Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Complaint Violations

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Complaint Violations

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Complaint Violations

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Example State Compliance Complaint and CDE Investigation Reports on COVID-19 Related Assessment Issues

In the 2020-2021 school year, the California Department of Education (CDE) ruled twice in favor of students with disabilities, declaring that the Sacramento City Unified School District (District) had failed to conduct special education assessments since distance learning began amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 20, 2020, DRC filed a state compliance complaint against the District on behalf of a 10-year-old student with a disability and all similarly situated students. A redacted copy of this state compliance complaint is available here. In January 2021, the CDE issued an Investigation Report for this complaint, available here. In January 2021, DRC filed another state compliance complaint against the District on behalf of another student and all similarly situated students. In March 2021, the CDE issued an Investigation Report, available here.

Sample CDE Complaint For Violations Based on COVID-19 School Closures

In March 2020, many schools in California closed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a stay at home order for the entire state of California, directing all Californians to stay home except those with an essential job or to shop for essential needs.

We are approaching the one-year anniversary of when many schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

There is a one-year deadline to file complaints with the California Department of Education or CDE against a school for its violations of federal and state special education laws or regulations. Parents/guardians should file a complaint immediately with the CDE if they believe their child’s school violated federal and state special education laws or regulations as a result of COVID-19 school closures that started in March 2020.

For a variety of reasons, schools may have violated federal and state special education laws or regulations during COVID-19 school closures. This may include a school refusing to conduct special education assessments until in-person instruction resumed or a school failing to provide special education and related services from a student’s IEP.

You can also file a compliance complaint if the school has not followed a procedure that it was supposed to under the law. This may include the following:

  • Failing to hold a timely IEP meeting (including annual and triennial IEP meetings) with required members;
  • Failing to give a written offer of a free, appropriate public education;
  • Failing to send notice of an IEP meeting;
  • Failing to send Prior Written Notice;
  • Failing to complete assessments on time;
  • Failing to provide copies of assessment reports;
  • Failing to gather and report data as required by your child’s IEP;
  • Failing to provide a communication log to you as required by your child’s IEP;
  • Failing to provide progress reports;
  • Failing to provide proper sign language services or braille instruction;
  • Failing to provide your child with an opportunity to interact with peers;
  • Failing to provide a copy of your child’s school records after your request; and
  • Failing to hold a manifestation determination meeting.

Please see our sample complaint letter below that you can copy and paste into a document, complete with your information, and then send to the CDE. We have included an email and fax number for CDE, so that you can file your complaint either by email or fax. You can also submit a complaint using an online fillable complaint form, which you can access through this link: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/documents/sedcomplaintform.pdf.

The CDE’s website has more information about how to file a complaint with the CDE. This website is https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/qa/cmplntproc.asp. You can find more information regarding complaint procedures in Disability Rights California’s Special Education Rights and Responsibilities publication, available online at: https://serr.disabilityrightsca.org/

Sample CDE Complaint Regarding COVID-19 School Closures

[Date]
[Parent/Guardian Name]
[Street Address]
[City, State, Zip)

California Department of Education
Special Education Division
Complaint Resolution Unit
1430 N Street, Suite 2401
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Fax: 916-327-3704
Email: speceducationa@cde.ca.gov

RE: Complaint against [School District Name]

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to file a complaint against the [school district name]. My child, [student’s name], was a student at [school name] during the 2019-2020 school year, including the time in the spring of 2020 when schools were ordered closed to in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Name of student] is ____ years old and qualifies for special education services as a student with [student’s diagnosis].

[Name of student] has a condition that [explain student’s disability and how it impacts education].

I feel that [school district name] did not comply with federal and state special education laws and regulations. The school has failed to: [choose however many are applicable]

Provide [identify the number of minutes or hours] [minutes or  hours] of special education instruction from [date to date].

Provide related services from [date to date]. [For each related service not provided, then state:]

Specifically, the school has failed to provide [identify the number of minutes or hours] [minutes or hours] of [identify the related services, such as speech and language, occupational therapy, etc.] from [date to date].

Timely evaluate [student’s name].

[Add a description of the specific problems with technology access, instruction, accommodations, modifications, timelines that further explain the three choices above.

For example, if your child did not receive any special education instruction in the spring of 2020: “From March 2020 to June 2020, the school district did not provide my child with any individual special education instruction from my child’s IEP. Instead, the school district only provided packets of worksheets once a week. My child also did not receive any of the agreed upon modifications from my child’s IEP. The lack of individual special education instruction and lack of modifications has led to a loss of progress in Math, Reading and Science as evidenced by my child’s failing grades in all three subjects.”

For example, if your child was not timely assessed: “Right before my child’s school closed due to COVID-19 in March 2020, I signed and returned an assessment plan to my child’s school. The assessment plan said that the school was going to conduct assessments of my child for speech and language and occupational therapy. In April 2020, I contacted the school to see if they would move forward with these assessments. But, the school told me that it wasn’t conducting any assessments because schools were closed due to COVID-19. Now, almost a year later, my child’s school is still in distance learning. The school still has not conducted any of these assessments and I’m not sure when they will conduct them. Without these assessments, my child’s speech and language and motor skills have worsened.”]

Because of the [school district name]’s violations, [name of student] has lost progress during [2019-2020 and/or 2020-2021] school year. I want CDE to order the [name of school district] to provide [student’s name] with compensatory education that will mitigate the impact of the loss of critical skills and learning that has occurred as a result of special education and related services that could not be provided during the pandemic. [If the school district failed to complete special education assessments, then include this statement: I also want CDE to order the [name of school district] to complete outstanding assessments for [student’s name].]

I am enclosing a copy of my child’s IEP and a letter to the District asking for [whatever you have written to the school district about and asked them to address before you filed this Complaint].

If you have any questions, please call me at my daytime phone number [enter the best phone number to reach you]. Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

[Parent/Guardian Name]
[Phone Number]
[Email Address]

CC: Superintendent of [school district name] [by fax or email]