Disability Rights California Urges San Diego Unified School District to Take Immediate Corrective Action and Provide Special Education & Services for Students with Disabilities During School Closures

Press Release
A teacher sitting down with her students reading a book. A few students have disabilities.

(San Diego, CA) Disability Rights California (DRC) submitted a letter on June 11, 2020, to the Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) urging them to provide students with disabilities special education & related services amid school closures in response to COVID-19.

DRC continues to receive complaints from parents that SDUSD is not providing the special education instruction and related services that special education students require, which is a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These are services such as speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral therapies, as well as vital nursing support for students who are medically fragile.

Without these services and support, these students will not only be deprived of the opportunity to make meaningful progress but will likely regress.

The California Department of Education (CDE) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) have made clear for nearly three months now 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. In declining to recommend that Congress waive the IDEA, the USDOE further affirmed that the IDEA is still in effect during the school closures.

Therefore, we request that the District immediately address these violations and implement a comprehensive plan to provide special education services and supports to students with disabilities. This plan should include:

  • Updating students’ current Individualized education program (IEPs) with measurable goals and related services that can be provided during school closures;
  • Making individualized determinations if and when a student needs services or supports in-person to maintain their mental/physical health and safety;
  • Conducting a bi-monthly follow-up with the families, including during the summer break where appropriate;
  • Making individualized determinations as to whether students are entitled to compensatory education for services missed during the school closure; and
  • Training parents to assist in addressing behaviors or social/emotional needs their children may exhibit at home during school closures.


“Special education and related services are vital to students with disabilities, especially those who are medically fragile. We want school districts across California to understand that the law still requires them 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, 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. DRC urges school districts across California to provide students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with health and safety guidelines.

Media Contacts:

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
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.