July 15, 2020 COVID-19 Chronic & Acute Stress Symptom (CASS) Screener for Schools
IEE4KIDS just launched a survey for families, education staff and students to complete to assist us in understanding the social and emotional impact of COVID-19 is having on our community. Currently, educators and administrators are fearful that our student and education community might manifest heightened levels of trauma that may require, either diagnosing or intervention this academic year. Although heightened levels of stress are being felt by our community, we need to realistically view the situation in schools as school psychologists run the risk of over-identifying students with mental disorders and conditions that may not exist. Chronic Stress Disorder is a real condition; however, most individuals overcome stressors via preventative measures. Only a small minority actually develop chronic levels of stress that might develop into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). At this time, we need your help in ensuring that students are accurately identified and supported. Student social-emotional wellbeing is not something that needs to be experimented or mishandled. To support this work, please click the link below and complete the survey. Students ages 11 years and older should complete it as well to help gain the student perspective. Thank you.
May 27, 2020 COMPENSATORY EDUCATION
Was your child denied IEP instructional supports and services, in whole or in part, during the COVID-19 school closures?
Most children with disabilities have not received the instruction and services in their IEPs for nearly three months if not longer. As a result, they are likely to need compensatory education services.
Compensatory education services ("Comp ed") are the educational services a child with a disability needs to make up for the skills and learning that were lost when schools closed during the pandemic.
Because school districts are responsible for providing compensatory services, Comp Ed is something you may need to consider for your child.
If your child's IEP did not make reasonable attempts to support their learning during school closures or distance learning, it would be appropriate to request Comp Ed in the form of tutoring, additional service hours, special remediation program, or something comparable to the service that was denied; particularly if regression is experienced. You will want to calculate the total number of minutes denied, per service as written in the IEP from the first date of closure to the number day of school. If ESY is also denied, calculate those days as well. Also, keep log of the regression anecdotally or via visual evidence.
It is possible that you may reasonably request compensation for the educational supports you provided your child to minimize regression; particularly if the school made minimal or no attempts to support them during school closures. Compensation and compensatory education is not addressed in either the United States Code, (IDEA 2004), the Code of Federal Regulations, or state statutes and regulations. It is not in IDEA. Therefore, it will be of critical importance that you document all of your efforts to compensate for services that were not provided during school closures. Write things down as they happen. However, if you have not done so, it is not too late to catch up your log, but keep documenting. A simple worksheet that includes the following may suffice:
Your logs will help demonstrate your child's need for specialized educational services and of your efforts to provide them despite the school's omission.
For a historical account of Compensatory Education Case Law by the Wright Group, click the following link:
For a PowerPoint by the Wright Group on Compensatory Education, click the following link:
March 17, 2020 GUIDANCE REGARDING DISTANCE LEARNING
On March 17, 2020, CDE issued COVID-19 Guidance for K-12 Schools (Guidance) that provides information in a number of areas related to the current school closures, including for distance learning. This Guidance is related to the Governor's Executive Order (EO) N-26-20, which addressed, in part, the physical closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. EO N-26-20 assured school districts that state funding would continue during school closures to support the delivery of "high-quality educational opportunities," to the extent feasible, through options such as distance learning and/or independent studies. The Guidance further provides considerations for school districts to weigh with regard to distance learning plans, equity and access issues, students with disabilities and English learners. Likewise, it provides an array of internet links and examples of distance learning models from several school districts.
Defining Distance Learning
The Guidance defines "distance learning" as instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations, and may include video or audio instruction using a variety of communication (e.g. on-line interaction, television, video, telecourses, and telephone). It may also include printed instructional materials "that are the subject of written or oral feedback," (e.g. written packets provided to a student and graded by teacher). With this definition, it appears that the CDE contemplates distance learning to include both high and low tech methods of delivering learning opportunities, and that there will be teacher interaction with students during these learning opportunities.
Developing an Equitable Distance Learning Plan
Development of a distance learning plan and ensuring student access to that plan are key aspects of the Guidance. In developing a distance learning plan, school districts are to assess its ability to provide both high and low tech instruction and train staff to implement the adopted plan. Elements of the distance learning plan mentioned in the Guidance include assisting and training teachers to analyze the content and standards of a course and how to deliver instruction so courses can be completed, providing a continuum of delivery options for various grades, and a continuum of delivery methods, including on-line learning platforms with teacher interaction, online curriculum for student to access at home, online curriculum in labs and classrooms consistent with social distancing, paper packets, and in person settings with social distancing.
School districts must also take into consideration that not all students will have access to the technology needed for online instruction. At the same time, the Guidance makes clear that the California Constitution prohibits school districts from requiring that students purchase or use their own devices to access instruction. This means that whatever distance learning plan that a school district devises must take into account its student population, existing and available resources to transition to distance learning, and student access to technology. Moreover, the plan devised must be free of any fee or charge to students. Note, however, that the Guidance indicates that equitable access does not mean a school district has to abandon an online model because some students may not have access to the online model. Rather, it means that the plan should include "an analysis of alternate deliveries of comparable educational content." In short, to ensure equitable access, the distance learning plan should contemplate different ways of providing comparable educational content. "Most schools will need to offer multiple options and a combination of strategies to students, depending on accessibility to devices and the internet," and distance learning plans should focus on delivering "content to students across all platforms and delivery methods."
Distance Learning for Students with Disabilities
Regarding students with disabilities, the Guidance does not provide significant clarification above and beyond the March 12, 2020 USDOE Guidance. Instead, it reminds school districts that they must continue to serve students with disabilities by tailoring distance learning to their individual needs such that it provides educational benefit "to the greatest extent practicable under the circumstances." CDE will be creating a workgroup to develop models and strategies for serving students with disabilities in California and additional guidance is forthcoming.
Considerations for English Learners
Districts must develop a plan for serving English learners in alignment with the school district's language acquisition program. A school district's distance learning program must include instruction and services geared towards English learners. School districts should also be prepared to assess a student's progress in language acquisition once in-school instruction resumes and provide extra supports and services as needed to address any lack of expected progress.
Using Transportation Services to Support Distance Learning
CDE encourages school districts to get creative in how their existing transportation services can facilitate distance learning for their student populations. This potentially includes distributing meals to students, delivering wireless hot spot equipment, and bringing instructional packets to students who may not have online access. Again, always make sure any such transportation practices comport with local and state public health guidance.
MARCH 16, 2020 GUIDANCE REGARDING TIMELINES
On Monday, March 16, 2020, the California Legislature took unprecedented emergency action and passed Senate Bill 117 to ensure that local education agencies (LEAs) countries to receive funding during school closures. It also provides flexibility on statutory requirements, extending some timelines and allowing for teleconferencing for due process hearings. Specific to Special Education:
The suspension of these timelines applies to all LEAs, even if an LEA continues to offer educational opportunities through distance learning, or independent study, or both, during the closure due to COVID-19. In addition, the bill “encourages” LEAs to respond as expeditiously as possible to requests from parents or guardians received during the period of time a school is closed due to COVID–19. Finally, the bill expressly provides that it does not waive any federal requirements imposed under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act. (Note: a majority of the timelines in special education are governed by federal law which the state legislature cannot override.)
Assessments: According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), any assessments that require direct testing, observation, or in-person interview, should be delayed during school closures due to COVID-19. As a result, it is believed that timelines for an IEP team to review such assessments would necessarily need to be tolled until in-person instruction resumes. Under SB 117, timelines to issue an assessment plan are tolled until in-person instruction resumes. "School closures," for these purposes, are days in which the school district is not providing in-person instruction, even if they are providing distance learning opportunities. The Legislature, however, encourages LEAs to respond as expeditiously as possible to assessment requests received during the period of time a school is closed due to COVID-19. We note that SB 117 also states that it does not waive any federal requirements imposed by the IDEA. We will continue to monitor guidance in this area from state and federal agencies to determine if more clarification is provided.
Records Requests: The five business day timeline for school districts to respond to parent requests for student special education records made under California Education code section 56504 is tolled until school reopens and the regular school session reconvenes. Accordingly, COVID-19 related non-instructional days do not constitute "business days" under SB 117, even if school administrators and staff are still working. However, as with responses to assessment requests, the Legislature encourages LEAs to respond as expeditiously as possible to records requests received during the period of time a school is closed due to COVID-19.
IEP Team Meetings: To date, federal and state guidance has been largely silent on the impact COVID-19 closures will have on IEP meeting timelines other than for IEP meetings related to assessments, other than noting that IEP meetings do not have to be conducted in person. To follow current best practices, school districts should continue to conduct IEP meetings in accordance with IDEA and state law timelines, and in accordance with public health recommendations, including utilizing telephone and video conference options and practicing appropriate social distancing. All statutorily required team members, however, should participate in the meeting in order for the meetings to meet requirements for legal compliance.
March 12, 2020 GUIDANCE REGARDING SCHOOL CLOSURES
On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Questions and Answers document outlining local educational agencies’ responsibilities to address how, what, and when services should be provided to children with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.S. Department of Education advises, among other things, that:
***** EXPLAINED IN PLAIN LANGUAGE *****
These are unprecedented times and families are being impacted in unexpected ways. Children will be home for extended periods of time, sometimes without parental support. In response to COVID-19, schools across the country are electing to voluntarily close schools to slow down the virulent spread of the disease. Schools, after all, are one of the most common sites of viral transmission. School districts have asked teachers to move instruction online onto formats like Google classroom and to upload material that will allow them continued measure of student learning and progress. If your student has no access to a computer or internet, maintaining a grade may be difficult. School districts are required to provide technology free of charge to make learning accessible to students with special needs and in specialized programs (i.e. Special Education, English Language Development); otherwise, a student's grade may not be penalized.
For Special Education services, special support staff may contact you to update you on progress, to check up on students, and to hold IEP meetings over the phone. Home exercises may be suggested or recommended, but it will be up to parents to implement these to keep children from regressing as school districts are not required to provide IEP services during school closures. They are, however, required to do whatever possible to help maintain current skills.
School district and SELPA administration are likely to continue working remotely to maintain continuity of state procedures and policies. IEP timelines still remain but efforts must be made to document communication and progress on IEPs. If your IEP is due during a closure, the IEP team must make effort to complete that IEP over the phone or videoconferencing, if possible. Alternate assessments may be completed to satisfy triennial and annual mandates. Alternate assessments might mean that, rather than providing a standardized assessment, alternate measures may be utilized. These may include a review of past assessment records, school grading system, questionnaires, parent reports, teacher feedback on classroom behavior, etc. Alternate assessments are acceptable evaluations and, in these times, may be considered appropriate in order to maintain an IEP timelines and eligibility current. Once school closures are lifted, additional assessment may be offered by the school; particularly for the classroom-based observations required by law for each assessment the school offers. If you feel the assessment provided to you by the school district was limited, you may an independent educational evaluation on the alternate assessment the school district offered you.
YOUR CHILD'S INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION STATUS AT IEE4KIDS LLC
If your student has an active IEE with us, it will remain as active. In support of state mandates and Safer-At-Home orders, our business will resume from our home offices. We will continue with report writing and communication with parents and school personnel from home. Testing will safely resume in office so long as state reopening guidance allows. We ask that you work collaboratively with us to ensure we make progress on your child's assessment. If your child's assessment has been completed and is pending an IEP meeting, presentation of results will resume per district guidance.
We update this page frequently for your benefit. Please stay connected with us. Thank you for your support and interest.
In Global Wellness,
Giorgio Jovani di Salvatore, MAEd, ABSNP, LEP, CMIS
IEE4KIDS LLC Owner & Chief Educational Consultant