Q&A for Parents: What You Need To Know Relating to a School District’s Responsibilities to Provide Special Education & Related Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Virus Outbreak
By Special Education Attorney Jeffrey L. Forte, Esq. | Forte Law Group LLC
The United States Department of Education just issued guidance to local school agencies on how to appropriately handle providing special education and release services to children with disabilities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) outbreak. While the spread and concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak continues, this blog is intended to provide a brief “need-to-know” for all parents of a child with a disability on how this impacts your child’s Section 504 or IEP based education.
QUESTION 1: Is my local education agency (LEA) legally obligated to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to my child with a disability during the COVID-19 outbreak?
ANSWER 1: NO. Specifically, if your LEA has decided to close its schools to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then your LEA is not legally required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same time frame.
QUESTION 2: If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during the COVID-19 outbreak, is my child with a disability also entitled receive the same educational opportunities that are being provided to the general student population during the school closure?
ANSWER 2: YES. Your LEA must ensure that your child with a disability has equal access to the same educational opportunities as the general student population during the school closure, including the right to a FAPE, pursuant to the legal provisions of the Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, your LEA “must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible” each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan. The present concern that parents should inquire about is how their LEA is going to ensure that a student with a disability receives their IEP or 504 special education and related services “to the greatest extent possible” during the school closure. Arguably, I anticipate this is where a plethora of compensatory education services hours will need to be made up and provided once schools are back in session. The anticipated issues will include to what extent and amount of compensatory education will legally need to be provided.
QUESTION 3: If my child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and is absent for an extended period of time while school is open, must my LEA provide special education and related services to my child?
ANSWER 3: YES. If your child with a disability contracts COVID-19 while your LEA is open, your child may be eligible to receive special education and related services by way of homebound instruction arrangements with your LEA.
QUESTION 4: May an IEP team consider a remote or distance learning plan in your child’s IEP if the COVID-19 outbreak causes school closure?
ANSWER 4: YES. Though not required, IEP teams may include and provide for remote and distance learning plans in your child’s IEP. Such a plan would be considered a “contingency provision” and may include delivering your child’s special education and related services at an alternate location or via online or through virtual instruction to the extent that such instruction is meaningful. Such a plan should be discussed as an IEP team.
QUESTION 5: My LEA school district is closed, but my child with a disability attends a private therapeutic out of district special education school that is open. Is my child’s LEA obligated to continue to transport and educate my child at my child’s out of district specialized placement?
ANSWER: NO. Please see question and answer 1. If your LEA is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, then all students are not attending school and therefore your LEA does not need to provide transportation or education for your child at your child’s out of district school. That said, you should call your child’s out of district school and inquire if it is continuing to remain open and decide whether or not you want to arrange for your own transportation to and from your child’s private school.
To view the US Department of Education’s recent guidance, click below: