Columbia School District Special Services Department is responsible for all student educational needs relating to the areas of Special Education, Section 504, and Gifted Education.

Special Education – Serves children ages 3 through 20 in a continuum of services at each grade level and school.  The Special Education Department has 16 teachers and 5 speech pathologists serving about 350 students.  Services include: inclusion, tutorial, resource, self-contained, community-based programs, day treatment classes/programs, developmentally delayed preschool program, and homebound services.

Gifted Education – Programs are offered for grades 2-7 for eligible students.  Columbia School District has 3 gifted teachers who serve approximately 138 students.

Section 504 – Plans are offered to eligible students.  Columbia School District serves approximately 9 students in grades K-12.

Special Education

Child find is a comprehensive child find system to assure that all children who are in need of early intervention or special education services are located, identified, and referred. The COLUMBIA SCHOOL DISTRICT is participating in an ongoing state wide effort to locate and evaluate children birth through twenty (birth – 20) who have a physical, mental, communicative and/or emotional disability. Early identification of children in need of special educational experiences is most important to each child. It is the goal of this district to identify, locate and, if needed, evaluate all children with disabilities residing in our district. This includes children attending private schools (including home schools), and those children who are suspected of having a disability and who are in need of special education services even though they may be advancing grade to grade. We are requesting that personnel in your agency refer individuals twenty (20) years of age or younger who may have a disability to Debra Hood, who is the Child Find Contact Person for the Columbia School District. The Child Find Contact Person works with the local Head Start, Human Services, Health and Mental Health agencies, as well as local educational agencies (including private schools and home school contacts), physicians and other individuals to identify and locate children out of school and in school who may be in need of special education services. Once a referral has been received, it is the responsibility of the Child Find Contact Person to ensure that the process to determine the need for special education services is implemented correctly. District personnel, agency personnel and parents/guardians will review data that has been collected to determine the need to pursue special education eligibility. A vital part of this process is informing parents of their rights and responsibilities under current law. If a decision is made that an evaluation is needed, written parental consent will be obtained prior to the administration of any assessments. Assessment instruments and data collections will be conducted in a nondiscriminatory manner. If the individual is determined to be in need of special education and eligible for services, parents will be contacted to provide written consent for inception of these services. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be developed to outline the specific needs of the individual. This IEP is developed and revised through a process that includes the participation of parents, teacher(s) and students. All individuals receiving special education are reevaluated every three years to insure eligibility criteria are still met and IEPs are reviewed/revised at least annually. The Columbia School District currently offers special education services implemented by certified special education staff at each of the school sites in the district. Services are provided to students based on their unique needs as outlined in their individualized education plan.

Gifted Education

The Mississippi Gifted Education Act mandates that each public school district within the state provide gifted education programs for intellectually gifted students in grades 2-6. These programs must be designed to meet the individual needs of gifted students and shall be in addition to and different from the regular program of instruction provided by the district. “Intellectually gifted children” shall mean those children and youth who are found to have an exceptionally high degree of intelligence as documented by the identification process. Artistically, creatively, and academically gifted programs are optional and subject to the approval of the State Board of Education. Participation in the gifted education program under State Law is an entitlement, not a reward.
The mission of the Challenge program is to meet the special needs of intellectually gifted children and provide necessary instructional modifications to increase their metacognition skills.
It is the belief of the Columbia School District that each student has unique needs and abilities and that every consideration should be given to meeting the appropriate instructional level of the student. Gifted students should be assisted in developing thinking and inquiry skills within a meaningful academic framework and be provided a variety of learning environments. They should be able to grow and develop by frequent group interaction with mental peers, competent resource persons, multidisciplinary approaches to learning, and differentiated instructional opportunities. Because of their unique abilities, they should be encouraged to explore their system of values and ethics as well as issues of facts and knowledge.
It is the goal of the Challenge program to teach information using thinking skills, creativity, research skills, effective communication skills, group dynamics, socio/emotional awareness, self-directed learning, career exploration, life skills, and visual/performing arts.
The Challenge program of the Columbia School District is a multidisciplinary enrichment program provided in a resource room setting. It is provided on an elective basis for students who have been ruled eligible for educational services to intellectually gifted students. Each student, based on interests, needs, and abilities, are exposed to challenging investigations incorporated in academic disciplines. Integrated process skills are utilized to encourage higher cognitive thought development, affective development, and academic skill development through meaningful and practical application. Evaluation of student progress, teacher effectiveness, and program components are reviewed annually with formative and summative evaluation procedures insuring accountability to the public and educational community.
A student may be referred by a parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, peer, self, or anyone else having reason to believe that the student might be intellectually gifted. Placement of gifted students is governed by specific policies pertaining to test scores and other criteria. Students must qualify at each step of the sequential process to be eligible for gifted services. The Referral Phase includes documentation of two or more of the following: group or individual intelligence test 91st percentile minimum group or individual achievement test 91st percentile in select area published characteristics of giftedness measure score at or above the superior range If two or more criteria are documented, the Local Survey Committee recommends further assessment. During the Assessment Phase the Assessment Team collects, administers, and/or documents three of the following: a full scale score at or above the 91st percentile on a norm-referenced group measure of intelligence a score at or above the superior range on a norm-referenced measure of characteristics of giftedness a score at or above the superior range on a norm-referenced measure of characteristics of creativity a score at or above the superior range on a norm-referenced measure of characteristics of leadership a score at or above the 91st percentile on a norm-referenced measure of cognitive abilities a score at or above the 91st percentile in select areas on a norm-referenced achievement test At this time, if parental permission has not been obtained, district personnel shall obtain written parental permission for testing. A student who has satisfied the minimal acceptable criteria on any three of the above measures shall have an individually administered norm-referenced intelligence test administered to them. A score of 91st percentile or above must be obtained for eligibility. Properly certified district personnel may administer the test at no cost to parents. The assessment team report and recommendation profile are sent to the District Local Survey Committee for determining eligibility, according to criteria set forth by the state guidelines. Once criteria are met and a written eligibility ruling has been made, the student is eligible to be placed in the Challenge program. The parent must give written consent to place the student in the program. No student is placed without a proper eligibility ruling and consent for placement.
After a student has been ruled eligible for the intellectually gifted program, written parental permission for placement shall be obtained before the student is placed in the program. “Participation in the Gifted Education Program is an entitlement, not a reward, under state law, The Mississippi Gifted Education Act of 1989. Therefore, the student should remain in the gifted program as long as he or she is being successful in the program. Grades and/or success in the regular education program are the responsibility of the regular classroom teachers and should not be considered as a reason for removal from the gifted program.” (Excerpt from Mississippi State Regulations for the Gifted Education Program) Students who have a valid Mississippi gifted eligibility ruling do not have to be reevaluated. When a student with a Mississippi gifted ruling transfers to our school district from a school within the state, a copy of the eligibility ruling must be sent to the Gifted Education Program office. After review, appropriate placement will be made following written parental consent. Each state has a unique set of eligibility criteria for placement in a gifted program; therefore, an out-of-state transfer student with a gifted eligibility from another state must satisfy the Mississippi eligibility criteria before being considered for placement in the gifted program. There is no temporary placement in the gifted program while the student goes through the eligibility process within the local district.
Gifted students are not graded but are evaluated using the Instructional Management Plan’s Scope and Sequence of Skills. Challenge teachers send out periodic reports evaluating behavior, work skills, and completion of thematic studies. Students must attend Challenge classes on a regular basis in order to continue satisfactory progress and participation in the program. As Challenge students work under specific Instructional Management Plan objectives and time frames, withholding permission to attend gifted education classes shall not be used as a disciplinary measure.
Parents may withdraw their child from the Challenge program at any time by signing a refusal of services form. If the parents request a temporary withdrawal, the student shall be removed for a complete nine-week grading period before reentering the program. School personnel cannot remove a student from the Challenge program without due process. A committee shall meet at least annually to reassess each gifted student’s continuation in the gifted program. The committee must include at least the student’s teacher of the gifted and a designated administrative representative.
Challenge students who participate in a resource program miss regular class a total of one day a week. “Gifted students are not required to make-up class work missed when they are scheduled to be in the gifted classroom. Gifted students shall be held accountable for demonstrating mastery of concepts and information on regularly scheduled tests. It should be noted that some gifted students will not be high academic achievers for a variety of reasons. It is not reasonable to expect intellectually gifted students, artistically gifted students, and/or creatively gifted students, by virtue of having been granted one of those gifted eligibility rulings, to make all A’s and B’s.” (Excerpt from Mississippi State Regulations for Gifted Education Programs) Homework assigned to the regular classroom students for the evening of the Challenge day must be completed by the gifted students.

Section 504

Section 504 is an Act that prohibits discrimination against persons with a disability in any program receiving federal financial assistance. The Act defines a person with a disability as anyone who: Has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. (Major life activity includes activities such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working). Has a record of such impairment. Is regarded as having such an impairment. In order to fulfill its obligation under Section 504, the COLUMBIA SCHOOL DISTRICT recognizes a responsibility to avoid discrimination in policies and practice regarding its personnel and students. No discrimination against any person with a disability will knowingly be permitted in any of the programs and practices in the school system. The school district has specific responsibilities under the Act, which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the child is determined to be eligible under Section 504, to afford access to appropriate educational services. If the parent or guardian disagrees with the determination made by the professional staff of the school district, he/she has a right to a hearing with an impartial hearing officer. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) also specifies rights related to educational records. This Act gives the parent or guardian the right to: Inspect and review his/her child’s education records Receive a list of all individuals having access to those records Ask for an explanation of any item in the records Ask for an amendment to any report on the grounds that it is inaccurate, misleading or violates the child’s rights A hearing on the issue if the school refuses to make the amendment.
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