Serving students with disabilities and special needs, as well as their families

Special Services Department
The Special Services Department is comprised of three specific areas that support students: Exceptional Education, 504, and Health Services. The focus of the department is to provide students with disabilities or health-related challenges the tools and resources to benefit from their educational program.

Exceptional Education
Exceptional education is not a “place:” rather, it is a set of services. The district’s goal is to partner with families regarding the individual needs of children. The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal legislation that helps guide school teams and families in the qualification of students and the development of Individualized Education Programs (IEP). GSCS has a continuum of services to meet the needs of our diverse student population.

Section 504 Services
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) is a federal civil rights law. It is designed to eliminate disability discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds. Since all public school districts receive federal funds, all public school districts must comply with Section 504. Under Section 504, denying a disabled student a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) is disability discrimination.

Health Services
Health services in GSCS are designed to ensure schools have the resources and systems to provide students with the health-related care needed to access school. Duties of Health Services include medication management, health care collaboration, monitoring of life-threatening emergency care plans, and general oversight of student medical related needs.

It is the intent of the Gulf Shores City School System to meet the individual needs of students with special needs in an efficient and timely manner. Each child is evaluated and an educational program developed to meet the individual needs of that student. The following information summarizes the responsibility of the school system and defines the areas in which students can be identified as having a disability.

Areas of Qualification

Autism - A developmental disability that significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction generally evident before age three that adversely affects educational performance.
Deaf-Blindness - A combination of both hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.
Developmental Delay - A delay that adversely affects daily life and/or educational performance in one or more of the following developmental areas:
1.     Adaptive
2.     Cognitive
3.     Communication
4.     Social or emotional and/or
5.     Physical
Emotional Disability - A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
1.     An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
2.     An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
3.     Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;
4.     A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression;
5.     A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
Hearing Impairment - An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both deaf and hard of hearing.
Intellectual Disability - Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with significant limitations in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects the child's educational performance.
Multiple Disabilities - A combination of at least 2 other impairments that qualify the student for special education services. The combination the disabilities must cause such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple Disabilities does not include deaf-blindness.
Orthopedic Impairment – A severe orthopedic impairment must adversely affect the child's educational performance. If a medical diagnosis is presented, the medical diagnosis alone is not enough to justify being identified in the area of orthopedic impairment.
Other Health Impairment  - Limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment and is due to chronic or acute health problems. The impairment must adversely affect educational performance.
Specific Learning Disability - A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, or to do mathematical calculations.
Speech and Language Impairment - A communication disorder in the area of articulation, voice, fluency, or language that adversely affects a child's educational performance.
Traumatic Brain Injury - An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment or both, that adversely affects educational performance.
Visual Impairment - A visual impairment that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Child Find

Gulf Shores City School System ensures that all children residing within the jurisdiction of the public education agency, birth to 21, regardless of the severity of their disability and who need special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated. Child Find applies to children who attend private schools, including children attending religious schools within the public education agency's jurisdiction, highly mobile children with disabilities (i.e., migrant and homeless children), and children who are suspected of having a disability and are in need of special education even thought they are advancing grade to grade. Child Find also includes a practical method of determining that eligible children with disabilities are receiving needed special education and related services. 
(Public Education Agency Only)
Child Find activities will be conducted on a continuous basis as described below:
A. Procedures used to identify and locate children.

1. Gulf Shores City School System will provide on-going public notice of the services available to students with disabilities through various media including: radio and television announcements, articles and notices in the local newspaper, information provided on the Gulf Shores City School System website, posters placed in  local school, agencies, hospitals, and pediatricians offices, Civic Clubs/Agency presentations, and/or Gulf Shores City Schools Student/Parent Information Guide.
2. The Gulf Shores City School System will contact individuals and agencies that provide services to children with disabilities through various means such as personal phone calls, meetings with special education personnel, and written correspondence. Such agencies include: Children's Rehabilitation Services, Department of Human Resources, Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, local health care and medical providers, day care centers, early intervention programs, i.e., Head Start, preschool programs, church or private kindergartens, private schools, speech and hearing center, and/or social security (migrant and homeless).
3. Gulf Shores City School personnel will implement the following procedures to ensure that students who may be in need of special education are identified: School personnel will review current state and local testing information, grades, and/or progress monitoring of intervention plans to identify students with possible learning problems. The Director of Special Education, the school administrator, and/or Special Education staff (In-person or online) will provide annual in-service training for local school personnel of the referral process for special education. Each school has a Problem Solving Team (PST) that will be utilized to facilitate in identifying students who may need special education services as opposed to those students who are at-risk or may not have had prior access to appropriate instruction/educational opportunities and interventions in the regular classroom.

Full Educational Opportunity

I. Gulf Shores School System provides appropriate educational opportunities to children with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

II. Gulf Shores City School System ensures that a free appropriate public education, consistent with the standards established by this plan and by state and federal regulations is being provided to all children with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

III. Timetable for accomplishing the full educational opportunity goal for children ages birth to 21.

A. The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services provides full educational opportunities for children with disabilities ages birth through 2.
B. Gulf Shores City School System provides full educational opportunities for children with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

IV. Gulf Shores City School System ensures its commitment to implement 34 CFR §300.101;34 CFR§300.109 and 34 CFR §300.201; AAC 290-8-9-.01(1).3

Gifted Education

A screening procedure will seek to identify students who qualify for enrichment opportunities beyond those offered in the regular classroom. All second grade students will be observed as potential enrichment referrals using the gifted behavior checklist provided by the State Department of Education. Parents of second grade student will be informed by letter of the Second Grade Child Find process. The observation of behaviors and subsequent referrals are made for second grade at the beginning of the second semester each year.