Authors: Special Education Law Blog
It appears that this pandemic of COVID-19 is a time that lawmakers such as Senator Lamar Alexander and others are ready and willing to basically exempt school districts from their obligations under IDEA. At this time our students need more not less education and more creative solutions. Elearning will not be the answer for many students with a high emphasis on self teaching and self-initiative. I have rarely seen schools take creative approaches but now is the time for schools to be more creative and not take an "oh well" approach to special education. This time off from school, that will likely last until the end of the year, and perhaps beyond cannot just be dead time. Fortunately there is guidance that school's still must meet the needs of students with special needs. The following is a posting from COPAA, detailing school's obligations (see below) at this time and beyond. We will likely need to have many (and extended) conversations about compensatory education for the many missed educational opportunities. Do not be shy about emailing your case manager and special education director requesting more than ineffective elearning for your student.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has just released Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) appreciates the helpful clarification that educators must make an effort to provide an education to students with disabilities. As noted in the release: “Some educators, however, have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true. We remind schools they should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities.” COPAA is hopeful that thishelps schools and districts understand how they can partner and collaborate with families to provide students with educational services.
COPAA reiterates that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports individualization for students and requires partnership with parents.Though no one likes the crisis in which we all now live; and, while we want every citizen to be safe and healthy, we do appreciate the efforts made by many school teams on behalf of students nationwide. COPAA members have reported examples of schools and districts that are embracing their responsibility and stepping up in innovative ways to meet the needs of students while physical buildings are closed. States, such as Ohio have taken measures to approve services for students whose evaluations are pending; and many other schools and their teachers are assuring continuity of learning and therapies which are critical for students with disabilities. COPAA asks every school to make every effort to do the same in safe and healthy ways.
Finally, for any of this to happen on a broad scale with effectiveness, Congress must include additional funding tostates in the stimulus package so that teachers, school leaders, students and their families have access to technology or other distance tools and resources they need to provide accessible, online instruction, therapies and other related services and supports to students. We urge Congress to provide funding now.
COPAA will send updates as developments on COVID-19 continue to emerge.