While schools in Pennsylvania prepare to resume distance learning in the fall, parents at home are concerned that their children with disabilities will fall behind in school. It is critical that all students continue to receive the education they need during this time. Earlier this year, many families found that, even with guidance from the United States Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, online education for students with disabilities was insufficient.
All students with disabilities are entitled to an appropriate education under federal law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that children with disabilities are provided with “equality of educational opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.” So, as a parent, how do you make sure that online distance learning is in accordance with IDEA? Continue reading below to learn more and contact an experienced Pennsylvania special education attorney.
How Can Distance Learning be Done in Accordance with IDEA?
Earlier this year, guidance was released that instructed schools that they should not be prevented from offering educational programs through distance learning in order to be 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 can provide distance learning by following federal law in the following ways:
- 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.
What Steps Can I Take For My Child’s Education?
If you believe your child’s school is not following their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan, there are steps you can take to resolve the matter. The first step is an IEP or Section 504 Plan meeting. These meetings can go on as many times as necessary to see the changes you need.
What is a Due Process Hearing?
In an IEP or Section 504 Plan meeting is not successful, parents are legally entitled to due process. After filing with the state Department of Education, these situations can lead to a court trial. Matters that do go to court are known as a due process hearing. This is a formal way to resolve disputes over a child’s education. When this is done, a hearing officer is appointed to hold a hearing at the school district in which each side can present their views. Some matters that are attended to during this time can include:
- The child’s eligibility for an outside educational evaluation paid for by the school district
- The child’s eligibility for an (IEP) or a 504 Plan
- Accommodations or specially designed instruction that a plan should have
- The services the child is owed if the district was not previously providing the correct services
- The child’s need to be educated in a private school focusing on special education needs
After each side is presented, a hearing officer can make a decision. In most cases, the court will enforce the IEP or Section 504 contract and require the district to do what they can to ensure the child receives the education they need.
Contact our Firm
Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.