In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, finding a solution for getting students back to school has been a complicated item for lawmakers, districts, teachers, parents and children alike. It has been especially complex for parents of children with disabilities.
After all, ensuring that teachers and schools comply with the child’s individualized education program (IEP) while participating in distance learning can be a challenge. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers recently passed a new law striving to reduce these challenges.
What should parents know about this new law?
Lawmakers established new requirements that California school districts must meet as they plan for the school year and handle the challenges involved in distance or hybrid learning models. These new guidelines require districts to:
- Plan how they will ensure children receive a quality education. This involves specifically providing additional support for students who face unique challenges in distance learning, such as students with IEPs.
- Organize how they will connect with parents who speak different languages to facilitate distance learning.
- Determine how they will support students’ mental, emotional and social health upon returning to school.
- Create strategies for how to help students who experienced disparities in their learning when schools reopen, especially for English-learning students, students from low-income families and students with disabilities.
However, one of the most critical elements of these new guidelines is parental involvement. Districts must reach out to parents to determine what works for their child. Essentially, parents can have significant input in their district’s plan – referred to as the “learning continuity plan.”
Why is this important?
Parents always have a say in the implementation of their child’s IEP to ensure their child receives the education they need – and deserve.
Therefore, parents must understand these new guidelines and their right to participate in their district’s plans for this coming school year. Then they can:
- Negotiate arrangements to prevent violations of their child’s IEP; and
- Re-establish IEP meetings to ensure their child’s needs will be met.
Federal laws provide specific safeguards for children with disabilities. And even in these unprecedented times, school districts cannot overlook the rights of students. Hopefully, the new guidelines requiring districts to reach out to parents can help parents protect their child’s rights effectively.