COVID-19 Update March 25, 2020
While the Coronavirus outbreak has caused great amounts of stress and uncertainty for all parents, the stress and unanswered questions for parents of children with disabilities is even greater due to the need for continuity of service, concerns about regression, needed support for daily living, social and emotional, and behavioral support, and so on.
While we are continuing to work on our client’s cases, the closing of schools has prevented IEP meetings from convening and mediations from being held. We each remain on alert to ensure the safety of our own families and friends and at the same time, we are acting to maintain our professional responsibilities. Our firm has established remote capabilities and we can be reached through telephone, email, and video conferencing. Moreover, if you need to share documents with us, you can continue to do so via email, or we can set up a folder for you to upload the documents.
The State Superintendent announced that Maryland Schools will remain closed through at least April 24th. The State is still assessing local plans to deliver alternative instruction. This plan is expected to be announced by each school system in the coming days. Most Maryland school districts have not taken any formal steps during the current closure and have been awaiting guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary delay compared to school systems in many other states, which are already providing alternative but structured learning to their students.
In all likelihood, alternative instruction will be established by each individual school district utilizing paper packets, general television instruction, and for some, online learning. This will not be enough for many of our children who have disabilities and who need specialized instruction. As the school systems roll out their programs, we will be working to ensure all students are receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
The U.S. State Department of Education’S (USDOE) has taken the position that a school district is not required to provide services to students with disabilities during extended closures. Rather, IEP teams will be required to make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services are needed when students return to school. After push-back from advocates across the country, the USDOE issued a supplemental statement making clear that school systems should not delay instruction based on an imperfect distribution of services.
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates issued a statement saying that districts still have an obligation to provide special education services. COPAA’s position is that:
- The school/IEP team should determine whether the child is available for instruction and could benefit from homebound services such as instructional telephone calls, homework packets, Internet-based lessons, and other distance-based learning approaches.
- Since schools have developed plans for online learning for students, they also need to plan for students with disabilities.
- See full statement here: https://www.copaa.org/news/493349/COPAA-Statement-on-Student-Rights-Under-IDEA-During-the-COVID-19-Outbreak.htm.
As we continue to work with our colleagues in Maryland and nationally to address ALL student’s right to an appropriate education, we will post updates. Please continue to check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/markmartinlaw/ and blog for current information and updates. Like and follow us on our Facebook to be kept up to date on this matter.