While coronavirus has not yet hit Connecticut hard, schools around the state are gearing up in anticipation of needed closures of schools. In relation to this, the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) has issued guidance to school districts, in the form of a planning tool. As we learn more about how schools may address the need to close schools, it appears that distance learning is being widely considered. This has important implications for children with special education needs. The State Department of Education has not yet issued clear guidance on how to ensure that children with special education receive appropriate educational services during this time. The “planning tool,” provides little in terms of explicit guidance. It is my hope that the Connecticut SDE will issue further guidance. However, the “planning tool” makes one very important statement: “School districts . . . may not discriminate on the basis of disability in providing educational services, and remain responsible for the free appropriate public education of children.” This is, no doubt, what the federal law requires.
As your school district implements coronavirus response plans, keep in mind that your child’s IEP is what ensures that your child receives a free appropriate public education. Be sure to actively engage with your district to ensure that your child can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) during any alternative education plans implemented in response to coronavirus. If you have concerns, contact an attorney.