Disability Rights California Urges Bakersfield City School District to Provide Special Education & Services for Students with Disabilities During School Closures
(Bakersfield, CA) On May 1, 2020, Disability Rights California (DRC) submitted a letter to the Superintendent of Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) urging them to provide students with disabilities special education services and supports amid school closures in response to COVID-19.
DRC received multiple complaints that BCSD is not implementing students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and failing to provide related services that special education students require, which is a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Though BCSD has since responded and claims that distance learning plans are now being developed, DRC continues to receive complaints that special education services are not being provided.
The California Department of Education (CDE) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) made it clear that the IDEA is still in effect. Both agencies emphasize that school districts must continue to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to students with disabilities and implement IEPs consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students and service providers.
With this regard, we recommend BCSD act immediately to implement a comprehensive plan to provide special education services and supports to students with disabilities. This plan should include:
- Ongoing communication with parents of students with disabilities;
- Individual meetings with families to determine what individualized distance learning plans will look like during school closures;
- Collaboration with parents on all students’ IEPs and updating them as necessary to reflect services that will be provided during school closures;
- Agreement that students will continue to receive their related services on a 1:1 virtual basis or agreement that compensatory education will be provided for any missed related services, when schools re-open;
- An agreement to make individualized determinations as to what compensatory education will be provided to students; and
- Training for parents in supporting their children’s needs.
“Students with disabilities should receive equal educational opportunities. We want school districts across California to understand that there is still a requirement to offer a free and appropriate public education to special education students even during this time of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Suge Lee, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights California.
While the federal and state guidance implies that special education programs will look different during this time, special education students should still be receiving individualized distance learning plans and their related services via direct virtual instruction. Providing special education packets to families does not meet the federal or state guidelines that have been presented. Direct instruction should still occur. In cases where the student is not able to receive a free and appropriate education via distance learning, the school districts should be agreeing to offer compensatory education once schools reopen.
Disability Rights California
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 www.disabilityrightsca.org.