Independent Study During the 2022-23 School Year

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Independent Study During the 2022-23 School Year

During the 2021-22 school year, Assembly Bill (AB) 130 required all school districts to offer Independent Study to children whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by their parent or guardian.

School districts, however, are not required to offer Independent Study programs to children whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction during the 2022-23 school year. It is optional.

Some families may still want to request virtual instruction for their children with disabilities during the 2022-23 school year, especially if new COVID-19 variants emerge. Below is advice for these families on how to request virtual instruction. It describes:

  • New protections in AB 181, the education budget bill enacted on June 30, 2022. These protections are designed to ensure students with IEPs in districts that do offer independent study have equal access to virtual instruction.
  • How to request virtual instruction as a reasonable accommodation if your school district does not offer Independent Study.

For more information on AB 181’s impact on special education and Independent Study, please see the California Department of Education’s summary letter dated August 19, 2022, available at: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/lr/om081922.asp.

If you have other questions regarding your rights, please see DRC’s Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) Manual, available at: https://serr.disabilityrightsca.org/. You may also call DRC’s intake line at 1-800-776-5746 (or TTY call: 1-800-719-5798), available Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday from 9:00AM – 3:00PM.

School Districts Offering Independent Study in 2022-23

AB 181 contains new protections for students with IEPs whose school districts are offering Independent Study during 2022-23 school year. These changes are the result of a recent settlement in E.E. et al. v. State of California et al., a lawsuit brought by DRC, DREDF, Vanaman German LLP, and the Arc of California in fall 2021 on behalf of students with IEPs denied Independent Study solely because of their disabilities.

AB 181 made the following changes to the law:

  • Strikes Educ. Code § 51745(a)(3), which said school districts could not offer Independent Study as an “alternative curriculum.”
  • Amends Educ. Code § 51745(c) to clarify students with IEPs may participate in Independent Study if the IEP team agrees it’s appropriate.
  • Amends § 51745(c) to state: “A pupil’s inability to work independently, the pupil’s need for adult support, or the pupil’s need for special education or related services shall not preclude the individualized education program team from determining that the pupil can receive a free appropriate education in an independent study placement.”

AB 181 also includes new protections for students with IEPs attending a non-public school (NPS). During the 2021-22 school year, DRC learned of many students with IEPs denied access to Independent Study because they attended an NPS. Section 110 (uncodified) of AB 181 now allows school districts to claim apportionment for students with IEPs attending an NPS if:

  1. The student has an IEP that incudes placement at an NPS.
  2. The school district offers Independent Study to students whose health would be put at-risk by in-person instruction, as determined by their parent/guardian.
  3. The student’s parent or guardian requests Independent Study.
  4. The student’s IEP team determines a virtual program in the NPS can offer a free and appropriate public education.
  5. The virtual program includes appropriate reengagement strategies for students who are not meeting attendance requirements.

School Districts Not Offering Independent Study in 2022-23

If your school district is not offering Independent Study during the 2022-2023 school year, you may still request remote instruction as a reasonable accommodation for your child’s disability. The school district and IEP team must consider reasonable accommodations that allow students with disabilities to participate virtually unless to do so will be a fundamental alteration of their overall educational program.

If the IEP team denies your request for an accommodation, you can file a complaint alleging disability discrimination. For more information of your discrimination complaint options, please see Chapter 6 of the SERR Manual.