This is the first post in a 3 series blog.
It’s a question on the mind of every special ed parent right now. And it’s a hard one to answer. There’s very little guidance from the Federal Government or state, beyond a “do your best” and the little disclaimer of “as long as it is safe.” No one wants their child exposed to COVID, and I know no one wants to endanger the safety of the educators.
So, with that in mind, what is realistic?
1. FAPE – Free and Appropriate Public Education.
Your student is entitled by law (IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) to receive a public education that is free, and APPROPRIATE to their individual abilities. What is appropriate? Think of it this way: if your child is blind, providing only text based learning would be inappropriate. Putting a student in a wheelchair in a swim class without a means to access the pool would be inappropriate. Asking a student who melts down every time they look at Zoom to attend virtual learning is inappropriate.
2. Endrew F Standard
In 2017, the Supreme Court clarified FAPE to specify that a “child’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances.” What does that mean? Chief Justice Roberts contrasted this with “de minimus education” – trivial learning that is merely acting as a placeholder. More simply, the district needs to provide an education to your student that is teaching them something, not just wasting their time.
Together, these form a clearer picture of what education must look like for our students in the time of COVID, whether in a school setting, or virtually. The district must make sure that your student is receiving learning in a way they can actually learn, and the learning must not be simple busywork, but of actual educational value.