Indiana Distance Learning: What to Know, Part 3

March 16, 2022 | Disability Legal Services of Indiana

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) released two Covid-19 guidance documents recently regarding the education of students with disabilities. DLSI is helping keep you informed regarding your child’s educational rights during the pandemic.

Guidance documents do not set forth new legal requirements. They do, however, provide helpful insight regarding the USED’s interpretation of longstanding education laws during these unprecedented times.

The first document is from USED’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP): OSEP September 28, 2020 Q&A Document. Things to note:

1. OSEP emphasizes:

  • schools must still provide appropriate IEPs,
  • schools must still provide FAPE, and
  • schools must still provide students with disabilities “the chance to meet challenging objectives.”

2. OSEP advises that because pandemic conditions continue to change, IEP teams (a.k.a case conference committees) should address how a child’s IEP will be implemented under various instruction models – in-person instruction, hybrid/blended instruction, and remote/virtual.

3. The laws and regulations regarding the education of children with disabilities have not changed in response to Covid-19. Yet in the guidance document, OSEP mentions that state education agencies may allow exceptions to their initial evaluation timeline. Indiana has not, however, allowed any exceptions to the initial evaluation timeline as of the current date.

The second document is from the USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR): Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools In the Current COVID-19 Environment. Things to note:

1. OCR recognizes that enforcing a face-covering requirement could impede a student’s ability to receive the FAPE required by Section 504.

  • School districts should make reasonable modifications in their in their policies, practices, or procedures—including any addressing the use of face-coverings—when those modifications can be made consistent with the health, safety, and well-being of all students and staff, and are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.

2. Also see Indiana’s face-covering exemptions in paragraph 3.d of: Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-43 (duration extended to current date by Executive Order 20-46).

  • State- or district-wide decisions specifically reducing or limiting services for students with disabilities, without regard to their individualized needs, violate Section 504.
  • Public school districts may not require parents of students with disabilities to waive any rights afforded to students under Section 504 as a condition of receiving a FAPE.

As always, if you have education-related questions or concerns regarding your child with a disability, feel free to contact us via phone: 317-426-7733, via our website: DLSI, or complete an application for assistance online at: DLSI Application for Services.

The statements contained herein are provided for informational purposes, are not to be considered legal advice, and should not be construed to form an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact an education attorney.