(1) The protocols required by RCW 74.13.560
for making best interest determinations for students in out-of-home care must comply with the provisions of this section.
(2)(a) Best interest determinations should be made as quickly as possible in order to prevent educational discontinuity for the student.
(b) When making best interest determinations, every effort should be made to gather meaningful input from relevant and appropriate persons on their perspectives regarding which school the student should attend during his or her time in out-of-home care, consistent with the student's case plan. Relevant and appropriate persons include:
(i) Representatives of the department of children, youth, and families;
(ii) Representatives of the school of origin, such as a teacher, counselor, coach, or other meaningful person in the student's life;
(iii) Biological parents;
(iv) Foster parents;
(v) Educational liaisons identified under RCW 13.34.045
(vi) The student's relatives; and
(vii) Depending on his or her age, the student.
(3) In accordance with RCW 74.13.550
, whenever practical and in their best interest, students placed into out-of-home care must remain enrolled in the school that they were attending at the time they entered out-of-home care.
(4) Student-centered factors must be used to determine what is in a student's best interest. In order to make a well-informed best interest determination, a variety of student-centered factors should be considered, including:
(a) How long is the student's current out-of-home care placement expected to last?
(b) What is the student's permanency plan and how does it relate to school stability?
(c) How many schools has the student attended in the current year?
(d) How many schools has the student attended over the past few years?
(e) Considering the impacts of past transfers, how may transferring to a new school impact the student academically, emotionally, physically, and socially?
(f) What are the immediate and long-term educational plans of, and for, the student?
(g) How strong is the student academically?
(h) If the student has special needs, what impact will transferring to a new school have on the student's progress and services?
(i) To what extent are the programs and activities at the potential new school comparable to, or more appropriate than, those at the school of origin?
(j) Does one school have programs and activities that address the unique needs or interests of the student that the other school does not have?
(k) Which school does the student prefer?
(l) How deep are the child's ties to his or her school of origin?
(m) Would the timing of the school transfer coincide with a logical juncture, such as after testing, after an event that is significant to the student, or at the end of the school year?
(n) How would changing schools affect the student's ability to earn full academic credit, participate in sports or other extracurricular activities, proceed to the next grade, or graduate on time?
(o) How would the commute to the school under consideration impact the student, in terms of distance, mode of transportation, and travel time?
(p) How anxious is the student about having been removed from the home or about any upcoming moves?
(q) What school does the student's sibling attend?
(r) Are there safety issues to consider?
(5) The student must remain in his or her school of origin while a best interest determination is made and while disputes are resolved in order to minimize disruption and reduce the number of school transfers.
(6) School districts are encouraged to use any:
(a) Best interest determination guide developed by the office of the superintendent of public instruction during the discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of keeping the student in the school of origin or transferring the student to a new school; and
(b) Dispute resolution process developed by the office of the superintendent of public instruction when there is a disagreement about school placement, the provision of educational services, or a dispute between agencies.
(7) The special education services of a student must not be interrupted by a transfer to a new school.
(8) For the purposes of this section, "out-of-home care" has the same meaning as in RCW 13.34.030