The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic changes to daily life across Missouri and Illinois since early March 2020, and the frequent changes to local and state laws can be hard to keep up with. Nearly all schools across Missouri and Illinois are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many offering online or remote instruction for children. It can be concerning for any parents to have children out of school for months on end and especially distressing for parents with children who receive special education and related services during the school day.
Although it is unclear when students will return to school, the U.S. Department of Education clarified that most students with special needs should still receive special education and related services even while they are at home.
On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet providing guidance on the federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following are some of the major takeaways:
- If a school district continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, such as providing online courses, the school must also ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of free appropriate public education (FAPE).
- Schools also must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s individualized education program (IEP) developed under the IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504.
- If a child does not receive services during a closure, a child’s IEP team (or appropriate personnel under Section 504) must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed, consistent with applicable requirements, including to make up for any skills that may have been lost.
- If a child is infected with COVID-19, a school must provide special education and related services to the child while schools remain open.
Based on these guidelines, most children with special needs are still entitled to receive special education and related services – even during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our firm expects many students who receive special education services will require compensatory services to remediate for the absence of services during school closings caused by COVID-19. Parents who believe their child is not receiving appropriate services or believes their child needs additional, compensatory services after schools reopen should contact our firm.