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When Does Special Education End?

“A student’s eligibility for a free and appropriate public education (F.A.P.E.) ceases upon graduation from high school with a regular diploma” (Maine Special Education Regulations 5.11). So, when a student graduates and receives a regular high school diploma, she/he is no longer eligible for special education services. Some students will continue to be eligible for special education services through the age of 20 if they have not met the graduation requirements specified in their IEP and have not received a regular high school diploma. A student who has not reached the age of 20 before the start of the school year (July 1st) may be entitled to receive a public school education through their 20th year, if deemed appropriate (20-A M.R.S.A. Chapters 301 and 303).

An important requirement of the IEP is to determine the “anticipated date of graduation” (Section 5.11, Maine Special Education Regulations, November 1999). For effective planning, it is best for everyone, including your child, to have an open discussion at the PET about the anticipated date of graduation at least by the time he/she reaches the age of 14 or 15. This will assist everyone to know what the time frame is for the best planning possible in order for them to move toward their long-term goals. It will also help them to have a target date for their graduation and feel connected to their class.

Another important part of the transition planning process is having information regarding the movement from entitlement for services to eligibility for services. All students are entitled to a free and appropriate public education while they are in public school. Once youth exit the public school system, they must meet eligibility criteria and services are often determined as resources allow. Each agency has distinct eligibility criteria.

Families who begin transition planning early (at least by age 14) will have more time to create opportunities and connect with supports in order for their young adults to achieve their goals.

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Introduction | Federal Definition of Transition Services
Transition Planning | Critical Connections | Other Useful Information