Protecting the Rights of Students with Disabilities During and After the COVID-19 Educational Disruption

Posted on April 21, 2020

Whatever plans you had for April school vacation week, they have changed. We are in the middle of an unprecedented educational disruption. Families across Maine are struggling with the shift to remote learning, which has been particularly difficult for many students with disabilities. And it is now clear that students in Maine should anticipate a remote learning experience through at least the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Schools have not been uniform in their approaches. Some students are receiving daily contact with their teachers. But other students have only received packets to complete with whatever support their families can provide. Some families have participated in IEP meetings by phone or video, while others have been told that no IEP meetings will be held for any reason. Some students are receiving related services via telehealth platforms. Other students lack access to the internet or technology needed to participate in remote learning. School remote learning plans have evolved over the course of the last month and will continue to do so heading into the summer. Change appears to be the one constant right now.

We are hearing from families across Maine and, if you are struggling, please know you are not alone. DRM remains open and available to support students with disabilities during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to reach out for support

DRM is releasing some updated guidance to assist families in their advocacy - Protecting the Rights of Students with Disabilities During and After the COVID-19 Educational Disruption. This document provides answers to some questions, including:

  • I have not had much contact with my child’s teachers or others in the school. Is this OK?
    Short answer: No.
  • Is the school required to follow my student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) during the COVID-19 educational disruption?
    Short answer: Yes, but…
  • My school has asked me to agree to change my child’s IEP to reflect the services the school is able to provide due to the COVID-19 educational disruption. What should I do?
    Short answer: Just say no.
  • My school district has informed all parents that it will not be holding any IEP meetings until schools return to in person instruction. Is this OK?
    Short answer: No.
  • Can I expect my child’s school to make up for the IEP service hours missed during the COVID-19 educational disruption?
    Short answer: This is complicated.
  • I heard that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act might be changing because of the COVID-19 educational disruption - is that true?
    Short answer: Maybe, but DRM is not overly concerned about this.
  • What can a family do if they do not have internet access or access to adequate technology for children in the household to participate in distance learning?
    Short answer: Contact the administration at your child’s school.

Please see the full document for more complete answers, links to federal and state guidance, and resources for parents and others working to support students during this difficult time. Everything is very fluid right now, and reasonable people might disagree with some of our answers to these questions. We anticipate updating this document again in about a month.

Be safe. Get outside. And try to help your kids enjoy what we all hope will be the weirdest April school break of our lives.

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