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Despite COVID-19, Districts Must Still Conform with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Both the U.S. and Colorado Departments of Education have issued guidance reflecting that the highest priority over the coming months is to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19. To that end, state and local educational agencies have been relieved of the assessment and accountability requirements of federal law, as well as the minimum number of school days and teacher-pupil instruction hours normally required under state law. However, neither States nor local educational agencies have been relieved of their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Accordingly, as school districts transition from in-person to remote learning, they need to ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate. To the greatest extent possible, they also need to ensure that students with disabilities can continue to receive the special education and related services identified in theirs IEPs and Section 504 plans. Ultimately, the guidance we have to date encourages school districts to strive for access, equity, and educational progress. Each child is unique, and so is each school team. Thus, action-oriented collaboration among teachers, related service providers, and case managers will be important for an effective transition to distance learning for students with disabilities and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges in Colorado and across the country, and that includes for school districts. We are actively monitoring legislation, executive orders, and resources related to the pandemic so that we can help board members and educators navigate the rapidly changing landscape and transition to distance learning. If you are not already in touch with one of our attorneys and would like to reach us for guidance, email is the best way to contact us.

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