COVID-19 INFO: Supplemental Guidance from OSEP and OCR; ADE/ESS Resources

Published: March 22nd, 2020

Please see critical guidance below from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding COVID-19 and Serving Children with Disabilities. This information was sent over the weekend and we want to ensure that you have it as soon as possible.

Among the guidance sent is this important section:

“School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students. In this unique and ever-changing environment, OCR and OSERS recognize that these exceptional circumstances may affect how all educational and related services and supports are provided, and the Department will offer flexibility where possible. However, school districts must remember that the provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or telephonically…

It is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented national emergency. As mentioned above, FAPE may be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing special education and related services to students. Where, due to the global pandemic and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in providing services – or even making decisions about how to provide services – IEP teams (as noted in the March 12, 2020 guidance) must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations.”

ADE/ESS has received a number of questions from the field, and we are certain that there are many more. As a result, our team is currently doing the following:

  • Developing an “ESS COVID-19” webpage that will be linked to the main ADE COVID-19 site but will contain resources specific to the education of students with disabilities. This website should be up and running by COB Monday, March 23, 2020.
  • Developing FAQs that will be housed on the ESS COVID-19 webpage, based on general guidance but also on questions that have been sent to ADE/ESS by the field. As these are received and answered, they will be posted on the webpage.
  • Compiling an organized list of resources provided by national technical assistance centers and content experts to support students with an IEP who are participating in virtual or alternate learning environments. As these are received and vetted, they will be posted on the webpage.
  • Scheduling weekly meetings in a webinar format to discuss guidance, provide resources, and answer questions with available information. Information about meetings will be disseminated via the SPED Director listserv. As soon as this week’s meeting is finalized, information will be sent to the field. Stay tuned!

ESS is committed to providing ongoing guidance and resources as we sort through this unprecedented situation together. For questions about special education, please email the ESS Inbox.

Supplemental Fact Sheet
Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary, and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities

Today, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the Department has released new information clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning opportunities to all students, including students with disabilities. This new resource from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explains that as a school district takes necessary steps to address the health, safety, and well-being of all its students and staff, educators can use distance learning opportunities to serve all students.