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Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
Paraprofessionals responsible for assisting with the implementation of a student’s IEP must be provided the opportunity to review a copy of the IEP prior to implementation. Paraprofessionals must have ongoing access to the IEP.
It may be the same copy of the IEP provided to the student’s special education teacher or another teacher or related service provider under whose direction the paraprofessional works. It may be a copy maintained in another location in the school building as long as that location is readily accessible to the paraprofessional.
Schools that use SESIS to provide electronic access to paraprofessionals must ensure that they receive training on how to use SESIS and that computers are available in the school building during the school day. Schools are not required to provide a copy of the IEP to the paraprofessional, but they may legally do so if they choose.
According to the DOE-paraprofessional collective-bargaining agreement, paraprofessionals may not remain in a room without a teacher, i.e., when the teacher is called away for a meeting or is absent for the day. Paras must be under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher in a classroom or outside in the schoolyard.
The only exception is the Lead Teacher Assistant, the new career ladder position for paraprofessionals. Paras who are Lead Teacher Assistants may fill in during a teacher’s absence for up to 10 days over the course of a school year. A Lead Teacher Assistant, however, cannot be assigned to take charge of a classroom if the teacher requests or takes an extended leave.
School administrations cannot ask paraprofessionals to supervise the lunchroom. Special Circular 6R established that lunchroom supervision may not be assigned to paras. Schools have other school-based personnel, including school aides and supervising school aides, who can be assigned this responsibility.
Paraprofessionals, including one-on-one paras, are entitled to a duty-free lunch period. A child’s IEP can mandate paraprofessional coverage at lunch for that child, but the IEP cannot, and does not, specify a specific person to perform that role. If a para is asked to be with a child during the child’s lunch, that para must still have a duty-free lunch period at some other point in the day. (If a para is unsure about the requirements on a child’s IEP, the para should ask to see the IEP. State law requires that paraprofessionals have access to the IEPs of students in their care.)
Paraprofessionals earn one sick leave day for every month in which they are in service for at least 16 calendar days. The maximum number of sick leave days earnable in a school year is 10 for September through June.
Paraprofessionals can use earned sick leave and be paid if they meet the following requirements:
- Self-treated absences. Paraprofessionals cannot use more than three consecutive self-treated sick days. The fourth consecutive day will result in an absence without pay. No more than five self-treated days can be used in a five-month period (from September through January and from February through June). The sixth day would result in an absence without pay.
- Personal business days. Annual employees are entitled to up to three of their 10 self-treated days for personal business during a given school year provided that reasonable notice is given to the principal. Those personal business days may be used to care for a sick family member. The number of personal business days that a paraprofessional uses reduces the number of self-treated days he or she has.
- Medically certified absences. Medically certified absences are absences for which the para provides a medical note.
If a para is absent more than three consecutive days, he or she must provide a doctor’s note. If a paraprofessional has medically certified absences exceeding the amount of time in the para’s sick bank, it will result in absences without pay.
Be aware that days off for both self-treated absences and personal business are intended to be used only for those express purposes. If a supervisor suspects that is not the case, the supervisor may investigate and attempt to deny payment if it is discovered that the paraprofessional was not really ill or did not have to conduct personal business that could be accomplished only during school hours. Excessive absence may be a basis for discipline.