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

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.


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

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

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.”

OSERS seeks public input regarding IDEA data collection, technical assistance to states

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 26, 2018) — The U.S. Department of Education announced it would seek input from the public regarding some data required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) April 24.

The department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will gather feedback from the public until May 24, 2018 on how best to provide technical assistance to states when it comes to collecting and reporting data required by IDEA Part B, Section 618 and Section 616.

State educational agencies (SEAs) and state lead agencies (LAs) currently receive technical assistance on IDEA Part B and C data collection through OSERS-reserved funds under IDEA Part B Section 616(i).

To learn more about this effort and to provide comment, visit the OSERS’ Blog.

Last modified on August 28, 2018