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New Requirements for Schools Regarding Special Educational Needs

  • Regulatory Background
  1. Law No. 21,544, which modifies and complements the regulations regarding the Educational System, published on February 9, 2023 (hereinafter referred to as "Miscellaneous Law").
  2. Law No. 21,545, which establishes the promotion of inclusion, comprehensive care, and protection of the rights of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the social, health, and educational fields, published on March 10, 2023 (hereinafter referred to as "TEA Law").
  3. Exempt Resolution No. 586 of December 27, 2023, approving a Circular providing instructions related to the promotion of inclusion, comprehensive care, and protection of the rights of preschoolers and students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, issued by the Superintendent of Education (hereinafter referred to as "Circular").
  • Context

On February 9, 2023, Law No. 21,544 was published, amending the General Law of Education in its articles 11 and 13 regarding the School Inclusion Program and admission processes, respectively, for private paid schools.

Law No. 21,545, published on March 10, 2023, secured various rights for children, adolescents, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the educational field, imposing several duties on educational institutions.

Finally, at the end of 2023, with the aim of informing and instructing all educational institutions, the Superintendent of Education issued Exempt Resolution No. 586, specifying the scope of both laws regarding the obligations of all educational establishments, especially private paid schools.

  • Definitions and Principles

A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is understood as someone who presents a difference or diversity in typical neurodevelopment, manifested in significant difficulties in initiating, reciprocating, and maintaining social interaction and communication in various environments, as well as in restrictive or repetitive behaviors or interests.

In the educational context, ASD is considered a permanent special educational need (SEN), requiring a certified diagnosis. necesidad educativa especial (NEE) de carácter permanente y se debe contar con un diagnóstico que lo certifique.

The Circular states that an autistic student must have one of the following diagnoses:

  1. Qualification and certification from COMPIN, in case of constituting a degree of disability.
  2. Diagnostic evaluation conducted according to Decree No. 170 of 2009, from the Ministry of Education.
  3. External medical diagnosis conducted by a professional (from the public or private system), following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health in the matter.

Both Law No. 21,545 and the Circular recognize that the following principles are of special relevance regarding the care of students with ASD:

  1. Dignified treatment
  2. Progressive autonomy
  3. Gender perspective
  4. Neurodiversity
  5. Continuous monitoring

The obligations established for schools will be enforceable from the beginning of the 2024 school year. inicio del año escolar 2024.

  • Obligations Established for Private Schools.
  • Regarding access to education and admission processes

Law No. 21,545 states that it is the duty of the State to ensure that children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders have non-arbitrary access to public and private educational institutions.

In this context, according to Law No. 21,544, private paid institutions must ensure, in their admission processes starting from the first transitional level, that at least 5% of the slots are prioritized for students with disabilities or permanent special educational needs (such as students with ASD), provided that there are enough applications to fill these slots .

The regulations establish the following rules for schools to incorporate these changes in admission processes:

  1. For the 2026 school year, they must ensure that at least one slot per level is prioritized for students with disabilities or permanent SEN.
  2. For the 2027 school year, at least one slot per class must be prioritized for students with disabilities or permanent SEN.
  3. For the 2028 school year, compliance is required to prioritize at least 5% of slots for students with disabilities or permanent SEN.

Law No. 21,544 establishes that schools cannot charge a higher enrollment fee or a higher fee to students with disabilities or permanent SEN due to the necessary adjustments and supports for their access and permanence in school, nor can they impose additional requirements on parents that could affect their right to education.

The Circular also states that schools must have the infrastructure and support materials necessary to allow and facilitate access to existing courses or levels for people with disabilities.

  • Regarding the adjustment of internal protocols and procedures

Law No. 21,545 establishes the obligation for schools to make the necessary adjustments to their internal regulations and procedures to consider the diversity of their students and address emotional and behavioral dysregulations.

In this sense, the Circular defines the concept of "Emotional and Behavioral Support" as the set of preventive and/or responsive actions deployed towards an autistic student throughout their educational trajectory, aiming to mitigate their vulnerability to the environment or respond comprehensively and effectively to challenging behaviors that are difficult to manage in the educational context, whether due to their intensity, nature, or temporality.

Emotional and behavioral dysregulation is considered a "challenging situation," occurring with students with ASD that, due to their frequency, duration, or intensity, require particular and specific attention from an adult.

The adjustments that schools must make can be conceptualized along two axes:

  1. Preventive axis: involves identifying contextual, sensory, and relational elements that may affect the well-being of a student with ASD in the educational space, with the purpose of preventing episodes of emotional dysregulation.
  2. Reactive or response axis: involves planning actions to be deployed in response to situations of greater emotional vulnerability manifested by a student in the educational space, which may trigger challenging behaviors for management, given their nature, intensity, or temporality.

This implies having 2 management instruments, one of a specific nature and another of a general nature:

  1. Emotional and behavioral support plan (preventive/specific axis): all schools must have an individual management plan to identify and, consequently, effectively avoid situations of greater vulnerability that can trigger emotional dysregulation and behaviors by the student .

Plan elements::

  • Identify situations of vulnerability that can trigger behaviors and dysregulations.
  • Description of triggering factors for such behaviors and dysregulations.
  • Recommended response measures, which should consider:
    • School adults who will accompany the student in recovering their well-being.
    • The displacement of the peer group to another space to allow private management of the situation.
    • Emotional support strategies to be used.

The plan must be personalized and worked on together with the family, incorporating special instructions from specialist professionals if any. Record of joint appointments and agreements must be kept.

It should be informed at the beginning of the school year and whenever modified to teachers and education assistants who have direct contact with the student.

A copy of the special response instructions must be kept in the classroom, in a location exclusively accessible to staff, as a guide for handling a dysregulation episode. Its content will be confidential.

  1. Protocol for responding to situations of emotional and behavioral dysregulation with children, girls, and students on the Autism Spectrum (reactive/general axis): the protocol must allow assigning responsibilities, guiding actions, and defining concrete responses to emotional and behavioral dysregulations in the educational context.

The protocol must regulate at least::

  • Stages that compose the procedure in which situations of crisis or emotional and behavioral dysregulation occurring in the establishment will be addressed, as well as the actions that each stage contemplates. The actions encompassing the protocol must be geared to ensure the welfare of the student and the educational community, without any type of punitive or negative connotation.
  • The identification of the officials responsible for activating the protocol and carrying out the actions. It should be indicated who or who will make the decision to request the presence of the guardian. However, the initial response actions must be carried out by the educational team closest to the student.
  • The measures to be taken immediately for the physical and emotional safeguarding of the student, considering the activation of the school accident protocol when applicable and the need to request the presence of the guardian.
  • The method of communicating with the guardian in case their assistance is required.
  • La manera en que se certificará la referida asistencia del apoderado al colegio, para que éstos puedan acreditar dicha circunstancia al empleador.
  • La identificación del encargado de registrar lo sucedido en una ficha de registro. Dicha ficha debe contener al menos:
    • Fecha y hora en que ocurrió la situación.
    • Individualización del estudiante.
    • Individualización de los funcionarios que intervinieron.
    • La indicación acerca de si se contactó o no al apoderado para acudir al colegio.
    • El relato del incidente y su contexto.
    • Descripción de las medidas adoptadas y la evaluación de su incidencia positiva o negativa en la conducta del estudiante.
  • Follow-up and evaluation actions, as well as the deadlines for their implementation.

The protocol and other measures incorporated into the Internal Regulations must be agreed upon with the educational community through the School Council, in order to participatively determine the criteria and measures that will be applied to the general student body in the presence of emotional and behavioral dysregulation situations and which will need to be reviewed and, in some cases, adjusted, given the relevance to the emotional health and personal situation of each student.

Once the episode of dysregulation is concluded, the school must take relevant psychosocial support and assistance measures for the involved students, both for those who experienced dysregulation and those who witnessed or were affected by the situation.

Physical restraint is not a recommended management strategy in the educational context, so it can only be used in exceptional cases. In this case, in addition to activating the school accident protocol, the school must inform the student's family to assess the activation of mental health support networks.

Las regulaciones para el abordaje de Desregulación Emocional y Conductual (DEC) que transgredan el principio de no discriminación arbitraria se tendrán por no escritas (por ejemplo, entrada y salida diferida de manera permanente, retiro obligatorio por parte del apoderado, etc.)

  • Regarding the adjustment of disciplinary measures

The Circular states that no school may adopt disciplinary measures based directly or indirectly on the fact of having a permanent or transitory disability or special educational needs (NEE), as this would constitute arbitrary discrimination, which is prohibited by educational regulations.

The Circular also establishes that it is against educational regulations to condition enrollment on commitments from parents or guardians regarding situations of dysregulation in an autistic student.

La Circular también establece que es contrario a la normativa educacional que se condicione la matrícula al cumplimiento de compromisos de los apoderados frente a situaciones de desregulación de un estudiante autista.

  • Attendance of the father, mother, guardian, or legal representative in emergencies regarding the student's integrity

Parents or guardians of students with TEA are empowered to go to school in case of emergencies affecting their physical integrity . These are exceptional situations that occur in the school context and arise from the interaction between the environment and the student, requiring the deployment of extraordinary measures contained in the Internal Regulations.

The presence of the guardian aims to prevent or mitigate a significant risk to the student's physical, emotional, or social well-being, which could be aggravated by self-injurious and/or hetero-aggressive behaviors linked to the inability to regulate impulses autonomously or with the support of the team designated for this purpose by the school.

Communication with guardians should be done through the most expeditious means, and the school must record the time of contact and with whom it was made. The family can specify which responsible adult should be notified preferably.

The decision to request the presence of the guardian must be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account:

  • The student's needs.
  • The exceptional nature of the situation.
  • The magnitude of the emergency.
  • The family's reality.

Efforts should always be made to support the student so that they can reintegrate into the educational day, avoiding early withdrawal, which should only occur exceptionally.

Cada episodio de desregulación, así como el análisis de solicitar o no la concurrencia del apoderado al colegio, deberá ser informado a la familia a más tardar al término de la jornada de clases dejando constancia.

The school must provide a certificate to the guardian, signed by the management team, accrediting their presence at the school during the emergency, including at least the date and hours involved.

  • Providing inclusive educational spaces without violence and discrimination for people with TEA.

The Circular states that schools cannot prevent the participation of autistic students in any organ of the institution, when possible according to their progressive autonomy and always considering the best interests of the student.

Schools must promote participation through Student Centers, Parents and Guardians Centers, Teacher Councils, and School Councils.

Schools cannot condition a student's continued attendance on the consumption of any type of medication. They must provide all necessary support to ensure their full inclusion; consequently, participation in the classroom and academic activities cannot be conditioned on that circumstance.

Asimismo, los colegios deberán propiciar iniciativas de apoyo biopsicosocial y de atención diferenciada, tanto en actividades curriculares como extracurriculares.

Educational projects should include inclusive school inclusion programs that incorporate necessary adjustments and relevant supports, such as teaching diversification strategies and curricular adaptations, among others, for the access and permanence of students with permanent disabilities or special educational needs, without imposing a disproportionate burden on the school.

Schools must incorporate innovations, accessibility criteria, diversification, and curricular adaptations according to the needs of students, as well as contemplate plans for students with special needs and encourage the participation of the entire educational community.

If curricular adaptations are implemented, students with special needs should be evaluated according to these adaptations, accessible to their individual characteristics and conditions. In this regard, the Assessment and Promotion Regulations must contain provisions that establish guidelines for diversifying evaluation to better address the diversity of students.

Regarding promotion, management teams have the authority to authorize the promotion of students who do not meet the requirements, which is especially relevant for autistic students, given the importance of keeping them with the peer group with whom they have developed a sense of belonging.

Schools must safeguard the progressive autonomy of autistic students, supporting them in self-care activities until they achieve autonomy to perform such actions independently. In addition, schools must promote appropriate forms of assistance and support for people with permanent disabilities or special educational needs to ensure their access to information throughout the educational process.

Además, los colegios deben promover formas adecuadas de asistencia y apoyo a las personas con discapacidad o NEE permanentes, para asegurar su acceso a la información en todo el proceso educativo.

Schools must have posters or other communication formats indicating that people with TEA should receive dignified and respectful treatment at all times and in any circumstance, using clear and simple language in their care.

During the first two months of the school year, the administrator must disseminate a circular or communication to guardians indicating that people with TEA should receive dignified and respectful treatment at all times and in any circumstance, and that clear and simple language should be used in the care provided to them.

  • Actions for the proper training of staff for the protection of the physical and mental integrity of students with TEA.

The Circular states that schools must train their staff for the proper protection of the physical and mental integrity of students with TEA.

This training should include:

  • Preparation to deal with emotional and behavioral decompensations that students may experience.
  • Tools to encourage and provide necessary support to students with TEA, allowing them to exercise their right to participation.

Se debe capacitar a los equipos directivos, docentes y asistentes de la educación, pudiendo utilizar las que desarrolle el Mineduc u otras que el colegio gestione de forma directa.

Training should be provided to management teams, teachers, and education assistants, and it can use materials developed by the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) or others managed directly by the school.

  • Referral to health facilities to promote early detection

The Circular obliges schools to have a protocol prepared by the Ministry of Health, following consultation with Mineduc, for the referral of students with suspected TEA for their diagnostic process .[6].

  • Summary of modifications
Admission processes At least 5% of the available slots must be prioritized for students with disabilities or permanent special educational needs (progressively from 2025 with a quota).

Additional charges or higher registration fees or tuition fees for the necessary adjustments and support for the inclusion of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the institution are not allowed.

The infrastructure and support materials necessary to enable and facilitate access to existing courses and levels must be available for people with disabilities.

Emotional and Behavioral Support Plan –        Eje preventivo/individual

–        Identificar situaciones de vulnerabilidad que puedan gatillar conductas y desregulaciones.

–        Descripción de los factores gatillantes de dichas conductas y desregulaciones.

–        Medidas de respuesta aconsejadas, las que deberán considerar:

o   Adultos del colegio que acompañaran al estudiante en la recuperación de su estado de bienestar.

o   El desplazamiento del grupo de pares hacia otro espacio para permitir un manejo privado de la situación.

o   Estrategias de acompañamiento emocional a utilizar.

Crisis or Emotional and Behavioral Dysregulation Protocols –        Eje reactivo/general

–        Etapas que componen el procedimiento en que se abordarán las situaciones de crisis o desregulación emocional y conductual ocurridas en el establecimiento, así como las acciones que contempla cada etapa.

–        La identificación de los funcionarios responsables de activar el protocolo y realizar las acciones.

–        Las medidas que se adoptarán inmediatamente para el resguardo físico y emocional del estudiante, considerando la activación del protocolo de accidentes escolares cuando corresponda y la necesidad de solicitar la presencia del apoderado.

–        La forma de comunicación al apoderado en caso de que se requiera su asistencia.

–        La manera en que se certificará la referida asistencia del apoderado al colegio, para que éstos puedan acreditar dicha circunstancia al empleador.

–        La identificación del encargado de registrar lo sucedido en una ficha de registro. Dicha ficha debe contener al menos:

o   Fecha y hora en que ocurrió la situación.

o   Individualización del estudiante.

o   Individualización de los funcionarios que intervinieron.

o   La indicación acerca de si se contactó o no al apoderado para acudir al colegio.

o   El relato del incidente y su contexto.

o   Descripción de las medidas adoptadas y la evaluación de su incidencia positiva o negativa en la conducta del estudiante.

–        Las acciones de seguimiento y evaluación, así como los plazos en que éstas se llevarán a cabo.

Modifications to the Internal Regulations and current protocols. –        Adopción de medidas disciplinarias: se debe preferir la adopción de medidas de carácter formativo.

–        No se puede condicionar la matrícula al cumplimiento de compromisos de los apoderados frente a situaciones de desregulación de un estudiante con TEA.

–        Fomentar y contribuir a la participación en centros de alumnos, consejos escolares, centro de padres, etc.

–        No se puede condicionar la permanencia de un estudiante al consumo de algún medicamento.

–        Atención biopsicosocial y de atención diferenciada en actividades curriculares como extracurriculares.

–        Programa de inclusión escolar, que incorpore los ajustes necesarios y apoyos pertinentes, sin que suponga una carga desproporcionada al colegio.

–        Reglamento de Evaluación y Promoción: adecuación curricular para estudiantes con TEA y facilitar la promoción de curso, para mantenerse con su grupo de pares.

Guardian's attendance in emergencies –        Los padres o apoderados de estudiantes con TEA se encuentran facultados para acudir al colegio ante la ocurrencia de emergencias que afecten su integridad física.

–        Se trata de situaciones excepcionales que ocurren en el contexto escolar y que surgen de la interacción entre el entorno y el estudiante, ante la cual se requiere el despliegue de medidas extraordinarias.

Other modifications to be made by the school –        Asegurar el derecho a la información de personas con discapacidad o NEE permanentes en todo el proceso educativo.

–        Carteles u otros formatos que señalen que las personas con TEA deben recibir un trato digno y respetuoso.

–        Circular o comunicación del Sostenedor, dentro de los 2 primeros meses del año, que indique que las personas con TEA deben recibir un trato digno y respetuoso.

Trainings –        A todos los funcionarios del colegio (Equipo Directivo, profesores y asistentes de la educación).

–        Al menos una vez al año.

–        Contar con medios de verificación para acreditar la realización de la capacitación.

 

[1] Parents must submit certificates or medical evaluations to prove that the applicant has a permanent disability or special educational need (SEN). Admission processes must prioritize the siblings of students who have permanent disabilities or SEN, so that they can pursue their studies in these institutions. (Article Three Transitional of Law No. 21,544)

For the development of the Emotional Support Plan, consider the Technical Guidelines prepared by the Undersecretariat of Early Childhood Education, available at: https://parvularia.mineduc.cl/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Orientaciones-para-TEA-16-oct.pdf. The publication of the Technical Guidelines for elementary and secondary school students, to be prepared by the Division of General Education, is still pending.

[3] In relation to the provisions of Article 11 of the General Education Law and Article 6, letter d), of the Subsidies Law.

[4] Parents, mothers, or legal guardians can effectively be absent from their work in these situations, in accordance with the provisions of Article 25 of Law 21.545.

[5] In accordance with Article 20 of Law No. 21.545

[6] It is not yet published

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