California’s statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of all students in the state. But perhaps no students are feeling the change more than those with special needs, who typically have an individualized education program in place that accommodates their disabilities.
Now that in-person teaching has stopped statewide, those plans must adapt to virtual education. But while some California school districts began addressing the issue immediately after the lockdown order started in March, others had yet to begin offering online special education services as of mid-April, according to EdSource. Without online instruction and therapy for students, and meetings with teachers and administration for parents, children could quickly fall behind their peers.
Asking the state for more action
Concerned about the uneven response to the lockdown, a coalition of 15 advocacy groups sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsome and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. The groups are urging the state to go beyond the guidance the Department of Education has provided already to school districts. That guidance has little enforcement power. Among the coalition’s requests:
- Require all districts to create temporary individualized education programs for students with special needs. These programs must adjust for the fact that in-person learning and therapy are currently impossible, and involve input from parents.
- Make sure all children receive devices that accommodate their disability, such as tablets, software and specialized equipment.
- Once schools re-open, provide tutoring and after-school programs to help children in special education catch up academically, since school closures tend to cause many of these students to fall behind.
As the parent of a child with special needs, you know how challenging these past several weeks have been. Of course, making sure your child gets the academic accommodations to which they are entitled is always a challenge. Having an attorney who practices in special education law can be a critical boost.