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  • Richard J. Murphy

Special Education Updates on Reopening Arizona Schools

Last week I attended a Zoom meeting organized by the Arizona Center for Disability Law as an attorney concerned with protecting the rights of students with disabilities. In the meeting some special education directors from school districts from across the state and a charter school group responded to questions about reopening and the needs of students with disabilities.

Among other questions, the special education directors addressed questions about how they intend to address the needs of students with disabilities who cannot effectively engage in distance learning. With COVID cases rising and the start of in-person school possibly getting pushed back, this will be an even more important consideration.

Unfortunately, there were no definitive answers. The schools should be expected to remedy problems of access – including providing appropriate devices and access to the internet. But if the issue relates to the student’s disability preventing the student from effectively engaging, it is a more difficult problem. Schools will likely not be able to provide one on one paraprofessional support if the student is attending remotely.

If a parent is noticing the student having difficulty engaging in online learning, it would be a good idea to

  1. Email the teacher to discuss share your concerns and discuss options.

  2. If that does not resolve the issue, a next step could be to request an Individualized Education Program meeting to see if any changes may need to be made to the student’s IEP. Under Arizona law, the parent must make this request in writing and explain why an IEP meeting is needed.

  3. If your or your child is having difficulty accessing the curriculum with the online platform, you could ask the school to consider training for you and the student. This training, which could be included in an IEP as a related service, would be to make sure the student can use the online system the school chooses.

The special education directors also addressed compensatory education. This would be to address any deficits as a result of the school closures and any issues about a student not effectively learning in the online platform. The school should be

  • taking data on students when they return to compare their current abilities to the beginning of March 2020.

  • Then the school should have a meeting with you to determine if any extra services are needed and if so, how much.

  • These services should be provided in addition to the services on the student’s IEP.

As part of the presentation, the Arizona Center for Disability law also provided some helpful sample questions for parents to ask schools about reopening. Here is a link to the questions in English and Spanish. These are a good start to ensuring that parents stay informed on the how the schools plan to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

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.

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