Your Child’s Special Education Rights Remain in Place Despite the Pandemic
State and federal law requires all public schools to develop and carefully follow an individualized plan (either an IEP or a Section 504 Plan) for each student with disabilities to provide them with a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) – even during a pandemic.
As challenging as remote schooling was for most students, it was especially hard for students with disabilities, who rely on individualized accommodations, services and/or specialized instruction to be able to get an education on the same basis as their peers. Often, students’ individualized plans simply didn’t translate to a remote schooling model, and, as a result, many students with disabilities found that their special education plans were not being carried out effectively—or at all—when school was remote. For those students, remote learning wasn’t really learning much at all.
If a school did not follow a student’s individual plan when school was remote, and the student fell behind as a result, the school now must provide the student with more than just the usual special education services—it must provide extra services to allow the student to catch up to where the student would have been if the school had done what it was supposed to do in the first place. These extra services are called compensatory education services or “comp ed.”
Just like all special education services, the type and amount of comp ed your child should receive is based on your child’s individual needs. School Districts and parents should work together to determine whether students require comp ed and what compensatory services are needed as a result of school closures and remote learning. Even if schools have been closed or are only teaching remotely, comp ed should be considered in order to make up required services and educational opportunities missed by students with IEPs.
Comp ed is not a one-to-one make-up of missed services
It may take more (or less) time for a student to catch up than it took for the student to fall behind. For example, a student who missed eight months of effective accommodations or services may need more (or less) than eight months of comp ed services to catch up.
If your student requires compensatory education services, request an IEP team meeting to discuss what services, instruction, or other educational opportunities your student requires to receive a FAPE. The school district should provide a written decision in response to your request (called a written prior notice). If you disagree with the decision, you have options like filing a complaint. You can learn more about these options at drcnh.org/issue-areas/childrens-issues/ education/special-education.