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Thursday, March 19, 2020

OCR on Online Education and Coronavirus

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 disastersAnd coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR)  presents this short webinar on online education.

Fact Sheet from OCR:
Students with Disabilities at Elementary and Secondary Schools School officials have an obligation to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability under Title II and Section 504, while cooperating with public health authorities to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the school’s education program. School officials should acknowledge the expertise and role of public health authorities, as well as parental concerns, to determine whether students should stay home.
If a student who has an individualized education program (IEP) through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or is receiving services under Section 504, is required or advised to stay home by public health authorities or school officials for an extended period of time because of COVID-19, provision should be made to maintain education services. This also applies if the student is absent from school as advised by the student’s treating physician, consistent with school policy and documentation requirements. During such absences, if the school is open and serving other students, the school must ensure that the student continues to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), consistent with protecting the health and safety of the student and those providing that education to the student. If feasible, the student’s IEP Team, or the personnel responsible for ensuring FAPE to a student for the purposes of Section 504, can be utilized to assist with the effort to determine if some, or all, of the identified services can be provided through alternate or additional methods. Accessible technology may afford students, including students with disabilities, an opportunity to have access to high-quality educational instruction during an extended school closure, especially when continuing education must be provided through distance learning. 
If a school district closes its schools and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then a school would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time. Once school resumes, the school must return to providing special education and related services to students with disabilities in accordance with the student’s IEP or, for students entitled to FAPE under Section 504, consistent with any plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504.
The Department understands that there may be exceptional circumstances that could affect how a particular service is provided. If a student does not receive services after an extended period of time, the student’s IEP Team, or appropriate personnel under Section 504, must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services are needed consistent with the respective applicable requirements, including to make up for any skills that may have been lost.
Additionally, IEP Teams are not required to meet in person while schools are closed. If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504, or who is being evaluated under Section 504. For more information on providing services to students with disabilities during the coronavirus outbreak, see:
Students with Disabilities at Postsecondary Schools Officials at postsecondary schools should consult with public health officials in determining how to respond when there are cases of coronavirus in the community. Whatever decisions are made by the school (such as decisions to temporarily suspend classes), schools must continue to comply with their non-discrimination obligations under federal civil rights laws, including Section 504 and Title II.