Maryland public schools will remain closed due to the COVID-19 until at least May 15, 2020, and that date might well be extended to the end of the school year. Obviously, this is a challenging situation for all students and their parents, but even more so for students with disabilities. So what can parents of a child with an IEP or 504 Plan expect regarding accommodations and services?
School districts that provide education to the general student population during the COVID-19 closure—such as Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS)—must also ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the same opportunities as the general student population, including a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE). Thus, such school districts must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability is provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan. However, some services cannot logistically be provided remotely. Neither the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) nor Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 specifically address how school districts must provide services during an extended shut-down period.
If your public school child has an IEP or 504 Plan, you might want to review the IEP or 504 and observe your child’s experience with distant learning to see if your child’s accommodations are being implemented, whether different accommodations are needed to ensure that your child is able to learn, whether applicable services are being provided, and whether remote services might be possible. If changes are needed, you can request that your child’s IEP or 504 Plan be amended. Amendments may be made by a virtual team meeting or with your written consent to an agreed-upon document. However, it is critical that your written consent be phrased in a way that protects your child’s rights when school reopens.
In the event that your public system is proactive in proposing changes to an IEP or 504 Plan and you do not agree with such changes, you can write to the IEP team or principal, stating that you disagree with the proposed changes and that you are requesting a virtual meeting.
Lisa Seltzer Becker is a Principal at Offit Kurman, P.A. She can be reached at (240) 507-1780; firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT LISA BECKER
As an experienced Family Law attorney, Lisa has helped numerous clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia with their divorce and custody matters. As an experienced litigator, Lisa is also a trained Collaborative practitioner and a skilled negotiator. She uses these skills whenever possible to reach an agreement outside the courtroom, so as to obtain the best outcome for her clients in the most cost-efficient manner. Lisa is a trained mediator and offers this service for divorce and custody cases.
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