Did your child with disabilities regress during school closures?
Updated: Oct 16, 2020
As schools across Arizona have resumed instruction for students, it is a good time to meet with your school if you think your child lost skills or progress during the school closures. The Arizona Department of Education has made it clear that students with disabilities may not have been provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) during the school closures. If so, schools may have to provide make up services.
Under the IDEA and Arizona law, schools must make an individual determination about whether services need to be made up for a student on an IEP. These services are called compensatory education services. The services are designed to allow the student to make up any failure to provide FAPE. As a result, your school should be meeting with you to see if educational services are owed for this period of time.
An award of compensatory education does not require a finding of negligence or fault on the part of a school. So, these compensatory education services would be owed even if the school tried to provide services during the closures and even if they had the best intentions.
While an IEP team meeting is not required to determine compensatory education services, it is likely the way a school will do it. Regardless of how the determination is made, the parent needs to be part of the decision-making process and the school should review data from before the school closures to compare to what your child is currently able to do to determine if your child has lost some progress. If you have any data to share with the school that would be helpful.
Arizona law allows a school up to 45 school days to convene an IEP meeting from a parent’s written request. So, it is a good idea to request the IEP meeting or other meeting to review compensatory education in writing as soon as possible.
Schools are not required to provide compensatory education in the same amounts of services that may have been missed. For example, if a student was supposed to receive 1 hour per month of speech-language services but did not receive any of those services from March to May 2020, the school may not need to provide exactly 3 hours. The determination of how much and what type of compensatory education services are needed must be individualized based on the student’s needs.
If you disagree with the determination of compensatory education services the school proposes, you can challenge that decision in a number of ways including submitting a request for mediation or filing a due process complaint. If you need assistance with protecting the rights of your student with disabilities, please contact our office.
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.