As a result of the Coronavirus, students in the state of Pennsylvania have been severely impacted, as they can no longer attend school for the rest of the 2019-2020 year. While many educators are doing their best to continue educating students from a distance, this is increasingly difficult, especially for those who have disabilities. It is because of this that the United States Education Department announced they are “ready to offer guidance, technical assistance, and information on any available flexibility, within the confines of the law, to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, continue receiving excelled education during this difficult time.”
In order to ensure this, the Department states that, in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools should not be prevented from offering educational programs through distance instruction. The following are ways that schools can provide distance learning by following federal law:
- The Department will offer flexibility in interpreting IDEA, recognizing that these circumstances can impact how special education services are provided to students with disabilities.
- School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. The provision of FAPE can include services that are provided via computer, internet, or phone.
- While online learning must be accessible to students with disabilities, federal law does not mandate the specific methodologies by which distance education must be provided.
- If technology is not accessible or educational materials are not accessible, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students.
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