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Student Services & Special Education


Orland Park School District 135 provides district-wide support to building staff and our community regarding the education of students with disabilities, who may qualify under either Section 504 or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under either provision, District 135 supports the intent of the federal and state mandate to meet student needs in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). In meeting the requirements of LRE, our school community continues to embrace inclusive instructional practices, which are designed to provide accommodations and/or special education services within the context of the general education setting to the greatest extent possible. While a continuum of services and programming is available within the district, membership in a student’s home school and classroom is highly valued.

As educators, advocates, parents, and policymakers, we need to work toward creating a culture of high expectations, ensuring students with disabilities have full access to college- and career-ready learning opportunities and assessments and supporting students with disabilities so that they may excel in the general curriculum for college and career success. To do so, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have released several resources, including the following links: 

Gini Sulek
Director of Special Education

Jennifer Brown
Assistant Director of Special Education

Stephanie Baltrusis, M.Ed.
Special Education Coordinator
(708) 364-3564 

Denise King
Executive Secretary


Section 504 is a federal law and part of the American with Disabilities Act designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . ."

The school district must provide a free appropriate public education to district students who are eligible under Section 504. Instruction must be individually designed to meet the needs of those students as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. An appropriate education under Section 504 requires that the services be effective and fair.

Although Section 504 does not require schools to develop an Individualized Education Program with annual goals, the school does provide written documentation for each student identified and provide accommodations and/or services under Section 504. If school staff suspects a need for accommodations, a referral should be made, evaluations conducted, and possible identification determined by a team knowledgeable about the student. If the student is identified, the team might develop a Section 504 Plan.

Section 504 is not a special education plan. The school staff and parents should collaborate to help ensure that students are provided accommodations through general education. The exception to this standard is a student who has been determined eligible as having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Such a student could receive special education services under IDEA and accommodations required under Section 504.

Click here for additional information on Section 504.


The Illinois State Board of Education has published a comprehensive guide to Understanding Special Education in Illinois. This guide can be accessed by clicking on this link.  District policies and procedures related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are also available on District 135's Board of Education website in Section 701.3.

In Orland School District 135, services are provided for children who qualify for an Individual Education Plan through the following eligibility categories:

  • Autism
  • Cognitive Disability
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Developmental Delay (ages 3-9)
  • Emotional Disability
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impaired
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech and Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment

Please click here for specific definitions for each of these eligibility categories.

Child Find/Eligibility: Students are identified for special education through a child find process as required by federal and state guidelines. For students who are 3-5 years old, developmental screening and services are available through the Preschool Program.

For students who are currently attending our K-12 buildings, the district uses a Problem Solving process to provide early interventions to supplement research based core instruction for academic or behavioral concerns. The building Problem Solving Team regularly reviews classroom performance and assists in connecting students to appropriate interventions. The data from this process then provides the foundation for a Response to Intervention (RtI) approach, which may result in a referral for screening and a possible determination of eligibility for special education services.  Please note that an RtI process is specifically mandated by the State of Illinois in the determination of a Specific Learning Disability.  To read a copy of the Parent Letter describing the Orland 135 Response to Intervention process click here.

Referrals:  Students who may be eligible and in need of special services may be identified through the Orland District 135 Problem Solving Process or by referral.  Students can be referred for an evaluation by their parents, their teacher or any other concerned adult.  The student's health, vision, hearing, social-emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication status and motor abilities are all components of an evaluation that are considered at the Domain Review.  Students are found eligible for special education services following the evaluation if they exhibit deficits that impede their learning. 

To request an evaluation, please address a letter to your building principal and the Orland District 135 Director of Special Education including the following information: name, age and grade of your child; the reason you are requesting an evaluation; and, your compete name and address.  Any questions you have regarding the referral process or special education services may be directed to Karen Cannon-Janettas, Director of Special Education.

Programming Continuum:     Orland District 135 provides access to a full continuum of special education programming including: resource, instructional and self-contained levels of support.  District 135 adheres to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with a commitment to educating students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  To meet the individual needs of all students, programming and related service options are based on the nature and degree of intervention needed for each student.

While the vast majority of our students receive services in their home school, if a student's needs cannot be met with support at his/her neighborhood school, the educational team will determine an appropriate, least restrictive service delivery option that best addresses his/her current needs. If students have sufficient need for a self-contained and intensive setting, specialized classrooms are available in specific buildings across the district. District 135 partners with special education cooperatives and private facilities that provide services for children with low-incidence disabilities. These partnership agreements ensure the provision of a continuum of services for students who require intensive and/or therapeutic interventions.  

Related Services: Each building is staffed with personnel who are qualified to provide the appropriate services and support, as determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP). Social work, psychological services, speech/language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and adaptive physical education are some of the related services provided as individual student needs deem necessary. The intent of these services is to support the participation of students in the general education classroom through all educators working as a collaborative team. Related service staff members are listed on building staff rosters, and can be contacted through the home school. Some staff, such as vision and hearing itinerant staff, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and adaptive physical education staff are assigned to buildings based on student needs.

Special Services Transportation:  Transportation needs for students with disabilities are discussed at the student's IEP meeting.  If you have any concerns regarding transportation, please contact your child's teacher, the building principal, or the Director of Special Education to schedule an IEP meeting.
Professional Development: The district provides technical assistance specific to the areas of autism, behavior, specialized curriculum, and assistive technology. Teams can request consultation and professional development for specific students or instructional needs. This staff is a consult to the student team, and works with the student and parent through the building team. These services can be accessed at any time in the school year.