E.E. v. State of California


E.E. v. State of California

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As part of a legal settlement with disability advocates, the Governor’s office has agreed to support new legislative amendments to ensure that special education students have equal access to their education through virtual learning. Last year, many students were denied virtual instruction through Independent Study, solely because of their disabilities. If approved by the Legislature, the new protections will go into effect for the 2022-23 school year, ensuring that special education students can qualify for virtual instruction in the future if new COVID-19 variants emerge. 

The settlement is the result of a civil rights lawsuit filed last year by three special education students, DREDF and The Arc of California. The families and organizations are represented by DRC, the law firm of Vanaman German LLP, and DREDF. 


In July of 2021, the California Legislature passed a law, Assembly Bill (AB) 130, that made Independent Study the only way for students to attend school virtually for the 2021-22 school year. Under the new provisions, parents could enroll their children in Independent Study if in-person classes put their health at risk. But the design of Independent Study left out many special education students, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome. Many were denied because they need adult assistance to learn and cannot work on their own. Others were denied because they attended non-public schools, or because they studied on an alternative curriculum.

As a result, parents of many special education students kept their children home to protect their safety, facing truancy notices and the loss of public benefits. Many disabled students were out of school for months as a result. Dr. Alice Kuo, Chief of Pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center, was an expert for the Plaintiffs. She explained that because students with disabilities are at far greater risk from COVID-19, “parents are justified in taking strong steps to protect their children, including requesting virtual instruction.” 

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