In separate documents released Monday, the U.S. Department of Education reminded schools of their obligations to special education services and civil rights laws regardless of whether students are learning in-person or remotely.
Guidance from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) said that although schools should make every effort for in-person learning opportunities, they cannot prioritize reopening plans for groups of students based on their race, national origin or color. The department, however, said schools may be required to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities based on their individual needs.
The guidance documents — issued about a month after the 2020-21 school year began — are in response to questions from the education community and to add clarity to existing law or policy, according to the department.
Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Inc., said she is pleased OCR issued the Q&A, particularly the section that warns states and districts that they cannot limit services to students with disabilities without consideration of their individual needs.
“We’re six months into this [pandemic] and we do know that students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by distance learning,” Almazan said.
Excerpted from “Ed Dept: Schools can prioritize reopenings for students with disabilities” in Education DIVE. Read the full article.