Coronavirus Pandemic and Rights of Students with Disabilities

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Disability Rights Texas Handout

Created: March 12, 2020
Publication Code: ED24

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak:

Protecting the Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Schools

This handout can be made available in Braille and/or by audio file upon request.

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation in Texas. State and local officials, including school leaders, are monitoring developments and their decisions might affect school operations. Parents of students with disabilities whose special education services are affected should know that their children still have rights and protections despite any disruptions caused by the outbreak.

This resource highlights some key special education requirements that may assist you in ensuring that a student with a disability continues to receive a free and appropriate public education. Disability Rights Texas has additional resources that provide more information on the special education process, including a glossary of special education terms. We also accepts requests for advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities. For information on applying for services, visit our website at www.drtx.org.

Prior Written Notice

Prior written notice is a document that the school must give to the parents of a student with a disability anytime the school wants to change something in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), such as where the student is educated or the amount of special education services currently provided. This notice keeps parents informed of a potential change so they can help the school decide about any revisions to the IEP. For example, if the school wanted to reduce how often related services are provided to a student because of the outbreak, then it must give the parents a prior written notice. In Texas, the school must give the prior written notice to the parents at least five school days before the school proposes a change, unless the parent agrees to a shorter timeframe.

Admission, Review, and Dismissal Committee Meetings

An Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee includes both school staff and the parents of a student with a disability. The ARD Committee is the group that discusses and decides where the student is educated and the type and amount of special education and related services provided. For example, if the parents wanted to discuss services for their child who is medically fragile in light of the outbreak, then they may request an ARD Committee meeting. The school may hold a virtual meeting allowing remote participation to practice social distancing during the outbreak.

Review and Revision of IEPs

A student’s IEP contains important information about the student, including where the student is educated and the type and amount of special education and related services provided. The school and parents must review and update the IEP at least once a year. If a change is needed or approved sooner, such as during the same school year, the school and parents must revise the IEP. For example, if the school wanted to move a student to a homebound placement because of the outbreak, then the student’s ARD Committee must amend the IEP.

Online Instruction

Online instruction is teaching through technology when the teacher and student are in separate places. Online instruction is an option for the school to deliver academic and some nonacademic content to a student with a disability while the student is on a homebound placement. For example, if the school were closed because of the outbreak and provided instruction to the student in a virtual manner through the internet, then the school must ensure that the delivery of instruction is accessible. The school must also ensure that the online instruction affords the student an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as that provided to others. Accessibility and equal opportunity issues might range from captioning of a live lecture to adaption of methods for the student to demonstrate content knowledge.

Reevaluations

A reevaluation is a new round of testing and assessment of a student with a disability. The school must reevaluate a student at least once every three years. The school should also revaluate a student anytime it determines that the educational or related service needs of the student warrant a reevaluation. Parents may also request a reevaluation. For example, if the school were closed for an extended period and no special education services were provided because of the outbreak, then the school should seek parental permission to reevaluate the student upon returning to school for regression of skills. If parents requested a reevaluation and the school refused, the school must give the parent a prior written notice explaining why the request was denied.

Compensatory Services and Extended School Year Services

Compensatory services are extra services provided by the school to return a student with a disability to a level of educational progress which the student should have attained but could not because of a failure by the school. Extended school year services are special education services provided beyond the normal school year. For example, if the school were closed for an extended period and no special education services were provided because of the outbreak, then the school should provide compensatory services so the student may catch up and reach IEP goals. The school should offer extended school year services if the student has exhibited, or reasonably may be expected to exhibit, severe or substantial regression that cannot be recouped within a reasonable period of time. If the school does not propose making up services not delivered, parents may request compensatory services for the failure to implement provisions of the IEP.

Additional Resources:

 


Disability Rights Texas logo

www.DRTx.org
Intake: 1-800-252-9108
Main Line: 512-454-4816

Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.

The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.