The California Office of Administrative Hearings recently finalized some cases related to distance-learning. These cases are a positive sign for children who have been struggling with the online-only format for service delivery! Based off of these hearings, we know a few things:
The standard for FAPE (a Free, Appropriate, Public Education) hasn’t changed. School districts are still required to provide FAPE to students regardless of what school looks like.
Districts still have an obligation to provide a placement that materially follows the IEP. For example, if your child usually receives 30 minutes of speech therapy per week, they should still receive a similar level of speech service in a distance learning format. If your child receives a 1:1 aide, there should still be someone assigned to your child for online or hybrid schooling. In some places, that person may be able to sit physically with your child, but in others, having them available via online platforms is still better than nothing.
Districts need to be flexible. Per the California Department of Education, service delivery can happen many places other than the traditional school site. Services can be provided online, in the home, at school via an appointment, or with a non public agency. This should be an IEP team decision and should take local safety regulations in to account.
The IEP team, including the parent, should make individual determinations about compensatory or make-up services, whether or not a program is providing educational benefit, and whether or not a child is making progress in his or her program. If a problem exists, the IEP team needs to involve the parent in the problem solving process, just as they would in any other school year. It is not acceptable for the district to say to a parent, “This is our offer for a program. Take it or leave it.”
All in all, these OAH decisions are a great sign. They are very parent-friendly and remind us that families are still an integral part of the IEP team. Parents need to be involved, and school districts need to consider the individual needs of the child when developing their educational program. If you feel like your district isn’t involving you in the IEP process, reach out to an advocate today!
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