Disability Rights California (DRC) Urges the California Department of Education to Provide Guidance on COVID-19 Compensatory Education to School Districts

Press Release

Disability Rights California (DRC) Urges the California Department of Education to Provide Guidance on COVID-19 Compensatory Education to School Districts

A young girl with a disability in a online class with a teacher.
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(Sacramento, CA) Disability Rights California submitted a letter on May 21, 2021 to the California Department of Education (CDE) requesting guidance on COVID-19 compensatory education to school districts.  Compensatory education1 provides students with a disability with an equitable form of reimbursement when a school district does not provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts significantly reduced or even stopped special education services to students with disabilities. As a result, many students with disabilities did not have access to critical education services. These students fell behind academically, missed developmental milestones, and lost key skills.

Since March 2020, we received calls from families concerned that their children lost access to critical special education and related services related to COVID-19 and distance learning.

Federal and state guidance make clear that school districts must make individual determinations whether students need compensatory education.2 But, school districts in California are not consistently following this guidance, leading to inconsistent and inequitable results for students with disabilities.

Disability Rights California calls on the California Department of Education to issue guidance on COVID-19 compensatory education to school districts. School districts must develop a clear, uniform, transparent, and equitable process to determine and offer compensatory education to students with disabilities.

“School districts must provide compensatory education for students with disabilities who were denied their instruction and services during COVID-19 school closures and distance learning. The California Department of Education must issue guidance to help school districts in California plan to provide compensatory education to these students,” says Suge Lee, Managing Attorney.

The full letter can be found here.

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938



Disability Rights California (DRC) is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of drc is to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.

  • 1. Compensatory education are services provided by a school district to fill a gap between where a student with a disability performs presently with where the student would have been had they received the services they were entitled to receive.
  • 2. Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschools, Elementary Schools, and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities, United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (March 21, 2020) available at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/faq/rr/policyguida…; California Department of Education (March 20, 2020), available at: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/specialedcovid19guidance.asp