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So, schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year…what about special education services?

Q & A: Navigating special education issues in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q1) Does the CARES Act waive civil rights for students with disabilities?

A: No, it does not. Currently, no such waivers are in place. To obtain a waiver, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would have to obtain approval from Congress.

Q2) Are scheduled Individual Education Plans (IEPs) automatically cancelled because schools are closed?

A: No. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights has issued guidance encouraging parents and schools to use creative means to conduct IEPs including meetings via video, phone, or via written agreement.

Q3) My school is offering online education services, but online learning is not accessible for my child. What can I do?

A: Parents can contact members of their IEP team to try to determine whether additional technologies or features would make online learning accessible (i.e. closed captioning).

Q4) My child’s academic progress is regressing because of the lapse in services. Will I be entitled to compensatory education?

A: You may be entitled to compensatory education services. During this time, to the extent you can, document your child’s present level of performance (at or near the time of the school closure) via detailed notes and/or video. Prior to your child returning in the fall, document your child’s level of performance again. This will provide you with comparative evidence to draw upon.

Q5) What happens if my school wants me to sign a waiver saying that the online educational services provided are a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

A: Do not sign any waivers without fulling understanding of what is being waived. If you are taking concessions (i.e. choosing to accept educational services that are less than what is granted under your child’s IEP) in services because of the pandemic, limit your consent with qualifying language.

Q6) My child was scheduled to have an educational evaluation prior to the closure of schools. How can I get an evaluation now?

A: Eligibility assessments typically take several hours and are completed in-person because some behaviors cannot be fully assessed virtually. If you choose to pursue a virtual assessment, note that it may be incomplete.

Q7) My child’s school is providing online education services, but my child does not have access to a computer. Are schools required to provide one?

A: If schools are offering remote instruction to students without disabilities, schools must make the same opportunities available to students with disabilities. Schools should be providing loaner laptops to students to meet their equal access obligations under the IDEA.

Q8) My school is non-responsive. Can I file a due process complaint?

A. Yes, the Georgia State Office of Administrative Hearings is open and fully operational. However, filing a due process without the assistance of an attorney can be complicated because of procedural rules. Please note that these answers were crafted with the information made available on April 9, 2020. The COVID-19 conditions are changing quickly, so information may have changed since this post was published. #AskAngie #specialeducation #civilrights #learningdisabilities #COVID19 #civilrightsattorney

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