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10 Things Parents of Special Education Students Needed to Know when COVID Started

Posted on August 16, 2021

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the United States in spring 2020, the landscape for students receiving special education services changed overnight.

In an effort to help parents keep up, Cuddy Law Firm special education attorneys Francesca Antorino and Alison Morris from the law firm’s Westchester, New York, office, made this video giving 10 updates for New York parents on how to protect their children’s educational rights in the pandemic.

The most important overall theme, they said, was to document everything happening with your child’s education during school closures and remote learning.

These were the 10 updates and reminders for special education parents:

1) School Closures: Schools closed their physical buildings at first, and parents had to stay updated on the news about how long school closures would last and whether they would be extended.

2) Devices: Parents needed to make sure to request devices to allow for online learning, such as tablet computers or other technology, from the schools. And the special education lawyers advised parents to keep a record of their request for a device.

3) Attendance: Schools in New York established flexible rules for contact between the school and family to confirm students’ attendance during remote school. It was important for parents to keep a record of days their children missed school, so they could resolve any discrepancies with the school’s records at the end of the year.

4) State Assessment Tests: State Regents Exams in New York were cancelled in June 2020. As long as students passed their classes for each subject on the exam, they were considered to have passed the test.

5) Remote Learning: Students with special education individualized educational programs (IEPs) were also supposed to get remote learning plans. If parents didn’t get a plan from their school, they needed to check on it with the school. And the lawyers said parents should compare the remote plan to the IEP and keep track of any areas where the remote plan falls short of the IEP. Children could get makeup services later.

6) Variation in Remote Instruction: The ways schools delivered remote instruction and services to special education students varied widely, including paper packets, online work, live lessons by video, pre-recorded classes and tele-therapy. As always, parents needed to document what instruction their children were receiving.

7) Special Education Evaluations: Evaluations and re-evaluations for special education services could happen by video conference if it was possible to evaluate a child not in person and parents agreed. Evaluations that require in-person contact would be postponed until they could happen face-to-face. Parents needed to consider whether a remotely done evaluation would be as complete as in-person meetings.

8) Consent Forms and Waivers: The special education lawyers cautioned parents not to sign anything from their children’s schools asking them to waive any services without having a lawyer review it first.

9) Document Everything. Parents needed to keep track of what kind of instruction their children were receiving, days without instruction, which services were being provided and which were not, and how everything lined up with the child’s IEP. The lawyers told parents they should write down details of what happened during instruction. The reason for all the record-keeping was to document the need for makeup instruction later.

10) IEP Meetings: IEP meetings can take place over video or phone calls. Parents shouldn’t waive those meetings. They should keep taking place on schedule. You should still get access to the documents you need before a meeting, by mail or email. And you should check with the school on when you will receive the finished IEP.

If you need help getting all the special education services your child is entitled to receive during COVID disruptions—or for any questions about special education law—contact the Cuddy Law Firm.

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