Urging States to Continue Educating Students with Disabilities, Secretary DeVos Publishes New Resource on Accessibility and Distance Learning Options

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: March 21, 2020
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

New Fact Sheet Provides Additional Information on How Distance Learning Can be Used to Meet Students’ Needs During COVID-19 National Emergency

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today the Department has released new information clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning opportunities to all students, including students with disabilities. This new resource from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explains that as a school district takes necessary steps to address the health, safety, and well-being of all its students and staff, educators can use distance learning opportunities to serve all students.

“It was extremely disappointing to hear that some school districts were using information from the Department of Education as an excuse not to educate kids,” said Secretary DeVos. “This is a time for creativity and an opportunity to pursue as much flexibility as possible so that learning continues. It is a time for all of us to pull together to do what’s right for our nation’s students.”

“Nothing issued by this Department should in any way prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction,” she continued. “We need schools to educate all students out of principle, rather than educate no students out of fear. These are challenging times, but we expect schools to rise to the occasion, and the Department stands ready to assist you in your efforts.”

As the fact sheet states, schools “… should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff. To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.”

To help schools provide distance learning in compliance with federal law, this fact sheet explains:

  • The Department recognizes that exceptional circumstances may affect how special education and related services and supports are provided to students with disabilities, and the Department will offer flexibility.
  • School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, and the provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services that can be provided via computer, internet, or phone.
  • Although online learning must be accessible to students with disabilities, federal law does not mandate the specific methodologies by which distance education must be provided.
  • In instances where technology is not accessible or where educational materials are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students.

The Department will continue to work with state and local leaders to identify any additional areas where it can provide resources to support educators in their important work, and both OCR and OSERS are available to provide technical assistance during these uncertain times. The Department continues to update www.ed.gov/coronavirus with information for students, parents, educators, and local leaders about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the following website: www.coronavirus.gov.

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View department’s press release.

Last modified on March 23, 2020

Department releases COVID-19, IDEA-related Q-and-A

By the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Questions and Answers. Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Image of coronavirus provided by CDC.

U.S. Department of Education releases Q-and-A document addressing COVID-19 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (Coronavirus Image: Centers for Disease Control)

WASHINGTON, DC (March 12, 2020) – The Department of Education released a question-and-answer document pertaining to students with disabilities and COVID-19 today.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ (OSERS) document answers questions schools might have about students with disabilities and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as related to the COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, outbreak.

“In order to ensure that students with disabilities continue to receive the services guaranteed by IDEA and Section 504, the Department has published a Q&A document for state and local educational authorities,” the department said in a press release. “This information answers the most common questions schools have about when and how they must provide instruction, including when to consider use of online or virtual instruction and other curriculum-based instructional activities.”

The department press release also included the announcement of COVID-19 outbreak guidance related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The release stated the department would announce additional guidance in the coming days and post it to the department’s COVID-19 page.

View departments’ press release.

View the department’s COVID-19 information and resources page.

View the OSERS Q-and-A on providing services to children with disabilities during coronavirus outbreak.

View department’s ESSA and coronavirus guidance.

View the department’s FERPA and coronavirus Q-&A document.

Last modified on March 12, 2020

OSEP Releases Infographic on Students with Autism

By the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Office of Special Education Programs. OSEP Fast Facts: Children Identified with Autism. Map of U.S. showing percentage of students with disabilities ages 6 to 21 served under IDEA Part B and identified with autism in School Year 2018-19. In SY18-19, the percent of students with disabilities IDed with autism equals 11%. States reported a range from 1 to 15 % of student with disabilities IDed with autism. Source: U.S. Department of Education, EDFacts Data Warehouse (EDW): “IDEA Part B Child Count and Education Environments Collection,” 2018-19. Download: https://go.usa.gov/xdp4T

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2020) – The Office of Special Education Programs in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services announced the release of an infographic on students with autism.

The infographic displays data collected as part the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s Section 618 requirement for states to submit data about infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities birth through age 21.

The autism infographic launched an OSEP data collection initiative called OSEP Fast Facts.

“OSEP Fast Facts enable us to share and promote 618 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) data in a new and interactive way,” wrote OSEP in a blog post. “Our first OSEP Fast Facts presents 618 data on students identified with autism.”

Last modified on March 6, 2020

Department submits the 41st Annual Report to Congress on nation’s progress related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

By the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

U.S. Department of Education. 41st Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2019

WASHINGTON (Feb. 19, 2020)—The U.S. Department of Education submitted its 2019 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) annual report to Congress last week.

The 41st Annual Report to Congress focuses on children and student with disabilities who received services specific to IDEA Part C for infants and toddlers or IDEA Part B for children and youth.

The report summarizes U.S. progress in:

  1. providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities under IDEA, Part B and early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families under IDEA, Part C,
  2. ensuring that the rights of these children with disabilities and their parents are protected,
  3. assisting states and localities in providing for the education of all children with disabilities, and
  4. assessing the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities.

Read the 41st Annual Report to Congress preface or view the full report.

Last modified on March 5, 2020

Education Department Releases Webinar on Use of Restraint and Seclusion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 9, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Education released a webinar to address the use of restraint and seclusion in the K-12 public schools.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced an initiative Jan. 17, 2019 to examine the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) partnered to support teachers, school leaders, parents and stakeholders as they work to address the behavioral needs of children with disabilities.

Part of the department’s initiative focused on providing technical assistance to support schools in understanding how Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) informs the development and implementation of policies governing the use of restraint and seclusion.

The department developed a webinar, Students with Disabilities and the Use of Restraint and Seclusion in K-12 Public Schools, as a resource and technical assistance tool to explain how federal laws apply to the use on restraint and seclusion.

Prior Approval FAQ Released for Formula Grant Recipients

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 29, 2019) – The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a frequently asked questions document for its formula grant recipients today.

“This document is non-binding and does not create or impose new legal requirements. The department is issuing it in this document on an ‘interim’ basis to provide grantees with immediate information to assist them in meeting their obligations under Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards,” said Mark Schultz, who has been delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for OSERS. “We intend to publish this further and invite public comments.”

The FAQ document details prior approval flexibilities for two direct cost categories – participant support costs and equipment – for state formula grants administered by the Office of Special Education Programs and the Rehabilitation Services Administration both within OSERS, according to Schultz.

View FAQ Document PDF

Last modified on October 29, 2019

OSERS posts two new letters and a Q-and-A in September

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 2, 2019) – The U.S. Department of Education released two letters responding to requests for guidance and a question-and-answer document related to transition in September.

The documents address evaluation/reevaluation, individualized education programs of children placed in certain preschool programs, and transition and dual enrollment.

Letter on evaluation/reevaluation, IEPs and student involvement

Letter on IEP development for children placed in certain preschool programs

Q&A: Increasing Postsecondary Opportunities and Success for Students and Youth with Disabilities

View all policy guidance

Last modified on October 2, 2019

Department Releases 2019 Determination Letters on State Implementation of the IDEA

By the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

WASHINGTON (July 9, 2019) — The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released its 2019 state determinations on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of Part B and Part C for fiscal year 2017.

The 2004 amendments to the IDEA require each state to develop a State Performance Plan (SPP) and Annual Performance Report (APR) that evaluates the state’s efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of the IDEA, and describes how the state will improve its implementation.

The IDEA details four categories for the Secretary of Education’s determinations. A state’s determination may be:

  • Meets the requirements and purposes of IDEA;
  • Needs assistance in implementing the requirements of IDEA;
  • Needs intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA; or
  • Needs substantial intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA.

View 2019 Determination Letters Fact Sheet

View 2019 SPP/APRs Part B and Part C

OSERS posts four new letters in May

WASHINGTON, DC (May 31, 2019) – The U.S. Department of Education released four letters responding to requests for guidance throughout May.

The letters address independent education evaluation, due process hearings, evaluation/reevaluation and prior written notice.

Letter on a parent’s right to an independent education evaluation

Letter on evaluation/reevaluation and prior written notice related to functional vision assessment by an optometrist

Letter on individualized education programs and whether school district may invite an observer to an IEP Team meeting

Letter addressing questions on due process hearings procedures

View all policy guidance

Notice of Appeal in COPAA v. DeVos

WASHINGTON, DC (May 24, 2019) –The U.S. Department of Education released the following statement about significant disproportionality May 22:

“On May 6, 2019, the Department of Justice filed a Notice of Appeal in COPAA v. DeVos. The filing of this Notice of Appeal does not stay the district court order or alter the fact that the December 19, 2016 Equity in IDEA regulation on significant disproportionality is currently in effect.”