2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but one of the hardest hit populations have been students. With schools switching back and forth between in-person and remote or some version of a hybrid, students with IEPs have had it particularly rough. As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child struggle, but we often wonder what we can do or say to make things easier, especially during a pandemic. The Family Engagement Team at The Arc TN has pulled together some tips and resources that you can use to help get you and your child through this year.
Important things to Remember:
· The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a Federal Law and has not been changed or waived in light of COVID-19. Your students still have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). https://tennesseefamil.wpengine.com/breaking-down-the-idea-2/
· If a school district is providing remote or virtual learning opportunities, the FAPE is required to make sure students with disabilities are able to fully access those opportunities: https://tennesseefamil.wpengine.com/2020/06/
· Participation in all educational opportunities provided by the school is important. If the educational opportunity provided for your child does not work for them, document that and tell the school so they can figure out another plan.
· Keep detailed notes about how the student is being impacted. CLICK HERE for a weekly guide to tracking your child’s progress. Always keep everything in writing.
· Open communication between you and the teacher is key!!
· If a teacher is trying a new strategy, it may be best to implement the strategy at home, too.
Here are some questions to consider:
· What are the educational options, choices, opportunities, and participation for students WITHOUT disabilities?
· How many hours of a week is instruction being provided?
· How is instruction being provided?
· Is homework being assigned?
· Are students with disabilities being offered the same instruction and education option, opportunities, choices, activities, and supports as students without disabilities?
Questions to ask yourself about students with disabilities:
· How will the students be tested to determine the outcomes for students with IEPs and 504 plans are assisting students in reaching their goals?
· Will the students have accessibility to all learning materials (print and digital) and technologies, enabling students with disabilities to access curricula with assistive technology?
· Does the school have personnel and guidelines in place to ensure that students’ IEPs and 504 plans are appropriately reviewed, revised, and updated in partnership with parents and guardians, as scheduled during the year, whether remote or in-person?
· Are general education, special education, assistive technology, and education technology staff prepared to collaborate to ensure that every learner with a disability continues to learn and make progress in the least restrictive environment?
If the student with disabilities is not being offered the same instruction, here is a list of steps for parents can take. Parents can take any approach they prefer. But this is a good recommendation for the order you could try.
· Address the issue with your child’s teacher
· Request a meeting of the IEP team to address the issue
· Contact the Special Education Director at your school district about the issue
· Reach out to the Department to speak to a complaint investigator Heather Anderson at Heather.Anderson@tn.gov and she will work with you to try to resolve this informally
· File an administrative complaint with the Department of Education
· Request mediation from an outside party
· Request a Due Process hearing https://tennesseefamil.wpengine.com/2020/06/since-shortly-after-schools-closed-in.html
If you have any questions about the services your child is receiving in special education, please feel free to reach out to our team at email@example.com.