Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, educators have had a lot on their plate when it comes to adapting to new ways of teaching. Virtual schooling has helped keep some students on track as well as possible. However, many students with special education needs are deeply struggling to keep up. A pandemic does not mean that children are no longer entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). However, multiple school districts are under investigation for not adhering to FAPE standards.
A recent report indicated that the U.S. Department of Education is looking into three school districts, including one in California, for purportedly not providing appropriate educational services to students with special education needs. It is speculated that the investigation into two out-of-state school districts started after letters were sent by the administration of those school districts, indicating that teachers should not provide specially designed instruction. Additionally, the letters allegedly indicated that the teachers were not allowed to adapt lesson plans for individual student needs.
While remote learning certainly adds difficulties to a school day, those difficulties do not negate the fact that students with special education needs are entitled to be taught in a manner that allows them to make meaningful progress and access their educational curriculum. As part of the investigation, the DOE is looking into the following concerns:
- The possibility of discrimination against student’s with special education needs and disabilities
- Failure to provide students with a FAPE
- Lack of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Even in trying times, it is not acceptable to allow students with special education needs to fall through the cracks. These students have a right to learn and to be taught in accordance with their unique needs. If California parents believe that their children’s schools are not complying with FAPE requirements, even during the pandemic, they may want to look into their options for enforcing their child’s rights.