Special Education During COVID-19 / Coronavirus School Closures
Q: Do schools have to continue to serve students with disabilities during school closures for Coronavirus?
Q: Are schools required to provide all of the same special education services they provided when schools were open while schools are closed for Coronavirus?
A: No. The US Department of Education recognizes that these are “exceptional circumstances that may affect how all educational related services and supports are provided during school closures, and the Department will offer flexibility where possible.”
Q: Can districts unilaterally make decisions about which special education services from a child’s IEP will be provided during school closures without parent input?
A: No. The MSDE guidance clearly says that while parental “consent” is not required, there should be an “agreement” between parents and districts (similarly, annual IEP reviews in Maryland are done by “agreement” and not “consent”). This plan should be based an individualized determination. It is not acceptable for districts to say that they are reducing services by 50% across the board for all students, for example. Parents can request changes to plans suggested by the district.
Q: What about related services like speech language therapy?
A: The Department of Education specifically mentions speech language services as something that could be provided effectively through video conferencing. Other related special education services can similarly be provided in alternative methods, where possible and safe during school closures related to Coronavirus.
Q: Should modifications and accommodations be provided as part of distance learning?
A: Yes. For example, extension of time for assignments, captioning, embedded sign language, and accessible reading materials should all be provided.
Q: Is any particular method required as a way to provide distance learning for special education?
Q: Does everything schools do during Coronavirus closures have to be accessible to every student?
A: No. According to the Department of Education, it is acceptable for teachers to provide one method to some students, and a different method to others. The example the department gives is that it is acceptable for a teacher to give an inaccessible worksheet to the class, but to call a blind student to read the information to them over the phone rather than being required to withhold the worksheet from the whole class or being required to make the worksheet accessible before distributing it.
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