Coronavirus - Education - Timelines

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Special Education Timelines: Do they still apply during this outbreak?

This page updated September 24,2020

Schools are required to comply with the all special education timelines in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and California law at this time. The U.S. Department of Education and California Department of Education have provided guidance that gives schools some flexibility with the timelines.

Earlier in 2020, your child’s rights may have been impacted by California bill SB 117.  Under this bill, between March 17, 2020 and July 1, 2020, California waived several state special education timelines (a full overview of SB 117 is below).

U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Timelines:

  • Schools must still convene IEP meetings within 30 days of a parent’s request and review IEPs at least annually. However, parents and an IEP Team may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including videoconferencing or conference telephone calls.
  • The parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making changes to the IEP, and instead develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP.
  • An initial evaluation must be conducted within 60 days of receiving parental consent under IDEA.
  • A reevaluation of each child with a disability must still be conducted at least every three years.

California Department of Education Guidance on Timelines:

  • The California Department of Education is continuing to accept IDEA compliance complaints, but is waiving the 60-day investigation period by the length of any school site closure during the stated emergency.
  • California’s system for due process hearings and mediation through the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) remains operational. Updated information on the impact of COVID-19 on special education due process hearings can be accessed on the OAH’s website.

SB117 Impacted Selected Special Education Timelines Between March 17, 2020 – July 1, 2020

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed SB 117, an education finance bill that addresses school closures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The law took effect immediately. SB 117 impacted California students with disabilities’ special education rights. It waived many special education timelines while public schools were closed due to COVID-19. Later that year, Governor Newsom signed SB 820.  SB 820 reinstated all timelines that had been impacted by SB117 as of July 1, 2020.

Special Education Timelines that SB 117 Waived Between March 17 and July 1, 2020:

  • The right to receive an assessment plan within fifteen (15) days after your child is referred for a special education assessment.
  • The right to receive copies of your child’s school records within five (5) business days after a request, before any IEP meeting, or before any due process hearing or resolution session.
  • When your child enrolls in a new school district, the right to have your former school district send your child’s records to the new one within five (5) business days.
  • SB 117 also waives timelines under the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) by the length of time a school is closed due to COVID-19.

SB 117 considered your school “closed” even if it offers independent study, distance learning, or both. The special education timelines that SB 117 waived are state law requirements. SB 117 did not waive any federal requirements imposed under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). (Information on the impact of COVID-19 on the federal timelines is discussed above.)

Currently, the timelines that were previously waived under SB 117 are back in effect.  However, if you requested an assessment for your child during the COVID-19 school closures, your school may have delayed assessments because of SB117. If your child was not able to receive a free appropriate public education because their assessments were delayed, they may be eligible to receive compensatory education. You can check out our COVID-19 Special Education: Frequently Asked Questions website for more information.