Special Education Law Updates Amid Continued COVID-19 Pandemic
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
The purpose of this blog post is to provide some updates regarding the current legal landscape. This post is just a snapshot of the current situation as the situation continues to change rapidly.
Federal Level As per our previous post, the United States Department of Education (DOE) issued guidance regarding the provision of services to children with disabilities. It also issued a fact sheet about addressing the COVID-19 risk in schools while protecting the civil rights of students. As reflected in this statement from the U.S. DOE, Education Secretary DeVos published a new resource ("Supplemental Fact Sheet") on accessibility and distance learning options. Last week the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) posted a message about what it believed was a stimulus bill that, if passed, could have resulted in IDEA rights being waived by Congress as part of its response to COVID-19. This would have jeopardized children’s rights to a free appropriate public education. However, I am happy to share that, as per COPAA, this proposal was only floated and has since been pulled back. State/Local Level The New York State Education Department (NYSED) distributed a letter to all impartial hearing officers (IHOs) loosening the requirements for conducting impartial hearings. All scheduled hearings are being held telephonically. Please consult with our office if you have specific questions about how impartial hearings are being conducted in light of these loosened requirements. Remote learning goes into effect for all K-12 students within the New York City Department of Education today, March 23. Remote learning raises concerns for students with special needs who may not have the attention span or otherwise have the ability to sit and learn distantly without an instructor physically present. Please consult with our office if you have specific questions about how remote learning affects your special needs child. Private special education schools -- including both state-approved nonpublic schools (NPSs) and independent private school -- should be creating their own distance learning plans to ensure that special needs children attending private placements receive appropriate remote instruction and therapies during this period. You can continue to access NYSED updates relating to COVID-19 here. At the New York City Department of Education level, we are still seeking clarification from the Department's Office of Legal Services (OLS), Implement Unit (IU), and Bureau of Nonpublic School Payables (NPSP) about how the current crisis will affect the funding and implementation of special education programs and services as they relate to the operation of those offices within the DOE. One thing, however, is clear: the DOE will require documentation reflecting how the student’s needs were supported by the school during school closures related to COVID-19. We expect to have further clarification regarding what documentation the DOE will require soon.
Other Please note that notary rules are changed through 4/18/2020. The modified rules allow for notary via audio-visual conference. Follow this link below for details. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted regarding any further updates. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact our team if have any specific questions or concerns.