COVID-19 Update: Supplemental Guidance from the U. States Department of Education
Since our blog post last week, the United States Department of Education (DOE) has published updated guidance for school districts and families nationwide relating to providing meaningful educational opportunities to all students, with and without disabilities.
DOE issued this updated guidance in an effort to clarify “a serious misunderstanding” in the educational community that school districts should not provide any distance instruction during COVID-19 closures. This misunderstanding seems to stem from fear of being unable to meet the federal requirement of providing all students, with and without disabilities, with access to distance learning.
Instead, DOE emphasizes that federal disability laws “should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.” It highlights that school districts are allowed flexibility when determining how to meet the needs of students with disabilities. While federal disability laws require equal access to offered instruction, it does not require that instruction to be provided to disabled and non-disabled students via one specific methodology. Rather, if students with disabilities are unable to access distance instruction via the methodology offered to students without disabilities, school districts may satisfy federal disability laws by providing access to instruction via alternative methodologies. Examples of alternative methodologies include teletherapy, tele-intervention, instructional packets, projects, and written assignments, to name a few.
The DOE also emphasizes the importance of school districts and families working collaboratively around IDEA timelines during this unprecedented time, including but not limited to timelines for eligibility determinations, due process hearings, annual review meetings and reevaluations.
If you have any questions relating to DOE’s most recent guidance or other special education issues, please reach out. Stay healthy and safe.