California Music Therapy IEP Call-to-Action

California Music Therapists Need Your Help!

A simple email from you can make a difference for the future of music therapy in special education.

Whether you are one of the many California music therapists, a special education provider, teacher, psychologist, social worker, doctor, behavior therapist, parent, grandparent, or just a public citizen who is a supporter of music therapy, YOU are needed!  ***MAY 2014 UPDATE… WE DID IT! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.

Join us in advocating to have music therapy; an important and valued service clarified in California law. Help secure IEP-based services for the hundreds of students Coast Music Therapy serves in San Diego as well as students who need music therapy statewide.

While music therapy is not required for all students, solidifying music therapist qualifications in the law will help secure services state-wide for those students who do require music therapy in order to receive meaningful educational benefit.

The California Music Therapy State Recognition Task Force have put in tireless efforts and volunteer time to organize this call to action that we are passing on to our supporters!

How You Can Help

The CA Music Therapy State Recognition Task Force requests that you provide formal public comment via email only to the Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) by February 15, 2013 in favor and support for the inclusion of music therapy in section 3065(l)-Staff Qualifications-Related Services in the regulatory amendment language of Title 5- California Code of Regulations.

Email address for your public comment is:

We have attached sample email letters to help you create your email statement. (see below).There are letters for MTs, parents, professionals and others.

View Sample Letters in Word»»
View Sample Letters in PDF»»

Between the samples and the background information above and your own experience with music therapy we hope you can draft an email that will support this regulatory change. Please look for the items among the samples given that pertain to your unique situation as a professional, agency, consumer or music therapist. If you find some narrative in another sample that you feel shapes your comment…..go for it. Please Bcc our task force with your email message to the ACSE at


Whether employed or contracted by a district, all IEP driven services, be they music therapy or any other (e.g., speech and language pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.) are determined by the IEP team. This team knows and understands the unique needs of the child and legally brings together the parent(s)/guardian, student, special education teacher, district program specialist, other school treatment personnel (e,g, SLP, OT, PT, MT), psychologists and student evaluators, independent contractors for related services (e.g. music therapy), other pertinent district representatives, and any other person the parent(s)/guardians chose to involve.

All services, including music therapy, are only incorporated in a child’s IEP if the team determines it is necessary, not just beneficial, for the child to be successful in his/her educational setting. This ACSE newly recommended language noted above also aligns this portion of the CA Code with the language in the Federal Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act (IDEA).

A few school districts throughout the state hire music therapists but most music therapists working in special education are not employed by school districts. Instead, they serve as independent contractors with affiliated districts or Local Education Areas (LEAs). Those that are employed proceed without problem with assessment and student therapy services just like their fellow employed therapy peers (e.g., SLP, OT, PT). However, the majority of districts do not host a Music Therapy department and choose to contract out for music therapy services. They often do so because it is the most cost effective route related to the percentage of the CA special education student body currently identified as to needing services.

Districts that contract out services to any type of provider are technically required to use providers that are NPA/NPS certified the the Department of Education-Special Education Division. In the past, music therapist were able to easily obtain this NPA certification. While music therapy was not specifically listed in the NPA/NPS regulation language, music therapist were able to secure NPA/NPS certification easily through existing regulatory language that allowed for case by case approval by the CDE. However, several years ago the CDE arbitrarily dispensed with this case by case regulatory language without public input and music therapists that had previously held the NPA/NPS certification were rescinded.

This CDE action created a huge discrepancy between employed and NPA contractor eligibility that did not and has never existed for any other discipline. Please note, this is not an issue between employment verses contractor. This is about creating and protecting options for the school districts that already exist for all other disciplines except music therapy and protecting the consumers’ right to access music therapy services via NPA/NPS providers.

This confusion continues to today and for the students who have been identified as requiring music therapy services. Students that have been identified as needing music therapy in their IEP must legally receive. Using NPA/NPS music therapy contractors was a means for the districts to comply and pull funds from their budgets. Therefore the regulations must match this legal obligation set upon a district. This amendment will do that. We need to make sure that students get the services they require and contracted therapists can continue their work without hesitation or question.

You will note that the regulation language cites the music therapy credential in its text. By doing so the Department invokes the legally defensible CBMT Scope of Practice regarding WHAT a music therapist does and assures further protections for the consumer that competent and qualified personnel are delivering music therapy services. The actual function of a credential.

The Proposed Legal Changes

Effective immediately, the CA Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) is submitting a Statement of Reasons and proposed regulatory amendments specific to special education in Title 5, California Code of Regulations, sections 3000-3100 to the California Department of Education, Special Education Division (CDE-SPD).

This section of the regulatory code defines Non-Public Agencies (NPA) and Non-Public Schools (NPS) certification eligibility and what disciplines and qualified personnel are therefore permitted to be NPA/NPS certified providers. In turn these certified NPA/NPS holders may contract with school districts for IEP driven related services in special education.

ACSE has proposed that the Title 5 regulatory language be amended to include (add) a delineated line item statement that determines qualified music therapy personnel in Section 3065-Staff Qualifications-Related Services item (l).

The proposed language reads as follows:

(l) Music therapy shall be provided only by personnel who hold a Music Therapist – Board Certified credential from the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) upon the completion of all academic and clinical training requirements, and after successfully passing the CBMT National Board Certification Examination.”

The ACSE’s statement of reason for the inclusion of music therapy is: 

Proposed subdivision (l)is added to recognize that Music Therapy is a specific related service that may be necessary for special education students to benefit from their education. Without this addition, music therapy could not be accessed by LEAs through the nonpublic school and agency certification program.”

The inclusion of MT in this portion of the CA Code echoes other long standing language throughout additional CA Titles (9, 17, 22), state civil service job codes, accrediting bodies, insurance and CPT coding and more.

The ACSE will deliberate all the public comments after the February 15 deadline and pass along all its final recommendation to the CDE-Special Education Division. At that point the CDE will make final revisions and open that document up for further public comment. It is hoped that music therapy inclusion will survive both rounds of review. We will be sure to keep you apprised as this plays out.

Closing Message from the CA Music Therapy State Recognition Task Force

We, the members of the AMTA/CBMT California Music Therapy State Recognition Task Force have worked diligently over the last few years to get NPA/NPS recognition language re-established in some form or another in the Title 5 regulations and are more than pleased that it is now specified. A massive amount of people hours, data collection and testimony has occurred to bring us collectively to this point.

This regulatory language is a huge step forward in the process of insuring that children have fair and reasonable access to related services in CA and will help set precedents for other states. Many other states have already established fair music therapy criterion. Additionally, the CDE must be held accountable to remain compliant with the Federal IDEA. This regulation amendment will do just that. Your actions, as we outline in the next section will help do this.

TAKE Action: now that you’ve read the background information please take 15 minutes of your time

Also, if you know someone who could lend voice and support to this item please forward this email as needed. We so appreciate your efforts and time. We so appreciate your support and time. If you have any questions please contact the task force at

CA Music Therapy State Recognition Task Force Members
Celeste A. Behnke-Keith, MT-BC
Tara McConnell, MT-BC
Cathy Rivera, MS, MM, MT-BC
Karen Sanchez, MBA, MT-BC
Jody Wilfong, MT-BC
Judy Simpson, MHP, MT-BC   (AMTA Director of Government Relations)
Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, MT-BC (CBMT Regulatory Affairs Associate)
Dena Register, PhD, MT-BC  (CBMT Regulatory Affairs Advisor)

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