With the school year ending in Arizona, you can help your child for the next school year right now. You and the school should have a good idea of how your child is doing with the school closure.
The Department of Education has made it clear that schools are still required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities during the school closures. (See prior blog post) If a school has not provided FAPE then the school will be required to consider offering compensatory education services after school returns. Compensatory education is education services to make up for lost time or lack of progress based on the school not providing FAPE.
This will not be a blanket, catch all provision. It would not be proper, for example, to state that all students with IEPs get 2 hours per week of compensatory education from March to May 2020. Instead, the schools will be required to make individualized determinations about how the closure has affected each student with disabilities.
For most students already on IEPs, the school closures likely coincided with 3rd quarter report cards. The schools should have provided a report of progress on your child’s IEP goals around that time. This is good news because it should establish how your child was doing on their IEP goals at or around the time schools closed and everything changed.
It is very important, then, to document how your child has been doing since the school closure. With this information, you can show how much progress your child made or lost from March to May 2020 or August 2020. You will need to give the school something to rely on in determining if compensatory education is owed and how much.
With your student at home you should try to collect some data on what he or she can do related to the IEP goals and his or her needs.
You could try to video record your child doing or attempting a task from their IEP goals.
Additionally, you can ask the school to provide you with copies of the forms they used to track the goals.
Even keeping track of their progress in a notebook or on the computer is good.
If your child had related services (such as speech-language or occupational therapy services) on their IEP, you should also track any sessions that were missed as a result of the school closures.
Whatever method you use, it is important that you document how your child is doing. If your child is doing better in the online learning environment with fewer distractions, that is great. If your child has declined since March 2020, you and the school should know that.
When school resumes (or even before) you can share that information with the school to help them determine what type and amount of compensatory education may be needed. With schools closed and likely not offering the same services, the school will be more likely to accept and rely on your data especially if they do not have their own data.
If you document how your child has been doing during the closures, you will know what is working and what is not and whether any compensatory services may be owed. This is a good way to get off on the right foot once school resumes. Good luck!
I will be posting updates as more information becomes available. If you have specific concerns for a special education attorney, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Richard J. Murphy, PLC for a free legal consultation. This is a confusing time for everyone including educators, students with disabilities and their families. The Law Office of Richard J. Murphy, PLC is ready to help students with disabilities and their families.