So many aspects of life were thrown into chaos earlier this year. Current events have forced a lot of people across the country and here in California to change how they live and work. Children have had to change the way they receive an education, and this has affected special needs kids as well. Some parents may wonder what will happen to them as it pertains to FAPE and the 2020-2021 school year.
In response to many questions from education systems across the country, the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights made the following response:
- Schools must continue to adhere to civil rights laws and remain obligated to provide special education services regardless of whether children are learning remotely or in-person.
- Guidance documents were issued to clear up any confusion and/or questions regarding existing policies and laws and to answer questions from educators.
- Schools must continue to accept harassment complaints even if they are only conducting remote learning.
- School districts cannot make school reopening a priority based on color, race or national origin.
- Districts will most likely be required to continue to adhere to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and provide “free appropriate public education,” or FAPE, to students with disabilities and special needs.
- States and school districts were warned not to limit services and programs to children with disabilities without taking their individual needs into consideration.
Basically, the federal government is simply reminding states, including California, of their obligations to children with disabilities and other special needs. This also gives parents an opportunity to gain an understanding of what a particular school district should do for their children despite the method of learning used in a particular location. FAPE remains a priority, and if a school district attempts to deny services during these uncertain times, parents may want to explore their legal options to get their children the education they deserve.