How Schools Can Provide Special Education Services during and after COVID-19

One of the biggest questions school districts are grappling with right now is if special education or Section 504 services are required during the COVID-19 crisis, and, if so, how they’ll go about providing them.

While school districts must provide the special education and related services identified in a student’s current IEP or Section 504 plan to the greatest extent possible, providing free appropriate public education (FAPE) during the COVID-19 closure must be consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of:

  • Students with disabilities
  • Individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services
  • The community at large

As much of the education world moves to remote instruction, and remote meetings, some services cannot be provided without hands-on, direct contact, even during this global health crisis. 

Districts need to be aware of services that can be provided remotely, and different methods for the delivering services that could meet the health and safety requirements, as well as possible legal implications that may arise under provisions like FERPA and HIPAA. 

As your school district grapples with how to provide special education and Section 504 services without risking the health and safety of students and staffit is important that you think outside of the traditional brick and mortar delivery methods. This work includes:

  • Identifying any service delivery limitations
  • Documenting the efforts made to provide these services
  • Communicating with parents through IEP and Section 504 plan amendments and other means

Additionally, the district will need to know how to address situations where the student is not available to receive services for various reasons. 

Special Education and Section 504 Services after COVID-19

When schools do re-open in Texas, school districts will need to take steps upon returning to campus to assist students with disabilities after this national health emergency.  This should include an individualized determination regarding:

  • The student’s level of functioning as it relates to the performance during the period of remote instruction and their current functioning upon returning to school
  • Instruction, services and supports the student received during remote instruction
  • What COVID-19 response services, if any, are appropriate to help the student move forward and continue to make progress
  • Compensatory or additional services the student needs .   

While this information is constantly changing and further guidance is expected as we get closer to the time of school re-openings, Dianna Bowen and Taylor Montgomery with Thompson & Horton LLP share advice in the webinar below about what school districts should consider doing now to best prepare for these next steps.

Webinar: It’s A New World:  Special Education and Section 504 Services During and After COVID-19

Dianna Bowen and Taylor Montgomery present on the requirements for providing special education and Section 504 services during the COVID-19 school closures. They provide guidance for how school districts can safely and effectively remain in compliance with the IDEA and Section 504 during and after this unprecedented time. This webinar will address everything from the types of services that can be provided through virtual platforms or other means and how to document progress to the next steps once students return to campus in the fall.

View the presentation slides (pdf), provided by the presenter.

Legal disclaimer

The information provided during this webinar series is for educational purposes only to facilitate a general understanding of the law or other regulatory matter. This information is neither an exhaustive treatment on the subject nor is this intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney or other professional advisor. Consult with your attorney or professional advisor to apply these principles to specific fact situations. The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Texas Association of School Boards, Inc., its affiliated entities, or its officers, board members, or employees.

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