy the state reporting requirements.

Eligible Students and Allowable Placements

AEDY programs are designed for seriously and persistently disruptive students. By law, LEAs may refer to AEDY programs only students who pose a clear threat to the safety and welfare of other students or the school staff, who create an unsafe school environment or whose behavior materially interferes with the learning of other students or disrupts the overall educational process.  The "disruptive" student will exhibit to a marked degree any or all of the following conditions:

  1. disregard for school authority, including persistent violation of school policy and rules;
  2. display or use of controlled substances on school property or during school activities;
  3. violent or threatening behavior on school property or during school-affiliated activities;
  4. possession of a weapon on school property, as defined under 18 Pa. C.S. §912;
  5. commission of a criminal act on school property or during school-affiliated activities and,
  6. misconduct that would merit suspension or expulsion under school policy.

Only students in grades 6-12 are eligible for placement in an AEDY Program. Placement in an AEDY program should be considered only after all other options for improving behavior have been exhausted. This includes the use of the school's Student Assistance Program (SAP).

All students recommended for placement in an AEDY Program must be provided with due process prior to placement including an informal hearing in accordance with 22 Pa. Code §12.8 (c). The informal hearing is held to bring forth all relevant information regarding the event for which the student may be placed in AEDY and for students, their parents or guardians and school officials to discuss concrete strategies for avoiding future offenses.  The following due process requirements shall be observed in regard to the informal hearing:

  1. Notification of the specific reasons for the recommendation of placement shall be given in writing to the parents or guardians and student.
  2. Sufficient notice of the time and place of the informal hearing shall be given.
  3. A student has the right to question any witnesses present at the hearing.
  4. A student has the right to speak and produce witnesses on his or her own behalf.
  5. The school entity shall offer to hold the informal hearing prior to placement in the program. However, if the student's presence in the general education classroom poses a danger to persons or property or provides a disruption of the academic process, immediate placement in the approved AEDY program may occur with the informal hearing to follow.
  6. Notifications and the hearing must be accessible to LEP parents, parents with disabilities, ELs and students with disabilities given their language needs and disabilities.

AEDY referrals and placements will be administered in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race or other prohibited status.  The Department shall track disproportionate referrals to AEDY programs based on disability, race or other prohibited status. Findings of significant overrepresentation based on disability, race, or any other prohibited basis shall trigger site visits, further investigation, corrective action plans, and possible revocation of approval to refer students to AEDY programs.

Students with disabilities will be individually assessed via a manifestation determination to determine whether the behavior subjecting them to possible placement in AEDY is a manifestation of a disability.  LEAs must not refer to AEDY Programs, and AEDY Programs must not accept, students with disabilities due to behavior or conduct which is caused by the student's disability, has a direct and substantial relationship to the student's disability, or was the direct result of the LEA's failure to implement the student's IEP or 504 Plan, with the exception of the "special circumstances" whereby a student may be removed to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days. Special circumstances are defined by federal law as a student who "carries a weapon to and possesses a weapon, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of an SEA or a LEA; knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs or sells or solicits the sale of a controlled substance, while at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of the SEA or LEA; has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function under the jurisdiction of SEA or LEA"   34 C.F.R. §§ 300.530(g) or 300.532(b)(2)(ii), or when the student's parent and LEA agree to the AEDY placement pursuant to 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(2).

Students with disabilities must not be unnecessarily segregated into certain AEDY Programs because of their disability.  AEDY Programs with significant overrepresentation of students with disabilities as compared to the percentage of students with disabilities in the general education program will be reviewed by PDE to ensure that students with a disability are neither being placed into AEDY programs because of their disability nor are being assigned unnecessarily to a specific AEDY program because of disability.

Where placement is sought based upon "[d]isregard for school authority, including persistent violation of school policy and rules," 24 P.S. § 19-1901-C(5)(i) LEAs and AEDY Programs must be particularly careful to ensure they are referring and/or accepting students with a disability only when the student exhibits conduct to a "marked degree" as required under Pennsylvania law.  Specifically, a student with a disability must not be placed in an AEDY Program under this placement category unless (a) the student has had multiple displays of such behavior, documented by the LEA; (b) the LEA has attempted and documented multiple unsuccessful evidence-based interventions, and the behavior persists; and (c) the LEA has conducted and documented the manifestation determination.

Students Charged or Convicted of a Crime, Returning from Mental Health Services, or Residential Placement

Students returning from mental health services, a residential facility, or any other placement shall be presumed to return to their general education setting in their sending LEA.

AEDY programs may include services for students returning from placements or who are on probation resulting from being an adjudicated delinquent or who have been convicted of committing a crime in an adult criminal proceeding.  When a student returns to a LEA from a delinquency or dependency placement, the LEA cannot automatically place a student in an AEDY program because the student had been an adjudicated delinquent. Each specific case must be examined on an individual basis.  As with any other student being transferred to an AEDY program, students returning from delinquency placement are entitled to an informal hearing prior to being placed in an alternative education program.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the student is currently fit to return to the general education classroom or currently meets the definition of a disruptive student.  Factors a school should consider to determine whether the student is currently disruptive include: whether the incident causing the adjudication occurred at school or at a school-sponsored event, the student's behavior in school while in placement, and the recommendations of teachers and other adults (such as juvenile probation officers and residential treatment staff) who have worked with the youth.  Students often make significant progress while in placement and may be best served by returning to a general education classroom. Each case should be considered individually, based on the circumstances of a student at the time of return to the LEA.

AEDY programs may not be used as a transitional placement for a students that have been charged or convicted of a crime, returning from a mental health, or residential placement unless the student is currently disruptive as per 24 P.S. § 19-1901-C (5).

English Learner (EL) Services in AEDY Programs

ELs cannot be placed in an AEDY program that fails to provide English Language Development (ELD) services and English as a Second Language (ESL) services delivered by licensed ESL teachers. Such evidence is required as a part of the initial application and program approval process.

AEDY programs accepting ELs must provide ESL services that utilize teachers who hold ESL teaching credentials and use materials that are appropriate for the ELs' ages and levels of English proficiency based on the student's assessment.

Sending LEAs must ensure that an individualized assessment is conducted for every EL to ensure that the proposed AEDY placement can meet the individual student's needs and will provide all services and supports to the student.

AEDY programs accepting ELs must ensure that parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) are provided adequate translation and interpretation services. AEDY programs must provide all important information to parents who are not proficient in English in a language or mode of communication that they understand.

AEDY programs accepting ELs must utilize teachers that hold ESL certification and use appropriate educational materials.

LEAs referring ELs to AEDY programs must establish an EL service plan to ensure that ELs are provided adequate and appropriate ESL services. LEAs must submit their EL Service Plans to PDE.

AEDY programs must have the faculty and materials necessary to provide adequate and appropriate language instruction and language assistance services that teach ELs English in all four language domains (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and provide meaningful access to their grade-level core content instruction.

Students Receiving Special Education Services

AEDY Programs must comply with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the education of students with disabilities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504, and the American with Disabilities Act.  The sending LEA is responsible for ensuring that students with disabilities within AEDY Programs receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

A student may not be removed to an AEDY Program if their behavior is a manifestation of their disability with the exception of the circumstances listed in 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(g) or § 300.532(b)(2)(ii), or when the student's parent and LEA agree to the change in educational placement pursuant to 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(f)(2). For all students eligible under IDEA and Section 504, the LEA must conduct and document a manifestation determination prior to a disciplinary change in educational placement.  For circumstances listed in 34 C.F.R. § 300.530(g), the LEA must conduct and document a manifestation determination within 10 days of the decision to change the educational placement. A copy of a recommended Manifestation Determination Worksheet is available on the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance (PaTTAN) website at www.pattan.net, keyword "Manifestation Determination Worksheet."

For additional information regarding special education students and AEDY Programs, please refer to PDE's Basic Education Circular (BEC) entitled Disciplinary Exclusions of Students Who Are Eligible for Special Education.

Performance Measurement and Accountability

Program approval decisions for AEDY programs to renew their approval are made every two years for public LEA-run AEDY programs and every three years for private provider programs based on program performance and outcomes data submitted to PDE by sending LEAs on all students and programs. End of year reporting will require programs to provide data from individual student academic and behavioral assessments. The results will be reviewed by PDE to ensure compliance and quality implementation of programming. LEAs that contract with private providers are responsible to ensure that these programs operate in compliance with school code and PDE AEDY Guidelines. LEAs are required to analyze program data for any AEDY Program to which it refers students to ensure students are receiving appropriate academic and behavioral services. Specific data reporting requirements and protocols will be established and published by PDE yearly. These reporting requirements shall include:

  • All LEAs shall provide annual data to PDE on referrals to AEDY programs. The data shall be disaggregated by student disability status (including identification of the primary IDEA or Section 504 eligibility) . The data shall also reflect the programs to which referrals were made, the reason for which a student is disciplined, and the length of program stay
     
  • PDE shall monitor and track all LEAs with regard to significant overrepresentation of AEDY referrals resulting in placements based on disability or race.  PDE shall also monitor and track all AEDY Programs with regard to significant overrepresentation of students with disabilities as compared to the percentage of students with disabilities in general education programs.  Significant overrepresentation shall trigger site visits, further investigation and/or;

  • PDE shall prioritize cyclical monitoring of programs with significant overrepresentation of AEDY placements based on disability or race.

References:

Purdon's Statutes

24 P.S. Article 19-C and 19-E

State Board of Education Regulations

22 Pa. Code §§4.1-4.83
22 Pa. Code Chapter 14
22 Pa. Code Chapter 15
22 Pa. Code §12.8(c)
22 Pa. Code §711.61

Federal Statutes

Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. § § 1400 et seq
34 C.F.R. §§ 300.530-300.536

Bureau/Office:

Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY)
Office for Safe Schools
Office of Elementary/Secondary Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street, 7th Floor
Harrisburg, PA  17126-0333
Voice: 717.705.3771