It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted (and continues to disrupt) the education of students since March 2020. It has likely affected students with disabilities even more significantly. The US Department of Education has made it clear multiple times that schools are still required to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This means they are required to provide a free appropriate public education, known as FAPE to students with disabilities.
The Department of Education has also made it clear that schools are required to offer compensatory education services to students impacted by the disruption to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means schools are supposed to determine if students with disabilities have not progressed appropriately because of the pandemic. This should be an individual determination made by the student’s IEP team.
If a student has lost any gains, the school should offer compensatory education services to the student to make up for those losses. Schools were given more funding by the federal government to allow them to provide those extra services.
A recent survey shows that schools are not offering compensatory education services for special educations students for losses due to COVID-19. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) conducted a survey of about 250 parents in a number of school districts around the country. The results of the survey show that almost 90% of those surveyed believed their students had some learning loss or less progress toward their goals. However, less than 20% had received any award of compensatory services.
Schools should be notifying parents of the opportunity to obtain compensatory services. Unfortunately, according to the COPAA survey, only 25% had received any information from the school about compensatory services.
In Arizona, some school districts made the determination about compensatory services at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year before many schools had returned to a regular schedule and in-person instruction. At that time, it would have been difficult to accurately determine a student’s losses.
COPAA recommends that parents ask their schools about the policy about compensatory services related to COVID-19. If parents do not agree with the school’s decision about compensatory services, they can and should seek a remedy from the school using the procedural rights under the IDEA including a state complaint or a due process complaint.
If you believe your child’s education was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and not provided appropriate compensatory services, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Richard J. Murphy, PLC for a free consultation.