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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

FAPE, Coronavirus, and Distance Instruction

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.

To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), † Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent anyschool from offering educational programs through distance instruction
School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students. In this unique and ever-changing environment, OCR and OSERS recognize that these exceptional circumstances may affect how all educational and related services and supports are provided, and the Department will offer flexibility where possible. However, school districts must remember that the provision of  FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instructionprovided virtually, online, or telephonically. 
Carolyn Jones at EdSource:
The issue has direct implications for the nearly 800,000 special education students in California, who comprise 12.5 percent of the state’s public school enrollment, and who are now at home, with their often carefully constructed education programs completely upended.
DeVos’ announcement was welcomed by special education advocates, who said it provided clear guidance but enough flexibility for districts to find effective ways to meet the needs of special education students.
However, school administrators feel that the guidance they are receiving from both Washington and Sacramento is inadequate to assure school districts that they won’t face legal action if they are unable to provide all special education students with what is termed an “appropriate education” using online tools.
“(The state and federal guidance) is not nearly enough,” said Wesley Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, representing over 17,000 superintendents, principals and other administrators. “We need explicit waivers of explicit provisions. … Our districts are asking for relief so they can enact the governor’s orders to continue providing high-quality education.”