School Boards and staff continue to monitor ever-changing guidance from state agencies regarding health, safety and educational concerns related to the impending start of school.
KingSpry attorneys are in the trenches with our clients and are providing a summary of our suggestions in response to recent questions from school administrators.
We attended your webinar that addressed special education programming and re-opening during COVID-19. Do the issues discussed there affect programming for gifted students and students with 504 plans?
Yes, they do. For gifted students, the decision regarding the mode of instruction must be made on an individual basis by the GIEP team. For dually diagnosed students, if in-person instruction is needed to provide a FAPE, that should occur, and the decision must be made by an IEP team how to facilitate special education as well as gifted programming.
For students receiving accommodations under a 504 plan, a meeting may be needed to discuss whether and how the confluence of school district offerings and parental preference regarding instructional modality affect the accommodations that are needed and how they will be implemented. If a student with a 504 plan receives related services such as occupational therapy, the Section 504 Team must determine whether a FAPE can be provided remotely versus in-person.
What do we do if a parent wants their student to receive instruction in a format other than what the school district is providing?
This question most often arises regarding special education supports and services but can arise regarding any student.
The District must clearly communicate the instructional modalities it is offering, whether full in-person, blended or full remote. If the district offers parents an opportunity to choose between more than one option, and the student does not have special needs or require accommodations, then the parent simply notifies the district of that decision.
When a student receives special education, gifted education and/or or disability-related accommodations, the district should discuss what instructional modality is best-suited to meet the student’s needs.
If the parent is not comfortable with that modality, the district can honor that choice but should document the supports and services that are not available due to the parent’s decision.
What do we do if a service provider has selected a different format for instruction than our school district?
Many students access instruction from vocational-technical schools. If, for example, the vo-tech is providing full in-person instruction, arrangements must be made for registered students to attend even if the school district is providing blended or full remote learning opportunities. This will include transportation and implementation of all supports and services that the student would normally have in the vocational-technical school setting.
Similarly, for students who receive related services and/or direct instruction from an intermediate unit, the school district must communicate with the IU to coordinate those services. The discussion must include the instructional modality offered by the IU as compared to the modality selected by the parent. As with vocational programming, if the IU is offering a modality that the district is not offering, additional discussion with the parent is needed to facilitate access to all services.
Bottom Line for Schools
Districts must remain up to date on directives and guidance from relevant state agencies including PDE and the Department of Health. Communicate clearly and regularly with all parents, and keep your solicitor informed of your questions and concerns. KingSpry’s Education and Special Education Departments are here to help as always.
If you have a question, please contact your legal counsel or one of the attorneys at KingSpry.
School Law Bullets are a publication of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. This article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.