Both the U.S. Department of Education and the Arizona Department of Education have stated that if a free appropriate public education (FAPE) cannot be provided to a student during extended closures due to COVID-19, then the student may be entitled to compensatory education once school resumes. This blog post provides information and resources for parents to act proactively to request compensatory education because of a denial of a free appropriate public education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog post is the first of a three-part series about advocating for compensatory education services for your child when school resumes.
Let’s Face Facts.
- According to guidance from the Arizona Department of Education, to the extent possible, students with disabilities should be provided with the special education services outlined in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) during extended school closures.
- While some services may be possible to provide remotely, others may not be safe or feasible during the pandemic.
- As a result, many students will not be provided with all the services in their IEPs during this extended school closure and may require compensatory education when schools reopen.
- Although two government agencies have provided guidance stating schools should consider whether a student is entitled to compensatory education, this guidance does not cover when or how schools should decide if compensatory education will be provided (at least not yet).
- While some school districts will be proactive and arrange meetings to discuss compensatory education with families, others may not take the initiative.
Parents Need To Be Proactive.
Parents are essential members of their children’s IEP teams, and for better or worse, are often required to act as knowledgeable advocates for their children’s special education rights. At this time, when there has been no directive from the state or federal departments of education on this topic, parents need to be prepared to advocate for their children to receive compensatory education when schools reopen.
Decisions about compensatory education do not necessarily require an IEP team meeting—they can be made through an informal discussion between parents and a school representative. In some ways, an informal meeting may be advantageous, because it means the meeting can be scheduled without needing to coordinate with multiple required participants, and a decision about compensatory education can be reached more quickly. On the other hand, IEP meetings include a number of procedural requirements that safeguard the rights of students and parents, and if a parent requests an IEP meeting, the school must hold that meeting within 45 school days of the request (note that school days are not considered to include days when schools are closed as a result of COVID-19, so this timeline will not begin until schools reopen. However, nothing in federal or state law prevents schools from holding the IEP meeting before the timeline has elapsed).
It is ACDL’s recommendation that parents request an IEP meeting to discuss compensatory education as soon as possible in order to trigger the 45 school day timeline. However, if the school offers to have an informal meeting to discuss compensatory education, parents may agree to attend, and if the question of compensatory education is resolved to the parents’ satisfaction at that informal meeting, parents can then withdraw their request for an IEP meeting. Any offer of compensatory education or plan for its provision should be memorialized in writing, likely in a document called prior written notice, whether the decision is made at an informal meeting or at an official IEP meeting.
You can use this template letter to request an IEP meeting with your child’s school to discuss compensatory education for your child.
If your child’s school fails to hold an IEP meeting within 45 school days of your request, you may file an administrative state complaint with ADE alleging a procedural violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
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