Jenna breaks down the big ideas about how idea is protecting student rights during the pandemic
Missed learning, emotional stress & medical risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have raised new questions in the special education arena. As we all find our way in this new landscape, the federal department of education has offered it’s guidance, and I’m sharing what I see as the key take aways – particularly as they differ from normal processes – after reading it.
You can also read the full 41 page Q&A document. Note that given this is a summary of a complex legal document about special education I did use several acronyms when writing. When that is the case, I also linked to our glossary so that readers who like can get more context.
While LEA are not required to convene new IEP meetings at the start of the school year in response to COVID, it’s also clear that the DOE does not see the pandemic as a reason to be out compliance on yearly meetings. Further, IEP teams should consider if IEPs include services that require significant modification based on a switch to in-person learning from remote learning or vice-versa and, in such a case, there should be a new IEP meeting. It’s also a good idea to proactively include contingency plans which allow for services to be adapted across remote, hybrid and in-person delivery of instruction.
If assistive technology is required to give a child access to FAPE, the IEP should consider how that technology will be provided when the child needs to learn from home either because of district-wide policy or individual quarantine. It might also be necessary to give a parent or guardian training on how to use the device.
Social and Emotional Needs
The DOE dedicated a full section of their new guidelines to reminders about the importance of considering social and emotional health when designing IEPs. If your child is experiencing increased anxiety, sadness or behavioral challenges after the past 18 months, that is a good reason to reconvene the IEP team. Accommodations might include services for your child such as counseling or training for teachers on positive behavior intervention strategies.
School-Related Health Needs
The federal DOE guidance explicitly recognizes the increased health risks associated with many disabilities that are IDEA eligible. To that end, we are reminded that IEP teams should include a participant – such as a physician or specialist – who is familiar with the child’s health needs. The guidance also states clearly that insufficient COVID-19 prevention is a failure to provide a child with FAPE and/or LRE. In that case, parents and guardians are encouraged to pursue dispute resolution and are also reminded that LEA must provide their written refusal to offer necessary accommodations as well as their reasoning.
As always, if you’d like to better understand what all of this means for your child and how you can talk about that with their school, we’re here to help. Reach out set up a time to talk.