Recent Changes In California Law Regarding Special Education


On June 30, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 181 (Chapter 52, Statutes of 2022), an education omnibus trailer bill which became effective immediately. There were multiple changes to California special education laws, but the ones that could directly affect regional center consumers are:

  • New Pathway to a High School Diploma for Students Taking Alternate Assessments
    • AB 181 creates an alternate pathway to a high school diploma for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  With AB 181’s addition of Section 51225.31 to the Education Code, LEAs must exempt eligible students from all coursework and additional requirements adopted by individual LEAs that are beyond what is required by California’s Education Code to receive a high school diploma.  A stated intent for easing graduation requirements to include only the state’s minimum course requirements is to increase high school diploma attainment for students with disabilities, thereby potentially increasing their postsecondary and employment opportunities.
    • A student is eligible for this exemption if their individualized education program (IEP) requires that the student:
      • Take the state’s alternate assessment aligned to alternative achievement standards in grade 11; and
      • Complete state standards aligned coursework to meet the state’s coursework requirements specified in Education Code Section 51225.3.
    • Before a student with an IEP begins 10th grade, the IEP team must determine and notify the parent whether the student may be eligible to receive a high school diploma under this exemption. 
    • Note: eligible students who graduate with a high school diploma under this exemption still have a continuing right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) until they age out of special education, despite their receipt of a diploma.
  • Independent Study Considerations
    • AB 181  states students with IEPs may participate in independent study if the student’s IEP provides for independent study.  Previously, the law stated that students with IEPs shall not participate in independent study unless provided for in the IEP.  This change to the law does not appear to have significant legal impact; however, AB 181 clarifies that an IEP team should not deny a request for independent study based on a student’s inability to work independently, need for adult support, or need for special education or related services. The CDE issued guidance on AB 181 and Independent Study which can be accessed at: AB 181: Special Education and Independent Study – Laws, Regulations, & Policies (CA Dept of Education)