The US Department of Education is issuing guidelines on how schools must comply with the Disability Education Act during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Anne Meadows / Flickr)
Federal officials say individual education program teams must consider everything from goals and masks to compensatory education, to ensure that students with disabilities receive the appropriate and free public education to which they are entitled. right during the pandemic.
New guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education address many considerations for IEP teams, offering feedback on how IEPs should be modified to cope with the changes brought by COVID-19.
The 41-page question-and-answer document released late last week answers questions from stakeholders, the education ministry said. This is the agency’s second special education orientation release since the start of this school year.
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According to the guidelines, schools and IEP teams must consider the needs of students with disabilities who are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. If an IEP team determines that COVID-19 prevention strategies are necessary for a student to receive appropriate and free public education, those measures should be included in the child’s IEP. This could include wearing masks, cleaning, or other mitigation measures.
If national or local laws or policies prevent IEP teams from ensuring that these measures are in place in the least restrictive environment, it would be a violation of the Disability Education Act, the ministry said. Education.
Additionally, if an IEP team is unable or unwilling to meet the health and safety needs of a disabled child who is at increased risk of COVID-19, parents can use dispute resolution procedures. available under IDEA, says the guide.
“The pandemic has not altered IDEA’s guarantee of free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities,” said Katherine Neas, acting deputy secretary of the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. “As more and more students return to in-person learning, the department is emphasizing the critical role that IEP teams, including parents, play in making individualized decisions about their educational needs. every child, including assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and safety considerations and on the provision of appropriate special education and related services.
Beyond health and safety, federal education officials said it was “extremely important that the IEP team also consider any negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on every disabled child ”.
Children may need their goals revised to reflect a decline in knowledge and skills and compensatory services may be warranted. Even those who have graduated or passed the IDEA eligibility age may be eligible for compensatory services, the guide says.